Without them, you are going nowhere!
Lila, a friend from France, asked,"How to spot out leaders from an early age, training them with older dogs and the different types of leaders?"
Here, when the puppies are born, I watch for the first puppy to walk, first to eat the mothers food, the first to leave the Puppy House venturing out into the pen. That is usually a sign of a potential leader. An example here was Lilly.
Also the puppy that is more reserved who quietly stays away from the pack observing what the others are doing. This puppy is showing intelligence and can make a good leader. An example here was Hok'ee.
When the puppies are running loose, look for the one that likes to be out front with the others chasing it.
Sometimes a dog that seems shy in the kennel can make an incredible leader.
Little Kira was a perfect example and turned out to be a dynamite Leader being very focused loving to be upfront.
Here, all dogs get an opportunity to run lead.
Usually, I will start them in their Yearling year.
During the training runs, I will keep moving the yearlings closer to the front of the team on each run watching their comfort level getting closer to the front and having more dogs running behind them.
Eventually, if the dog is comfortable at the Point position, it is ready to have a try at Lead.
I will put the dog up at lead with an experienced leader a few hundred feet from the kennel and let them lead going home.
The dogs are excited to finish the run and this will give them a positive experience for their first time up front.
At the finish of the run they get a treat and some special attention to show you are pleased with them. All the team gets a treat at the end of a run, but the Leaders are first to get their reward.
If the dog is comfortable at lead, they are put up front for longer on the "going home" part of the trail, then from half way and eventually from the start.
This is a slow process to ensure their experience is positive and comfortable.
Usually in their second year, they get to run at lead every second run and always with an experienced leader.
Try dogs at the leader position each season, as some dogs mature later and could be another leader.
There basically two types of Leaders: Command Leaders (Gee/Haw) and Trail Leaders (sometimes called Fairbanks Leaders).
However, in the above two groups there are sub-groups: Pace Setters, followers (they let the other leader set the pace and they will run the speed the Pace Setter sets), Dependable leaders are maybe not the best for longer distances. But, when you need a leader to finish the race/training run, they will do the job and get you home.
Training Leaders are very valuable for training young dogs and new leaders.
Lastly, Race Leaders are fast dogs that are not bothered by distractions of other teams, spectators and all the commotion around a race.
Race Leaders are the most focussed dogs on your team.
Here I breed for leaders studying the pedigrees of the potential Stud and Mother looking always for leaders in the their heritage.
Leaders will produce Leaders!
The last litter here the Indigo (the mother) is a leader and her father was a leader. Blue is not a leader, but his father and mother were leaders. Of the litter they produced, four of the six puppies are leaders.
If I am going to add a new dog to my kennel from another musher, I ask if the dog is a leader and why the musher wants to part with them.
I only add leaders to my kennel!
Of the kennel of 18 dogs, 11 are leaders.
Lila, I hope this answers your questions and is helpful for you for developing your kennel/team.
The above photos are of some of my Leaders over the years.
Until next week........