How sled dogs learn on the Iditarod Trail
Aliy Zirkle has a nice story on her website about how sled dogs learn on the Iditarod Trail. Here are parts of three paragraphs from Part 1 of her story:
Mac, as many people know, is a highly talented, very confident, somewhat aloof, fantastic sled dog. Fantastic might even be an understatement. But, Mac was once a young novice and he learned the ropes just like Mismo is doing now. Mismo is happy, always ready to go and wants to please. I paired the two about half way through the race. My hope was that Mac would influence Mismo during the second (and more difficult) half of the race.
In the beginning the pairing went fine. I think that Mismo was still confident and strong on the Yukon River so they just ran together as a steady even pair. But, the run over to the western coast is always challenging. This year wind was very fierce and the sun was high above our heads. We even passed two unexpected dog teams that were camped just alongside the trail. This is an area that front runner Iditarod teams have quit before, so seeing those teams was emotional.
I noticed Mismo lean into Mac periodically after that and check in with him - nose to nose. I think novice dogs do this when they are unsure of a situation. If their partner barely acknowledges this nose touch and keeps working, that's basically telling the novice dog: "It's fine buddy. This is normal."
If you’re interested in the Iditarod race, sled dogs, and Alaska, I encourage you to read the rest of the story.