Some people asked me recently about my “homework” to sled dogs. Nothing changed, so since my old blog died here is our old post. Happy reading.
I presume most of you watch the Dog Power Movie? If not, please watch it. It is only 25 minutes and it is defo worth if you are looking for a dog for the sport.
I have been reading a lot around and hearing a lot of questions from people regarding hounds or greyster which are great breeds and dogs for the sport. I have followed a lot of groups and forums to get to know the breed but let me tell you my story first.
As you may know I started my adventure with canicross in February 2016 with Roger. Great pullying dog. I thought this will be an additional fun hobby we can do together. How wrong I was?! I was so hooked after my first run that I went home and signed for my first race in April 2016. Despite I hated running. Roger loved it and he was very tired that afternoon. Our first race was with CSS in Plean Country Park. It was very challenging and hilly route, but I loved it even more. That time I discovered that it isn’t just canicross that’s there but there are more to this whole crazy thing. Yes, I was hooked and excited. Literally, I was buzzing after talking to so many folks and meet very good athletes. I started doing my research into the sport.
First proper season
I have decided to compete around UK with Roger and see how things look like and where we stand. I discover that a lot of folks have pointers in the sport, but also dogs specially breed for the sport called eurohound or greyster. I always dreamed about having two dogs so I started to think maybe I could get a pointer and be a bit more speedy than just 22 minutes per 5k with Roger.
I started looking for another dog, that I thought could make me faster. I have trained every day so hard to improve my running. In September 2016 I have enquired about pointer puppy in Greece. To make whole story short Laferra arrived to Scotland in October 2016. This was my first experience with a pointer breed. I read a lot about that they are energetic and full beans, but later on I learnt what that really means. As I am qualified behaviorist I was very confident that I will manage no problem. Laferra was only 4.5 months old and not really house-trained. Personally, it was my first puppy that I needed to teach what is the world.
Basic training started from day one, as I really wanted her to be spot on with everything to make my life easier, as Roger being an older rescue is very high demanding (separation anxiety, behavioral problems and reactive). I always knew staffies don’t understand your personal space, but later I have learnt that pointers are even worst. So house-training became and it was smooth, she was one clever girl. On the other hand, she was a nightmare to be left alone or in Roger’s companion. Laferra was loving to chew two things: socks and plastic things. Constantly something was chewed and I started to worry that something might happen to her. I don’t believe in crates and unfortunately, that wasn’t an option (Roger hates crate so he has access to the whole house, so I couldn’t just close Lafie).
Back to basics
I have started saying to myself she is only a puppy so I presume she will grew up from this stupid chewing. Later on I discover others pointers’ owners had the same issues, but dogs grew up from it. Ok she is only a baby. Laferra learnt quickly to do her “business” outside (very quick actually) and her recall was brilliant! I trusted her everywhere and she wasn’t even bothered when she met a horse on our walk one day. I thought fantastic I have a brilliant pet that I can trust being let off lead!
She was growing super fast and Roger loved her more and more. I could see that he liked to have her around. However, every day coming back home there was evidence that she found something and chewed. I gave up on “5min per month” rule and started really making her tired on walks but also playing games like I do with Roger. You can read a bit more here. It started to work, she finally stopped most of the time, but she was growing and being tall she could reach to the places she shouldn’t be even interested in. The kitchen counter got hoovered so many time and I knew Roger was delighted with her being able to reach there as she shared everything with him. I still kept saying to myself she is only a puppy.
However, being a puppy and being a pointer puppy was a bit different. For Laferra one day of me being lazy (meaning not playing a game or proper long-running off lead walk), she literally destroyed things mainly my clothes: lines, necks, zips and so on. She was bored where I was hoping she would sleep.
Old enough for more running
In 2017 I have discovered bikejor so I started training that with Roger, but to get skills I started riding bike on my own. I thought brilliant as Laferra is great off lead I can take her with me and she could get the activities that she needed. She was old enough to start doing it and be my trail dog.
I was learning myself and building up my fitness but Laferra had the best time ever and she could go for a long time. Our rides were minimum of 10 miles every time we went out. I was gutted that Roger couldn’t join us, but tough life if you have a zero recall. Anyways finally princess stopped all the chewing and she was tired sleeping when left alone. You probably want to ask how do I know this? I watched my dogs on camera while at work, just to make sure they are not stressed. The only problem was that I couldn’t ride a bike everyday I needed to do something with Roger too.
