Puppy Training Time: Part 1

The snow has come, the days are dark, and the sweet puppies born in the spring are huge energy monsters ready to be harness broken. We asked some experts what they think and got some good harness breaking tips. Emil Inauen weighs in first.

Av: Barry Siragusa. foto: Barry Siragusa

Emil Inauen has thought a lot about training puppies. He says that his experiences in Canada, watching puppies go totally crazy eating the gangline and every other thing around them, made him think of a different way of doing training puppies that took away the stress and craziness of the first runs. Now he enjoys it and says that the puppies do to.

Can you describe your puppy training? How old are they when you start?

-I start training my puppies when I feel they are ready. Sometimes that is whe they are 8 months old, sometimes they are a year or more…It is different for every litter and every pup, says Inauen.

How do you know they are ready?

-I don’t have any big test to see if they are ready, but I make the decision based on how mentally mature they seem. I think it is mostly mentally tough for them. I am not in any hurry to harness them either. Some of my best dogs that I have ever had did not start running before they were a year. When I do think they are ready i really take my time and make sure that it is relaxed and fun for them. 

What does that look like when you harness break?

– I don’t like that english word «breaking» I amtrain good behavior, not breaking. The first hook-ups I won’t even leave the kennel. I just harness them and wait. I have a big pole that I tie the gangline too and I just drink coffee and fix tangles and let them learn how to behave in harness before we do anything else. I might do two or twenty hook-ups like that before we ever leave the kennel. 

Do you harness puppies next to each other?

-Not usually at first. I have them in single file for a while then maybe two and two. A calm puppy next to a crazy one, for example. 

A calm puppy next to a crazy one 

When you do finally leave the kennel with the puppies, do you run on an ATV or a sled?

That doesn’t really matter to me. I usually have them in harness after the snow has come if they were born in the late spring/early summer. So usually we are on sleds. The puppies are a little surprised when we start to move, but I almost never need to stop more than five times while out with the puppies. They have already learned to not get problems with the lines and each other.

Do you have just puppies or some adults to? 

-I have one adult leader. The rest are puppies. Because they have stood hooked up to the pole, they have already learned that when we stop it means good behavior. I can run ten puppies and they will just stand there when I stop. My adults are so good I don’t need a snow anchor sometimes. Right now that is great because the snow conditions are bad. 

How did you come up with this system?

I remember putting puppies in harness for the first time in Canada. It was totally crazy. I was completely wet with sweat when we were done. The puppies were so stressed and they were eating lines, and the head of the dog next to them. I wanted to take away that stress. Now I drink coffee and give them some kibbles when they are good. It is much nicer that way.

Anything you would like to add?

some people run puppies very early because the puppies are too crazy and full of energy when they get to be six or eight months old and are living on the chain… We run all dogs free every day – so that’s not an issue for us. We are not in a hurry.


Emil Inauen lives in Grimsbu Norway with his long distance alaskan huskies, wife and children. He is an experienced rock climber and mountaineer. Inauen has won the Le Grande Odysee in the past, and now trains for and competes in europes longest dog races Femundløpet and Finnmarksløpet. For more info on Inauen and his dogs click here.

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