The Fan Hitch Volume 7, Number 1, December 2004

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

Editorial: New Faces, Old Passions
F.I.D.O.: Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen
A Conversation with Palle Norit
DNA Analysis of the Greenland Dog and the Canadian Inuit Dog
Pregnancy, Whelping and Pup Development in the ISD, Part 1
Product Review: Herculiner«
Tip for the Trail: Anti-fatigue Mats
In the News
Janice Howls: At the Heart of Greatness
 IMHO: Training or Interference

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
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A steely-eyed stare from Qiniliq (L) elicits a fearful, subordinance 
display from Sunny (R)                                  Hamilton photo

Training or Interfering?

by Mark Hamilton

Qiniliq's group was pretty rowdy a few mornings ago. The weather contributed to their general unrest. It was a little over 1║C (about 34║F), sunny and breezy. In addition, their most recent training run had been on Thursday, and it was now Saturday. Qiniliq first got involved in a shoulder slamming, yelling confrontation with Aqsaq and then appeared to take offense with Sunny's interest in that activity. Sunny, it turned out, was not looking to engage Qiniliq and showed a sufficient amount of subordinance to avert a direct attack. But noise and posturing coming from the run indicated the morning's issues were not yet resolved to anyone's complete satisfaction.

When Qiniliq's group's turn came to be let out of their run for morning exercise I turned them loose into the largest exercise pen by themselves, rather than bring them out into the backyard to be with Sue and me. I did this even though I knew there was a real possibility for a brawl, and that the dogs would be in a more remote and larger area where they would be harder to control if we needed to intercede. But they were the ones with the issues to resolve. It was not for Sue or me to interfere with or complicate those issues, and we trust Qiniliq, the group's boss dog, to exercise restraint in how much force he applies to make his point.

Now, since this is supposed to be an opinion piece, not a behavior article, I guess it's time to stop reporting observations and get to what's on my mind. Today it's one of the current fads in dog raising and training - over involvement in the direction of canine social development.

Before I even get started let me emphatically state that I am not in any way making reference to the early and intense socialization of dogs to humans. Everyone dealing with primitive dogs understands the absolute need for early socialization to humans, and I believe it is of critical importance with all dogs, regardless of breed.

No, my reference here is to owners and trainers who would be better off with a good computer program, or even one of those little Japanese toys of a few years back that required you to "raise" them by pushing the "food" button, or the "holding you" or "playing with you"  buttons frequently enough or it "died".  If you were real attentive to its needs it even "thrived" in some way. There are dog owners and trainers following this latest fad who wish to remove puppies from their litter as early as they possibly can for fear the pup will "learn" things from the other pups and adults that they don't "want them to know". They seem to think they are going to be make canine good citizens out of their pups by eliminating all the interactions that teach pups the consequences of unwise and inappropriate use of force, the need to conform to the expectations of the group, of filling a role within a society, and working within the group. I find it downright sad for the poor pup or dog. Yes, it may grow up to be competent at running an agility course at record speed, but the animal's only knowledge of its identity as a member of some breed is that which it inherited in its genetic coding. 

This is another of the reasons why so few of the people interested in acquiring an Inuit Sled Dog are appropriate as potential owners. Following this latest training fad with a group of ISDs would be a prescription for trouble.  These ISD owners would not be willing to follow the advice Jayko Ootoowak gave me years ago when I asked him about violent, intense fighting within a litter of pups, "Let them fight, they can't kill each other at this age"; or the advice he offered when I questioned him about a young male pup fighting with his father, the group's boss dog, "Help the one you want to win."

These days, with breed bans being such a critical issue of importance for all dog owners, the last thing any of us needs is for some inappropriately handled ISDs running around out of control somewhere south of the tree line.

By the way, even though you may have already guessed what happened with Qiniliq's group while they were out alone in that exercise pen, the dogs ran around together and got extra space between them when they needed it. They played and investigated the area singly and as a group. And when I brought them back into their kennel run they were a happy, cohesive group once again, looking forward to having their breakfast.

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