It is a legal requirement to keep records as to how far dogs have run or been walked. This is as important in summer as in winter, since in summer it ensures that the dogs receive balanced training and have time to run around and play outside of their cage or chain areas and in winter it helps us to ensure that dogs are neither under- nor over-worked.
We have developed a really useful tool for both recording winter running records and helping us to plan which dogs should run and which should rest (based on the relative distances run in the past 7 runs) for the following day.
Dogs get either a green (go) or yellow (can run if need be, but not top priority to run) or red (stop) traffic light and teams are built from scratch, each day, using this information. This effectively forces us to rotate through all of the dogs on the farm. Without such a system, some 'good' dogs would run considerably more than others since the guide preference would clearly be to utilise favourite dogs. By ensuring that each dog runs, we are ensuring that the lazier dogs do not get progressively less fit than the others since their relative fitness is maintained. Young and old dogs get a 'red' light more frequently than those in the prime of their lives since they are separated onto a different statistical percentile. At some point the old dogs also switch onto something called a 'reduced running plan' which means that they don't run safaris over a certain distance (and that distance is dog-specific...we simply pay a lot of attention to how keen they are to still keep running at different distances and how stiff, or not, they seem afterwards and essentially optimise the distance that each runs to keep its joints in as good a condition as possible).
Dogs that are 'out' of the farm on multiday safaris are categorised in the same way that 'non-running' dogs are separated out of the system so that they don't impact on the statistical traffic lights of the remaining dogs. (Dogs that are fluffy enough to run the multiday safaris generally run for 5 days in the week and rest for two so they are actually pretty simple to work into the equation).
Heat cycles are also recorded in this system so that we can ensure that no female in heat even runs with a castrated male (because of the increased risk of pyometra following mating). It also helps us to know, (since this information gets transferred, also, to the so-called 'team lists') when on safari, which dogs we can swap between teams to balance the relative speed of the teams if we have clients of very differing sizes and which should stay in a girls-only team.
Finally, we have some 'no go' combinations and some 'good dog combinations' listed here and when guides are making teams for their first few months, they are not allowed to play with these combinations at all and in this way we minimise the chance of fights breaking out during the safaris.
This is just one example of the team lists which are compiled daily and through which, all guides have an immediate insight into the days' safaris. In this way, they know whether to set out sleighs first in the female or male area of the farm, etc, when doing the farm preparation in the mornings. They also get a reminder, on the forms, as to which dogs need booties, which dogs need nipple guards (against frostbite) etc. Another example of our daily 'team lists' is shown here... guides practice 'making' teams on paper before they start to run safaris because in this way, they develop a good understanding of the combinations of dogs which should work well or not.
We expand on our knowledge of good and bad combinations by trialing new ones only in the spring season. At that point, the dogs are well used to running, they are fit and less excited than they are at the start of the season and, if something doesn't work, it is far easier to move the dogs around and to go back to a tried and tested combination when it is just guides out on safari together as opposed to when you are trying to optomise the safari experience for the clients.
Examples of some of our other daily record keeping systems are included here:
For instance, our
a) 'potty' training record (aka who is sleeping indoors at night as a result of favouritism / injury or, simply, because it is their 'turn' and incidentally getting house trained and socialised at the same time. NB: Dogs in the house are at the highest risk of accidental pregnancy so this also helps us to identify father suspects.
b) Dog Training Freqency Overview Chart from Summer and c) our more detailed Summer training progression chart which looks at how the dogs are progressing in terms of basic training during the summer months).
And examples of some of the medical record keeping systems we keep up to date either daily, (new medical needs etc), thrice weekly (heat charts, ball and nipple checks for frostbite etc) and weekly (in-depth dog checks etc) are shown here.
All of these medical record keeping systems are kept up to date either daily, (new medical needs etc), thrice weekly (heat charts, ball and nipple checks for frostbite etc) or weekly (in-depth dog checks etc) are shown here. It takes a pretty big commitment but we believe that it is well worth the effort.