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About raindog

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  • Birthday 01/04/1948

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    Mick Brent
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    The Peoples Republic of Brentford
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  1. We have heard some wonderful things and heartwarming stories about what you have done for this wonderful breed known as the Siberian Husky. We have done two rescues ourselves and when our beloved Kayak decides to leave us to the Rainbow Bridge, we are planning to rescue three more Siberians in need. We are also researching on how to begin a Siberian Husky Rescue in Vermont, U.S.A. for we do not have one here. Thank you for being Rescue Angels. SA DA KA (Sasha, Dakota & Kayak)

  2. Like Claire and Bec, I'm not a fan of head collars and have seen a lot more damage done by them than by the evil "check" chains or "half-checks" (I can't comment on prong collars because I have zero experience of them and have never even seen one in real life). My answer to the "problem" of a husky pulling is simple. Take your dog to ringcraft training (training for dog shows). If you go to a Championship Dog Show you will see dozens of extremely well-behaved huskies walking, running or trotting to heel under the perfect control of their handlers, responding to the most minute movements of the handler without jerking, manhandling and certainly without pain. Yet (in the UK at least) the majority of these dogs will also be working/racing dogs who, if you show them a working harness will go crazy to pull. Our dogs are intelligent enough to know the difference between working in harness and walking on the lead. It just takes time and training - and show training seems to be the most effective way of stopping them pulling when you don't want them to. Mick
  3. I Love the video and can appreciate the work Willem put in to training his dog. For me, however, it doesn't change the basic point that huskies can't be trusted offlead in unenclosed areas. I have known at least two huskies as well trained (if not better) than Willem's dog who, one day, for reasons known only to themselves decided to ignore the training and ended up dead under cars. I am 100% approving of training huskies to go offlead, doing obedience, doing agility etc etc - I think it is brilliant! But - I would still never trust them 100% offlead in unenclosed areas. Mick
  4. The extract was from Seppala: Alaskan Dog Driver (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company. 1930) by Elizabeth Ricker Here is another amazing example of the Siberian's intelligence - this time from one of Seppala's racing competitors, Scotty Allan in the 1915 All-Alaskan Sweepstakes whose lead dog Baldy Of Nome, showed his inteligence. Unfortunately Scotty didn't trust Baldy's judgement and ended up losing the race to Seppala: "It got dark. On the other side of Council the trail, being hard to find, had been marked with stakes. I kept flashing my electric torch until I picked them up. Then I tried to make Baldy follow the staked trail. He refused. As fast as I'd swing him into it, he'd try to go right off to the right again. For two hours he kept fighting to leave the trail for the right but I stubbornly held him to the stakes. And then - to my astonishment - the trail petered out, and I found myself in some timber, when I knew there shouldn't have been any within 30 miles! I had to turn and go back to Council again to get my bearings; and then I found that the stakes had been changed that day. They had fooled me all right, but they couldn't fool Baldy. By not giving him his way, I lost first place in that race!" Alaskan Trail - Siberian Dogs by John Douglas Tanner 1998
  5. A few weeks ago I was discussing this issue for the umpteenth time on a forum, and I decided to save time and argument by writing a brief article on why I believe that Siberians are never safe off lead no matter how well trained they are. This is it....... Why Can’t Siberian Huskies Safely Go Off-Lead? This is one of the constant questions raised about Siberian Huskies. You would think that it would be enough that: every responsible Siberian Husky owner will tell you that it is not safe to let a Siberian Husky off lead in an unenclosed area every ethical Siberian Husky Breeder will tell you that it is not safe to let a Siberian Husky off lead in an unenclosed area every single Siberian Husky rescue organisation IN THE WORLD will tell you that it is not safe to let a Siberian Husky off lead in an unenclosed area; and that every single Siberian Husky Club IN THE WORLD will tell you exactly the same thing. Now these people and organisations don’t take this line for fun, or to "big up" the wild nature of their dogs, or to try to keep the breed exclusive. They take it because it accurately reflects the bitter experience of thousands of owners worldwide over a long period of time. However, this obviously is not enough because there are still a steady stream of people who just don’t believe this unanimous and ubiquitous message. When you give examples of Siberians which have been killed, caused accidents or been shot by farmers for killing/savaging livestock, the doubters come back with, “But you could say the same about any breed!