Unconventional Sled Dog Secrets of an Alaskan Iditarod ChampionMushing Magazine is happy to be the first to give readers an inside glance at Mitch Seavey’s new book: Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way! The book covers everything from dog training to nutrition to mental toughness – all relayed in Mitch’s excellent “say it like it is” style, and dryly stated humor. Over the next few issues, we will be featuring short excerpts from the book which is due out soon. See for information on purchasing.Chapter One: Dog Smart(The Pack)…Dogs are pack animals, and this is obvious in a dog team setting. We mushers are privileged to participate in this ancient society. Dogs need the pack structure to be balanced and complete. The pack will form and you can participate at whatever level you wish. As a successful musher, you must take your place at the top of the pack, and provide structure and discipline for your dogs. You must remove uncertainty from their lives by providing strong, consistent and reliable leadership……The most able and dominant member is the pack leader. The pack follows the strong leader and travels extensively in search of life’s necessities. Individuals lacking the pack instincts in days gone by almost certainly perished alone. Pack oriented dogs thrived, reproduced and passed on the strong pack instincts to future generations and the need for a pack leader persists throughout the generations. A dog must either follow a strong leader, or become one. Lead, follow or get out the way.(Sled Dog Mentality)Thinking like a dog isn’t natural for people. It takes time, because dogs are entirely different than we are. Dogs pretty much operate in the “now.” They don’t have plans for the future, and they don’t have regrets or hold grudges from the past. They don’t have jealousy or hatred. If another dog has something they want, well they want it too, but they don’t wish anything bad for the other dog like a person might. And probably most importantly, dogs don’t judge……People are afflicted with the damnable need to decide upon everything we encounter, whether it is good or bad. Further, we think our judgment on the matter is the correct judgment no matter what. For a dog, however, there is no good or bad: a thing simply “is” and that is that.Chapter Two: Dog Acquisition(Breeding)Suppose the dogs in the Muktuk line have a digestive tract with extra fast nutrient absorption, and always have extra energy on races. The Ugruk dogs have thicker tendons and ligaments and are never sore or tired, always finishing strong. You get to the finish line and the Muktuk female and the Ugruk male were your two best dogs. You breed them together with great expectations. Time passes and lo and behold you get only one out of six pups anywhere near as good as either parent on an off day……How can that happen? Well, without going on and on about dominant and recessive genes and other stuff I probably don’t really understand, let’s just say that when you took half of the genetics from each parent you took a 50/50 chance on the desirable traits of each parent, and with your rotten luck, you got pups that had neither the super fuel injection of the Muktuks nor the super linkage of the Ugruks. In the roulette wheel of genetics, you have to get two balls to land on your number, not just one. Chapter Four: Early Education(Harness Breaking)…Well, the big moment has come. You’re going to hook the little beggars up and go for a run. You’ve seen the beautiful photography of Iditarod and other racing teams. Sixteen evenly paired dogs flowing in unison as the sled and driver skim over the trail without a sound. Well, forget about it. This will look more like a jailbreak at the zoo on wheelchair appreciation day. First thing I’m going to tell you is to get some help. If you don’t have a handler, sober up the neighbor, and haul him over. Get somebody……I like to hook them up for the first time at about nine to twelve months of age. Actually, in the spring after racing, we just hook up the oldest of last summer’s pups. The youngest ones may have to wait and get hooked up later on the four-wheeler……I hook up two good leaders who will hold the line out straight, and up to six pups behind them, to the sled, four-wheeler or snow machine…To be continued in the next issue…


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