The Fan Hitch Volume 2, Number 2, February 2000

Newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

Editorial: 
The Bigger Picture
*
Featured Inuit Dog Owner: 
Paul Landry
*
Book Reviews:
On Thin Ice
Of Dogs and Men
*
Poem: Brave Little Heart
*
Janice Howls: 
Hypothyroid Disease
*
Fan Hitch Contributor Receives Writing Award
*
Expedition News: 
The Thule 2000
*
In My Humble Opinion: 
Traditional Advice
*
Updates:
The Nunavut Quest 2000
Ihe ISDVMA Meeting


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              Editor: Sue Hamilton
              Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
The Fan Hitch Website and Publications of the Inuit Sled Dog– the quarterly Journal (retired in 2018) and PostScript – are dedicated to the aboriginal landrace traditional Inuit Sled Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. 

PostScript is published intermittently as material becomes available. Online access is free at: http://thefanhitch.org  PostScript welcomes your letters, stories, comments and The editorial staff reserves the right to edit submissions used for publication.

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In My Humble Opinion: Traditional Advice


by Mark Hamilton

Twenty five years of owning, breeding and raising Alaskan Malamutes was not adequate preparation for the experience of having sixteen ISD puppies (litters of 6, then 10, two weeks apart) running loose in our backyard. First there was the issue of just keeping track of them all. Then we simply stared in disbelief when our small herd of puppies began ripping up clumps of grass and stripping the bark off of trees. It was the aggressiveness of their play however, both within the litters and in our larger play groups, that shocked us and for which we found ourselves totally unprepared. We decided to follow the same advice we've offered to others so many times in the past, we called the breeder. 

"Jayko, the puppies are fighting. I mean, this is serious stuff, not play. Tiri's pups aren't even four weeks old and they're grabbing each other by the scruff of the neck and growling and shaking their head's violently. They don't stop until the other one is shrieking. Amaruq's pups are two weeks older and quite a bit larger, now they're bullying Tiri's pups. What do we do?" 

With a chuckle Jayko responded, “Let them fight. They can't kill each other at this age." At the time we took his admonition to mean, "Oh, it's nothing to worry about, they won't do any permanent damage to each other."  Now, we realize he was saying so much more. 

That is often the case with "traditional wisdom". Simple sounding statements hold a depth and breadth of information that is easily overlooked at the time. Another of Jayko's pieces of advice will help illustrate this point, "Don't feed them too much meat, their legs will be too short." 

Well, we accepted that one at face value, and since the pups' primary food source was EAGLE POWER PACK we didn't worry over the point. Later we mentioned Jayko's advice to the chief veterinarian at EAGLE, Dr. Al Townsend. His immediate response was that it was very sound guidance as too much meat could throw off the calcium/phosphorous ratio which would result in short legs. The thing is, at the time we didn't realize Jayko was warning us to be sure to feed a balanced diet. 

Similarly, an ISD in the north learns from the start that its job in the contract between human and dog is to supply the 
 means of locomotion. Their natural instinct to pull is reinforced as appropriate behavior.  Arctic mushers don't encourage bad pulling habits by “pedaling” or running along side their komotik. I well remember several times in Greenland when, faced with a long and steep uphill climb, we offered to get off the komotik to lighten the load for the dogs. Always the answer was quite emphatic that the dogs would pull us up, and of course they did. Now on reflection it sounds a lot to me like Jamie Nelson's advice that you need to teach your dogs to pull. These days we realize how much more Jayko was saying when he advised us to "let them fight". He was telling us this is a breed driven to established itself within the hierarchy of dominance within their pack. They must find their place and defend that position. Let them establish the ground rules while they are incapable of doing extreme damage to each other, because if you don't let them do it when they’re little, you won't like the consequences when they do it later. 

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