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Keeping Electronics Going in the Cold

To counter the effect that the cold has on electronics and more specifically batteries is simple in theory, you need to keep the battery warm. In reality this can be quite hard.


How Batteries Work

When a circuit between the two terminals of a battery is completed, the battery produces electricity through a series of electromagnetic reactions between the different components of the battery. The reaction in one part of the battery creates electrons, and the reaction in another part absorbs them. The result of these reactions is electricity. The battery will continue to produce electricity until components of the battery run out of the substance necessary for the reactions to occur. These reactions work in one direction.

Rechargeable batteries work in the same fashion but when plugged into an outside power source the flow is revered and electrons are added back to the source (recharging them)

When you take batteries out in the extreme cold like you get in Alaska this reaction is slowed down to the point that the reaction stops. This stops the flow of electrons and therefore the electricity stops powering the device.

This can be a minor inconvenience in cases of cameras, on up to a serious issue if its your GPS and you have no other navigational tools or skills.

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What Needs To Be Done

To counter this effect on the reaction is simple in theory you need to keep the battery warm. In reality this can be quite hard. If the device is not needed often, you can keep it deep in your layers close to your body heat and that usually does the trick.

If it’s a device you need to use often this may or may not work. You can always keep them in your layers or in a special pouch when they are not in use but when you take them out they wont last long.


What You Can Do

Depending on the device you have a few options,

Use devices that take conventional batteries (AA, AAA) and stick to none rechargeable. In our experience non rechargeable batteries seem to last longer in the cold. Carry replacements in your layers. In order to split the difference between burning through a lot of batteries and racking up the cost, We always have rechargeable batteries in our devices that take conventional batteries and carry non rechargeable spares if the device goes dead before we are done.

If the devices use battery packs like a phone or go pro for example, you can carry a lot of replacement batteries kept warm in your layers and swap them out as needed.

If the devices have non remove-able batteries you can plug them into a large battery pack re-charger to try and keep them charged up and keep the battery in your layers why the device is in use.

This last tip we do for all our devices regardless of what kind of battery it takes because it can help prolong the life of any battery and that is attach a heat source.

This is done with chemical hand warmers. We use either a rubber band or in the case of our phones an elastic tether that we can slip the hand warmer in behind and hold it next to the batteries. They hand warmers do require oxygen to work so if you bury them deep in your layers or gear they may not work for long so keep that in mind.

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Medical Kits: IFAK and IFAK+

IFAK or Individual First Aide Kit. This is a small kit, able to fit in a small to medium size pouch. This kit has enough supplies to handle most basic traumatic injuries for one individual.

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The bare minimum that we will carry as an IFAK is

Roll of Kerlex
Israeli bandage
Celox/Quick clot (or hemostatic gauze)

This kit is carried on us in either a chest pack that we wear, in a belt pouch or broken up through out different pockets of our clothing. This is not intended for treating minor cuts, bumps, or bruises but you can easily slide a boo boo kit(bandages, wipes and some meds) that are made by many companies in the same pouch for handling those. A great example is @superessestraps first aid SHIM cards.


This is a slightly larger kit than the IFAK that is carried in our pack. It should be easily accessible either in the top of your pack or in a pouch attached to the outside. This kit supplements our IFAK with additional supplies as well as carrying some basic medications. This is the bare minimum we carry when we are carrying a pack and is the first tier of kit that we carry if we are Hiking with someone else on a short easy hike. This is ideally enough supplies for ourself and is Not enough if you are the “medic” for your group and need to be able to treat them if necessary. However if that trip is an easy couple hour walk on a groomed trail, this will likely suffice.

The IFAK+ consists of,

Your IFAK supplies(which should be on you)
Nitrile gloves
Cold pack
Mole skin/blister kit
Hemostatic gauze (celox or quick clot)
+1 roll of Kerlex
+1 Israeli bandage
+1 pack of chest seals
4×4 gauze pads
electrolyte powders we prefer LMNT
assorted band aides
alcohol/iodine prep wipes
assorted OTC medications
* Tylenol
* baby aspirin
* Benadryl
* Advil
* etc

If your outing is anything more than a short day hike or your going to be doing any climbing, off trail adventuring, anything more risky or you are responsible medically for your group, you will want to carry what we call the Basic kit that we will be covering in our next first aide post.

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Survival K9 Training

Dogs can make a world of a difference in a survival or SHTF scenario. At the bare minimum they offer a much needed moral booster and companionship. This simple aspect can be the difference between dyeing and making it home.

