Sunday, November 9, 2014

Husky Management

The Kita in the snow
I'm going to tell you all about the huskies in this post!

The pair of them can be quite the handful. They are escape artists, they are loud, they can pull like nobody's business, they can jump fences, one has separation anxiety, if given the opportunity they will run and run and run and never come back, they have strong prey drives, and they don't get along with other dogs (well, they kinda do, they are just very excitable, play rough, and the prey drive kicks in around little dogs. So they only get along with very specific other dogs). They are far from perfect, though quite typical for their breed (RESEARCH before getting a husky)! Of course, we love them a whole hell of a lot. They've undergone extensive training and have a solid routine that helps immensely. Also? Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! I thought I'd tell you about some of the fun stuff we do with them.

Kanook hangs out at a summit
Kita is a much better trail-finder and trail-follower
than Kanook. Neither dog understands
switchbacks, however!

A windy ridgeline!

Skijoring near Gould, CO

What, exactly, is THAT?! Why, it is when you put a pulling harness on your husky, put a pair of skis on yourself, attach a line, and let the dog(s) go! You do your best to stay upright. Forget about stopping (brakes = your body hitting the snow as you deliberately throw yourself to the ground). Watch out for trees! In other words, it is a total blast! Our favorite place is go is the Moose Visitor Center in Gould, CO. There are flat cross country trails and hardly any other people in winter. Michigan Ditch trail at Cameron Pass is our favorite for backcountry. Definitely rougher, and more hills, but also deserted whenever we've visited.

Lucky for us, we can do this activity November through May!

Taking a break, huskies on the lookout for stray snacks

Our setup is:
  • Custom-made pulling harnesses for the huskies, made by Alpine Outfitters in San Clemente, CA - surprisingly affordable!
  • Skijoring harness for the human that is similar to a climbing harness, but sits a bit lower. We got this second hand at a local gear shop.
  • Bungee line to protect the dogs and human from sudden jolts. Came with the second hand harness.
  • Whatever skis we can rent cheap and nearby.
  • Cold-weather clothes for humans.
  • Durable gloves for humans.
  • "Snack water" for huskies - it is extremely important that the huskies are well hydrated prior to undertaking this activity! We make a tasty water concoction for them that usually involves soaked kibble, broth, and/or whatever tasty snacks we might have around submerged in their water (veggie bits, chunks of stale bread, that kind of thing).


Summit huskies! On top of 13er Mt. Sheridan
We do a LOT of hiking with the huskies. With spectacular hiking just minutes away from where we live, this is the main activity. They have summited 4 mountain summits over 14,000 ft plus a handful of 13ers, they've done extensive backpacking (more about backpacking later), and plenty of day hikes.
Our main concern with the huskies while hiking is looking out for other dogs. Kita and Kanook are ALWAYS leashed. The only exceptions are on difficult river crossings and occasional steep snow slopes with no one and no other dogs anywhere. And in these cases, there is always one of us waiting for them on the other side to tackle/catch and re-leash them!

Kanook thinks birdwatching is pretty lame,
unless he gets to chase the bird

If we encounter other dogs (or horses), as we often do, we move well off the trail and make the huskies sit. Usually other dogs pass by and there is nothing but a whimper from a husky. Sometimes, off leash dogs approach and are either far ahead or behind their owner, or just don't listen to their owner. Not ideal, and it happens more often than we're comfortable with, but we live with it. No room to move off trail? Grab a collar and keep them on our side farthest from the approaching dog, and keep moving.

So, how do we backpack with huskies? Well we've done enough of it that both humans and huskies know how it goes! Huskies get dog packs to carry their own food, food and water bowls, tie-outs, and sometimes a bit of water. Huskies are leashed, I keep control of Kita and Erik handles Kanook. Leash ends are looped through the hip belts of our packs to keep our hands free.

Huskies on tie-out at camp at the base of Mt Zirkel.
Near Steamboat Springs, CO
When walking is done and it is time to camp, we trade leashes for a tie-out line. We string the tie-out between two trees, and each husky has a short lead that allows them to touch and interact, but not get tangled. This sometimes works better in theory than it does in practice! We try to keep the tie out very close to where we will be sitting/cooking/hanging out, since Kanook get upset when he is too far away. Did I mention separation anxiety?

If we are backpacking with the huskies, we bring the tent. At bedtime everyone snuggles together in a pile of sleeping pads, sleeping bags, clothes, and random other stuff. The huskies try their best to push us off our sleeping pads, and/or lie directly on top of us.

Kanook LOVES the tent. As soon as it is set up all he wants
to do is hang out inside, expecting snuggle time.

Car Camping
"Car camping" has two meanings for us: camping in the tent with the car nearby (no backpacking involved), and sleeping in the car due to cold or road tripping. We own two vehicles, a Subaru Outback and a Toyota 4Runner, and luckily both accommodate the two humans stretched out to sleep. With huskies in there too it is usually a bit cramped, but we do fine.

Here are more pictures of huskies!

Ready for adventure!

Off-season training
Long-haired Erik! With huskies, of course
Medicine Bow Peak in Wyoming
Backpacking Lone Pine Creek near Red Feather, CO

Human viewpoint - onward, huskies!

1 comment:

  1. Man, those are some gorgeous shots towards the end of the post! I also like the one of their butts.