†– and to be honest, in many respects they would be right. Too many irresponsible owners of all kinds of dogs let their dog off lead with little thought for their dog’s safety, the safety of other animals, or the safety of the public. That is not for discussion here though. I want to explain why, in my opinion, it is never safe to let Siberian Huskies offlead in unenclosed areas. So, Why is the off-lead thing such a big deal with huskies? What makes them different from other breeds? There are two major factors, both embedded deep within the history of the breed. The dogs we now know as Siberian Huskies were originally developed by what are known as the “maritime†Chukchi people of North East Siberia who relied on dogs for transportation during the frozen winter. Other Chukchi groups relied on Reindeer for both food and winter transportation. The maritime Chukchi lived in fixed summer villages along the Bering Sea coast, but during the arctic/sub-arctic winter, became nomadic – following and hunting whatever game was available. The Chukchi would load their whole families on their sled and using teams of up to 20 dogs, would hunt all winter, sometimes covering 100 miles a day in their search for food. It was originally estimated that the Chukchi’s dogs had been in existence for some 3000 years, but recent archeological research has found the remains of sled-type dogs going back well over 10,000 years. Indeed, the Siberian Husky has been recognised as one of the oldest dog breeds known to mankind, so they have had a long time for their instincts and behavioural traits to become hard-wired into them. The two major factors I mentioned above are: An extremely strong Prey Drive ; and A fiercely independent intelligence. Prey Drive - The source of their prey drive is simple. During the summer, when they were not required as transportation, the Chukchi dogs ran free around the summer villages, rarely being fed by their owners, but existing (if not prospering) on what they could steal or catch. As winter came and food became scarce the dogs once more became sled dogs (of course not all the dogs returned - accidents and natural predators accounted for some, but at least there were no roads for them to be killed on). This pattern of behaviour was built up over a period of time which has been estimated as long as 10,000 years. As a result of millennia of such behaviour, these dogs now have a fearsome prey drive and the hunting skills to match. It is very common to hear that someone’s huskies have killed cats, rabbits, squirrels, birds (ours have taken birds out of the sky as they fly over our garden at low level) and even sheep. It is rare that they regard even small dogs as “prey†as they seem to be able to recognise a fellow canine. Independent Intelligence – You will occasionally hear dog trainers complain that huskies are not “trainable,†and you will consistently see them left out of lists of “The Ten Most Intelligent Dog Breeds†etc. The problem with such trainers and such lists is that they confuse obedience and “biddability†with intelligence, and, in reality they are not at all the same thing. Train a Border Collie to fetch a ball and it will tend to retrieve the ball time after time after time. Train a Siberian Husky to fetch a ball and it will do one of two things – either eat the ball, or bring it back once. The next time you throw it the sibe will look at you as if to say – “You threw it! YOU get it back! Do you think I’m that stupid?†When you give a trained Border Collie a command, you usually get instant obedience. When you give a command to a Husky, the Husky actually thinks about it before deciding to comply with or ignore the command. This may sound like bloody-mindedness, but it is in fact a deeply ingrained survival trait for arctic sled dogs. Think about it. You are the lead dog on a sled team pulling your Chukchi owner and his family across the frozen sea ice. Your owner shouts for you to turn right down a trail between a line of ice seracs as he knows this is the way to get to a safe camping area for the night. As lead dog, you can see that a right turn leads you to the edge of a deep crevasse and you refuse to make the turn. It is this intelligence and independence of thought which has been bred into Siberian Huskies over thousands of generations. An example of this came from Leonhard Seppala’s famous lead dog (and hero of the 1925 Dipheria Run – Togo . One day, Seppala was running his team, led by Togo , over the sea ice of the notorious Norton Sound , “Togo had been leading his sled across the sound during a northeastern gale on another occasion when, a few miles from shore, Seppala heard an ominous crack that let him know the sea ice was breaking up. Togo headed toward shore even before Seppala could give the command, but drew up short so fast he nearly flipped backwards. A yawning chasm of water had opened almost at Togo ’s feet, but the dog had reacted quickly enough to avert immediate disaster. Seppala looked around and realized with dismay that he and his team were trapped on an ice floe and headed out to sea. They spent more than twelve hours on that raft of ice, waiting as it drifted in the icy waters. Finally it neared land, but ran up against another floe that was jammed against the ice still connected to shore. they stopped moving, but there was still a five foot gap of water that Seppala couldn’t hope to cross. He tied a lead onto Togo and heaved the dog across the water. Togo landed on the ice and sensing what Seppala intended, the dog began pulling with all his might, narrowing the gap between the two ice floes. Then the lead rope snapped. Seppala thought he was a dead man. Then Togo , showing himself to be possessed of more intelligence and resourcefulness than most men could expect from even their lead dogs, leaped into the water and grabbed the broken end of the lead rope in his jaws. He clambered back onto the ice and continued pulling until he had narrowed the gap enough for Seppala and the sled to cross safely.