Probably the most common question of everyone, who wants to get into sleddog sports with their puppies or just want to take them on their daily run is when to start. Unfortunately there is no exact “recipe” on how to do it, but I have decided to share how we are doing it with Kute. Please keep in mind, that this is also something that depends on the physical and mental development of each individual puppy, it can be that even if we have another puppy we will do it differently.
Kute is 6 and a half months old now, and won’t lie, he has many kilometers in his paws. He has been joining us for short, easy runs since the age of 4 months. We started with very short distances, while always keeping an eye on him. If he started to jog with us instead of running around exploring we knew he is getting tired, so it was time for him to stop. This only happened once though, after only 2 km, so make sure you always pay attention, even if you consider the distance short and easy.
By now he can run around 45-60 minutes, probably more if we would let him. He is pretty much in front all the time, it is not so common for him to stay behind. When we are going hiking he is loose most of the time and runs way more than on a regular training of ours probably. As Mikal says he trains himself well, running in the bushes most of the time. This is one of the most important reasons he started so early, he needs to learn how to run free in order to be able to do many trainings with him later on. Mikal starts the new season’s with loads of free-running, building endurance for the dogs. If he wouldn’t start practising it in the puppy age the recalling could be be harder in some situations.
Another thing we had to realize, that in the beginning Anti was way too much for Kute. The little guy really wanted to follow him, but Anti was way faster and stronger than him, so Kute had to push really hard to keep up. Therefore for a while they were not allowed to run together, but by now Kute caught up and got strong enough to join again. He also became a very independent puppy recently and runs after his own head many times, not only chasing after the others.
So Kute has been free-running for around 2,5 months, gradually going up from 1,5 km to 60 minutes of running. We are only bringing him on our easy sessions, because of him, but also because we like to concentrate on our trainings on harder runs, but we also find it important to watch out that Kute is not getting tired, or that he is still around and did not go too far, etc, so the best compromise is to not bring him with us, unless he can have all our attention.
He did not do any harness work yet, he did not even wear a harness so far to be honest, but he is used to wearing jackets, so I don’t think a harness will bother him once he has it on himself. If you are unsure though, it can be nice to make your puppy wear one a few times, but make sure it is only connected with positive things and you never tell him/her not to pull in it.
There is no rush, Kute is still young and is growing quite slowly and steadily. He still has a puppy body and look, so Mikal prefers to wait. This way Kute’s first experiences with the harness will be most probably on skis, during our Christmas holidays. Fun winter ahead of the little guy!