in minnesota


my sled team

mushing boot camp, september 2003

After two years of trying to work the dogs and not feeling too confident in what I was doing, I bit the bullet and signed up for Jamie Nelson and Ann Stead's Mushing Boot Camp in Togo, MN. I had attended last summer a one-day pull-training clinic offered by Jamie and Ann and learned a great deal, but I wanted to try running a four-dog team (instead of the two-dog "team" I had been doing) and thought that MBC would be a good controlled environment for me to try this -- plus, I'd have a chance to try my new wheeled cart.

In a nutshell, it was a fantastic experience! At the first group meeting Friday night, we all talked about what we hoped to learn from the weekend and I expressed my fears of a dog-fight and completely uncontrolled mess the first time I hooked up four dogs together. The next morning I was amazed at how well-behaved my guys were. Mazzy and Cirrus did a wonderful line-out and held the line taut while I hooked up Tess and Jasper at wheel. What made this even more surprising to me was this happened in the parking area (the group staging area) with six other teams in close proximity! Granted, my guys may have been a little overwhelmed by all the other dogs and activity going on, but I wasn't going to argue with them. As the teams left the parking area one by one, I was again pleasantly surprised when we went by the three remaining teams still waiting to leave without major problems.

Over the next few days, it became obvious to me that the one-on-one pull-training I had been doing with my dogs in the months before was paying off handsomely. My dogs always hiked on command, although they would stop now and then when they wanted to -- something we had to work to correct. Most on-by's went well, except for the few head-on passes we attempted. The dogs' tuglines were usually tight, and I learned the benefits of going slow and not talking to the dogs too much. We ran on the roads and in the fields, one run in the morning and one in the evening. During the day we did one-on-one work with the dogs, pull-training, confidence-building on agility equipment, teaching line-out and so on. Of special mention are Jamie's water hazards -- trenches filled knee-deep with water that the dogs either go through or go around (usually a combination of both) -- see the pictures below. The dogs slept like stones each night but were eager each morning to go out again.

All in all, it was a great experience for me and, I hope, for the dogs too. More than any one of my dogs, I was the one who needed his confidence built up. Camp was an opportunity to try new things under the eyes of Jamie and Ann, who each spent time with us one-on-one. I met some great people and am no longer completely terrified at the thought of running four dogs at once. There are still things we need to work on but now I have some knowledge of how to do that. Special thanks to everyone who took or sent me pictures.

here we come endless northern roads cirrus crashes hard at the end of the day mazzy was one tired puppy still coming... tess and jasper at lead cirrus and mazzy survive the mud
down a woodland trail mazzy waiting to be passed pausing for a photo shoot water after a run (cirrus and jasper) mazzy's out for the night jasper looks happy
jasper, cirrus, and mazzy's nose say hello another photo opp what's the holdup? jasper finds some shade the dogs' home away from home tied out after a run navigating a water hazard
a dog's-eye view we weren't so successful with this trench going on down the road ann stead offers some advice posing with my team parking lot / staging area mazzy and cirrus think mud is pretty cool
cirrus finds a pillow jamie nelson helps with 'come haw' just hanging out yet another photo opp traffic jam aw dad, can't we chase them? mazzy and cirrus relax their first day back home
Click on any thumbnail to pop up a larger image.