Natasha has always been my best lead dog. She knows her Gee, Haw, On-by (when things are not too interesting), whoa (usually), wait (a hiking command to give me an extra couple of seconds to scramble over a rock that their four little paws have no problems with), etc.
I have also long realized that the key to controlling the Herd is controlling Natasha. A strange dog is walking up to us and I need to make sure no one overreacts? Make sure Natasha is calm and the others will follow her lead. Need everyone to go out or come in? Get Natasha to and the others will follow.
And like all good lead dogs, sometimes you expect her to lead without a command. To see a situation that needs to be solved and just make it happen.
Today, we had been hiking for some time and the dogs were getting tired (which is the goal – a Tired Sibe is a Good Sibe). We were working our way down a hill and I was focusing on not losing my balance. After all, I am using a High Sierra Walk-A-Belt from White Pine Outfitters, so I am being guided down the hill by three Sibes (we each have three connected to us). This is a death defying move because if they all three decide to run down the hill, I am solidly connected to them. Anyway, one hand is on my walking stick and the other is by my side – no hands connected to the leash since the leashes are connected to my belt.
Qannik picks this opportune time to decide to wander off to the side of the trail and sniff the flowers (or whatever – I don’t want to know). Natasha, who was tired, thirsty and hungry, was having none of that and took command as a good lead dog does. She grabbed Qannik’s leash in her mouth, snapped her head to give him a correction, pulled him back onto the trail, and then let go.
Couldn’t have done it better myself.