†As it was with Seppala’s Siberian dogs, so it is today with our Siberian Huskies. No matter how well trained your Sibe is, there is always a part of his/her mind that, when he/she hears an instruction thinks, "Is it a good idea to follow that order?" and also, "What's in it for me?" - When you combine that independence of thought and keen intelligence with the high prey drive, you can see that obedience when offlead is a very dodgy prospect indeed. Huskies don’t help themselves in this regard. It is often found that husky puppies will act in extremely obedient ways for the first few months of their lives. I have lost count of the number of owners who have told me their Sibe is the exception that proves the rule and is ultra-obedient. Upon further discussion, it almost always transpires that the dog is a puppy – 4, 5 or 6 months old! Sibe puppies can lull you into a false sense of security - then puberty hits, they realise that they don’t need you, and all bets are off!!! We have been interested in Siberians for 20 years and have owned them for 17+. During that time we have personally come across at least one owner each year whose “highly trained†Sibe has "gone deaf" for the first and last time and ended up dead under a car, shot by a farmer for savaging livestock or having caused a major traffic accident. The common theme is that all these owners quite genuinely believed thatthey could train this trait out of their dogs; that theirrelationship with their dogs was so good that their dogs would always respond to the recall command; and that the recommendation of every husky related organisation IN THE WORLD was nonsense and that they and their dog were somehow special. Unfortunately, these owners learned the hard way with tragic consequences for themselves and their dogs. The plaintive and tragic cry, “He/She’s always come back before†is a common refrain in these tragic cases. This is exactly the naive "I know better than every Siberian Husky organisation in the world" attitude which unfortunately leads to the deaths of too many Siberians each year. My wife is an expert dog trainer. I have seen her achieve things with Sibes (and other dogs) that I would have thought pretty near impossible. All our adult dogs have excellent recall and obedience and are often a source of amazement to people who regard sibes as untrainable. Yet neither she nor I would ever let our dogs off lead in an unsafe/unenclosed area because we know that their recall can never be 100% and they are much too precious for us to risk. Having said all that, we believe strongly that all Siberian Husky owners should train their dogs in recall. We always recommend that people train their Siberians to recall IN SAFE ENCLOSED AREAS to as high a level as possible. Even in the best regulated worlds accidents sometimes happen – dogs slip their collars, snap their leads, escape from cages etc etc – and if you have trained your dog to recall, at least you have a chance of getting it back. Such training cannot be guaranteed, but at least it’s a form of insurance. Talking about insurance – a message to all those who, despite all the evidence and arguments, still insist on letting their dogs go offlead in unenclosed areas – get some public liability insurance. If your dog goes offlead and causes an accident or kills livestock – YOU are liable. On second thoughts, maybe it’s not worth it! The fact that every single Siberian Husky organisation in the world advises against letting them off lead, the owner whose dog caused the crash or killed the livestock could be liable for huge damages, as in legal terms, it could be argued that by acting against such universal informed advice, they had been incredibly negligent in letting their dog off lead in an unenclosed area and that this obvious negligence would invalidate their insurance. Just a thought! Mick Brent
  6. I blame Jack London. As a child I was an obsessive reader and at the age of 11 or 12, I came across Jack London. I started with "Call of the Wild" and "White Fang" and went on to read through most of his novels. As a result, I was hooked on the idea of the "frozen north" and having my own team of sled dogs battling through blizzards and living on what I could trap (bit of a strange fantasy for a boy living in the urban wastes of Slough but there you go). I was able to have a trial run during the incredibly cold winter of 1962/63 when it started snowing on Boxing Day and we had 18 inches of snow in our town. The temperature didn't rise above freezing until mid March. At the time I had a mongrel called Rusty who became my surrogate sled dog pulling me down the icy hills of Salt Hill Park on a home-made sled. After