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.