Laferra learnt canicross, being a bikejor dog and pull the scooter around. I always thought Roger was high demanding, but he was tired after 20 minutes training, where Laferra could go again and always tried to play with him at home. I thought she is young so she must have a lot of energy, but at 19 months old now she has even more energy.
My life changed a lot having her, I wake up 4.30-5am to make sure I go out there let them off lead and let them run around before I head to work. Usually, they have a dog walker during the day who takes them for an hour walk which is usually off lead walk and finally in the evening we drive outside Edinburgh to train: canicross, bikejor or scooter, or just me running with Laferra being off lead. Only Friday is my day that I don’t do anything with the dogs in the evenings (well we clean the house, which is great fun with two barking dogs). If one day I am being lazy and ruin the routine I come back to chewed things! And Laferra isn’t a puppy anymore.
Note: Laferra doesn’t understand personal space at all as per below photo ( you wake up to this).
Sled dog sport
I started my story to show you that a pointer changed so much my life as she has so much more energy than Roger or any other dog really. She also made me super busy with making sure she gets rid of this crazy energy.
Now being in the sport for 2 years, I started looking and learning about those “special breeds” for the sport. There are a lot of folks out there with those dogs, a lot of forums and groups on facebook that talks about them. However, I felt it was just talks and people opinions, I wanted to know the truth. As you know I had a brilliant opportunity and qualified to go to the IFSS World Championship in Poland (you can read here about it). I met with so many breeders but also athletes who own those dogs. This trip allowed me to watch the dogs at home (I stayed with few in the same accommodation) but also I could watch them during the big event racing or just sitting at the stake out.
IFSS World Championship gave me the chance to meet so many those pretty puppies but also see those adult dogs in action. They all were fantastic, strong and very keen to run, no matter if it was canicross or four dog team. Fantastic to watch but I thought there must be something more to it. I started talking around and surprisingly people were happy to share their experience. I discovered that those breeds can vary in mix of the breeds they have already and this mix was changing the way dogs behaved. All those breeds are full of energy, and I knew this kind of dog means more than Laferra herself.
On forums and groups you can read how much they destroy and how difficult they are to be left alone in crate. I know different dogs are different, but people told me it is a tough life to own one of those dogs, they really need attention. In case of the greyster they also need some attention as they love being around people. After few discussion I can easily say that those dogs cant be just pet, you need to train them every day. Canicross isn’t enough for them, and also they are that strong that running in a harness isn’t an option for every day training, so you need to do a lot bikejor and scooter- be brave enough as the speed you can go is crazy. Couple athletes in Poland told me that if I ever decided on that kind of dog I will need to make sure I am prepared for life to change (and there was me thinking, Laferra changed my life enough), otherwise this dog will ruin my house no matter if it is greyster or eurohound. A few of those dogs are only one person dogs, so not really a family dogs either. A lot to take on board before you decided about them.
I am not trying to put you off! I just want that people realize that those dogs are pretty and amazing runners, but there is more to just looking pretty athletes! In my case, how would my dog walker cop with having a greyster on a group walk pullying him?! This is just an example. Do your research, it took me a year to collect all the facts until now and I am still learning every day about them. I use the opportunity to go to different events to spend time with those dogs and their owners. I love to get to know them and see how really different they are.
One more thing before you get bored reading this. Those dogs breed for the sport and there are a lot of wonderful breeders with a long waiting list, but to have a confident and super athlete you need to put a lot of effort and train it correctly! What’s the recipe? Noone knows and you can only try and do as I tried with Laferra (I am still learning that recipe!).
I hope you enjoyed this post and have a better idea! I would defo recommend doing your own homework. Laferra is only pointer, no more crazy breeds in there and one day I was thinking Roger is high demanding right?! There are a lot of things to take into consideration when willing to buy a sled dog and bring it to your house.
For now I just focus on Laferra and Roger, They are both great for the sport and I feel it is great progress for me. Starting canicross at 30min with Roger and going down to 22min and with Laferra down to around 19:30min. I think I am on the right track, slow progress and improvment. I have learnt a lot about other breeds for the sport and still have plenty to learn.