Three sled dog teams. Forty-eight dogs. A great opportunity to practice passing as the crews sped out
of the yard on Friday. With passing practice, the goal is for dogs to mind their own team, stay in their lane and pass flawlessly by another team. Watch professional sled dog teams and you’ll notice the dogs are focused on the dog in front of their own team, head down and definitely not straying to get tangled up in their neighbors team. The dogs should not loose a beat, barely looking up from their appointed task.
We practice this skill over and over throughout fall training, in lots of different configurations, both running side by side and passing head on. Just like rush hour traffic in the city, it all goes well, so long as everyone follows the rules and pays attention. As soon as one clown decides to change lanes creatively, it all goes haywire. Today, a brand new lead dog was learning to pass another team without creating a live knitting project in the other teams’ gangline. The novice leader, Kiwi, did fantastic, staying in his lane and driving forward, passing eight pairs of dogs, just inches away. However, some clown in point (the position one behind the leaders), kept meandering into the other team and gumming up the flow. With two teams totaling 32 dogs running side by side, some times it can be a little confusing to see who belongs where. That part, did not get captured on film.
Ultimately, when the snow flies and the guests arrive, it should be no big deal for sled dog teams to meet on a narrow snowy trail, and to pass seamlessly. Of course, the dogs may have a rookie musher at the helm, holding on for dear life, eyeballs popping out, and envisioning that the trail is just too darn narrow for this to end well. It may feel like an impending head on collision on a single lane bridge scenario. Not to worry, the dogs have worked in close quarters all fall and the snow-covered trail is fluid in its width. This is one of those “keep your team moving, trust the dogs and just hold on moments.” It is thrilling to watch from the sled runners and one of the many benefits of a well-trained team. Here’s a short video of three teams passing – just like clockwork. PASSING PRACTICE