that winter my dreams went on hold while I got on with life, education, career, marriage and kids, but I never forgot my aim of having my own team of sled dogs. By the time I was in my mid forties, my marriage was over and I met the most amazing woman and fell instantly in love with her. Like me she loved dogs and when we got married in 1994, Terry bought me my first husky - Merlin - as a wedding present. We had researched the breed thoroughly and had visited breeders, owners, dog shows and rallies. It took us almost two years to find Merlin's breeders and convince them to let us have a puppy. Merlin was an amazing dog and an amazing introduction to owning a husky. Within a few weeks our formerly neat garden closely resembled the Battlefield of the Somme and he taught our staid old Labrador how to open doors and windows, how to steal food from the kitchen and how to melt your heart with a look. Merlin was followed fairly quickly by three more dogs and by the time they were all a year old, we had our own racing team. It's all been downhill from there really!!! Merlin (maybe a little spoiled) Our first four huskies Mick
  7. Frighteningly - you are probably right!!!!!
  8. I understand your passion Bec, and I respect your ability and knowledge as a trainer. My problem is that the vast majority of people who own huskies in the UK and let them offlead in unenclosed areas are not, like you, experienced trainers who understand canine instincts and the appropriate training methods to use for Siberian Huskies, but ignorant or naive people who are actually pretty much completely clueless about the breed. When they hear someone like you stating that Huskies can be let offlead, they don't hear the caveats about the intensive training necessary, just that they are OK to be let offlead and that is what leads to hundreds of husky deaths offlead each year. As Louise pointed out, the vast majority of people who let their dogs (of any breed) offlead shouldn't do so as their dogs' recall isn't reliable enough. To do it with Huskies is even more of an uneccessary risk. BTW - it isn't just about prey drive with huskies - probably more significant is the Siberian Husky's intelligence and capability of independent thought, which in conjunction with their prey drive makes offlead "trust" a frighteningly dodgy prospect. I also think that Agility and Obedience "work" is qualitatively very different from just casual offlead walking. A Husky in working mode (whether that "work" is running in harness, agility or obedience) is much more focussed and much less likely to be distracted by prey than a husky on a casual walk. Mick
  9. Choosing your first dog We spent almost 2 years reading about the breed (there were only about 5 husky websites worldwide in those days), visiting breeders, visiting Championship Dog Shows, visiting rallies, visiting owners and generally getting ourselves known (the UK husky scene was a very small world in those days). We decided on the bloodlines we wanted for our first husky and started looking for a breeder. Eventually we found one who had a litter and managed to convince them that they should let us have one of their pups. I still think that this was a brilliant apprenticeship. By the time we got our pup, we were totally committed to the breed. Preparing your home As we already had a dog, we didn't have to do a great deal apart from increase the height of our fences and install baby gates on all the areas we didn't want the pup to get into. First 24 hours home Don't remember that much about it as it was nearly 18 years ago. I remember that Merlin slept in our bedroom and seemed to be able to know exactly where our feet would land when we got out of bed so that we were assured of puppy pooh squished between our toes. First visit to the vets This was for Merlin's second vaccination - he was very well behaved and was treated like a superstar - he was the first husky the vet had ever treated! First walk I don't know if it was his first walk, but it was an early one - he tried to kill our neighbour's cat! He liked our cat, so we assumed he would like all cats - BIG MISTAKE!!! First training session I remember taking him to puppy training classes, and him winning Best Baby Puppy at the match night First long journey This was the journey from the breeder to our home. The breeder was in Cambridgeshire so it was a lengthy journey for a baby pup. We didn't want to stop to walk him as he had only had one vaccination. He held out until we got off the motorway and then poohed in the crate. It was a very smelly journey as the breeder had given us some of the "food" he was on to bring home. It was cooked sheeps' brains and stank to high heaven. When we cleaned up the puppy pooh, we jettisoned the brains along with the pooh! First time having someone visit home I don't remember anything specific - Merlin always loved everyone and always got a huge fuss made of him. First time meeting another dog We had an old Labrador called Biscuit at the time, so he would have been Merlin's first encounter with other dogs. They got on very well, although Merlin ran poor Biscuit ragged and taught him lots of naughty tricks like opening doors and cupboards. First holiday Still waiting for it! In 20 years we have managed two long weekends away (without the dogs) - another one coming up in January - whooopee!!
  10. Just had a phone call from a lady who wants to give up her young female. It is a classic "husky" story. The dog has been off lead since she was a baby puppy and was (in her owner's mind) 100% trustworthy - always came back when called, totally obedient. Away they went on holiday, taking the dog with them. As usual they let the dog offlead and the first thing it did was to chase and attack a field of sheep. The owner now wants to rehome the dog because she "can't trust it any more." We tried to explain that the dog was exactly the same dog as it was before it attacked the sheep - nothing has changed and it was her stupidity and refusal to listen to advice which was the problem, not the dog. Unfortunately, like so many, the dog has to suffer because of the owner's mistakes and now we have to find a new home for her.
  11. I am really glad that I am not in the position of having to buy my first Siberian Husky puppy today. The whole business is fraught with problems, not least because the vast majority of people breeding nowadays are not remotely interested in the welfare of the breed, only the money they can make. Just look at the hundreds of Sibe pups available on e-pupz........... At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon (ie a grumpy old man - which I am) I really regret the way things have changed in our breed (and many others). The problem is that the internet (and the proliferation of commercial breeders - whether puppy farmers, backyard breeders or naive/greedy "pet" breeders) has made it so easy to buy a puppy of any breed almost instantly. When we first got into Siberians almost 20 years ago, it was very different. Most breeders were ethical and reputable. If you contacted a breeder about a puppy, they would quiz you about your knowledge of the breed and then politely advise you to go away and visit dog shows, rallies and, most importantly, people who owned the breed, so that you could find out first hand what the dogs were like to live with. Then after 6 months or so, to go back and see them. If at that point you were still interested in having a puppy, the breeder might put you on their waiting list. A year or so later - again - if you were lucky, you might get your puppy. When you finally got a puppy, you would have more or less served an apprenticeship in the breed and would know exactly what you are letting yourself in for. Nowadays, you can be sitting at home watching "Snow Dogs" or "8 Below" on TV one evening, little Johnny says, "I want one of those" and after 30 minutes or so on the 'net you could have "sourced" a pup ready for collection the next day. This is one of the main reasons why so many huskies come into rescue - we've had 10 dogs under 6 months of age handed in to us over the past 6 months - all of which reflect the scenario above. I know it is difficult, but we would advise people looking for a puppy to be patient. Take your time and find the right breeder with the right puppy - even if it takes you (like it did us) almost two years before you get your pup. After all, anything which is really worth having is worth working and waiting for. The advice we give to people looking for a pup is here and if you follow it, I don't think you can go far wrong: http://www.dreamcatcher.org.uk/looking_for_a_puppy.htm Mick
  12. Mick Lets have a photo of a husky with a cat!
  13. A Husky looking guilty after doing something it shouldn't! Mick
  14. Here's Burt smiling for the camera: and although he is far from being a puppy, here is the biggest most satisfied grin of all - Ute after mating a bitch (still tied, but fast asleep and happy - It's a man thing!!!:p Mick
  15. Not sure yet - we're still mulling over some names. Mick
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