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They also can offer a skilled partnership provided you put the work in prior to the event happening.

Dogs can bolster your defensive capabilities by acting as an alarm system. Most breeds will do this naturally but some will do better than others. We recommend training your dog to low growl when they alert to something instead of barking. This will alert you while remaining quiet enough that what they are alerting to might not be alerted to your location. You can always train them to bark on command as a deterrent method as well for situations when you are not worried about stealth. This is a common training situation in most protection dog training.

Dogs for protection is not a new thing but despite that many people still believe that their dog will protect them with no training. While this has happened and could be the case you have similar odds to winning the lottery. If you are looking for protection as an aspect of your canine partner, make sure you look for those traits and breeds when you are getting him as well as seek out protection trainers that can help you with the process.

A dog can improve your hunting ability by either alerting to animals such as tracking and pointing or retrieving downed birds. Consider training your dog in these important skills.

Get your dog a good back pack/saddle bags harness to carry their own supplies. This could also allow them to pull a sled with more gear as well. Make sure you ease them into this as slowly increase the weight they carry just as you would yourself.

Dog’s noses are one of their best assets and can be used to find supplies/food, missing party members, and much more. Teach them article search tracking or scent discrimination tracking to improve this skill.

Tracking is another scent discipline that can be of great use in a survival situation. This could be used to track live game or downed game, missing persons etc.

Now our final point is going to sound silly but is a real survival application. Dogs can help prevent hypothermia. Create a shelter large enough for you and your dog. Humans and animals warm their surroundings and if you enclose this heat it will keep you warm and fight off hypothermia.

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Survival K9 Training: Silent Communication

In a survival or SHTF scenario there will more than likely be times that you need to tell your dog to do something with out speaking. This can be done one of two ways. With dedicated hand signals, or situational context. Which you choose will depend on the situation you are preparing for and in all likely hood both are going to be used.

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Dogs are actually more likely to pick up body language and hand signals faster than verbal commands because it is their most natural form of communication. This could be used in a variety of ways but the most useful way would likely be with heeling and obedience. Sit, Stay, Down, Heel, and Here/Come, should all have a hand signal associated with them for your dog. This would allow you to communicate with your dogs under circumstances when you cannot talk or they cannot hear you due to noise.

This will be done the same way you would train or pair a command with their behavior in what ever training system you are using. The only difference is instead of a verbal command you would simply pair the behavior with a hand signal or a specific situation.

Now if you want the dog to do something in certain circumstances on their own, for example say when your dog is heeling and you stop you want them to sit. After they know what sit or their hand gesture for it means you would get them heeling and then stop, give them the command to sit and then reward them when they do so and repeat. Then once you feel they are getting the hang of pattern you will stop and give no command and just wait until they sit. Then you will reward them when they do. If they don’t give them the command again.

Hand signals and silent commands are specifically useful for hunting dogs and have been used under these circumstances longer than most if not all other disciplines as you can communicate silently and have less chance of disturbing the game you are stalking or disturbing them prematurely in the case of birds and other small game.

Hand signals for direction changes and other movement commands such as climb, under, or through, are useful when stalking game as well as bird dogs when they are farther out but can still see you.

Some good uses/ideas of situational context and silent commands that you might consider training with your dog on are….

(When they are heeling)
Sit when you stop
Down when you kneel
Stay when shown the “stop hand gesture” (if you want them to stay and you want to move)
Return to you if they are not heeling and you kneel or stop

Silent/body language/hand signal commands are useful in many situations ranging from obedience, hunting, and on to tactical and combat environments. Their usefulness like many things is only limited to the handler’s imagination and training ability. Your own situation and circumstances will dictate what direction or commands you will need but if you plan on having your dog be an asset and not a liability if you find your self in a SHTF scenario you should definitely consider working this into their training.

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Tails on the Trail: Building a Dog Sled

As you might imagine a dog sled is rather important in dog sledding. Unfortunately they are expensive to buy new and hard to find used as most mushers do not sell or get rid of their sleds unless they absolutely have to. I decided to split the difference and order new runners and then build my sled.

I ordered the runners early in 2021 and they took months! to get them up here from the lower 48. This was no fault of the manufacturer but issues with shipping and logistics.

I spent most of that time designing and gathering the other needed parts. Then naturally once they got here I did not have the time to build it but once the holidays rolled around I was able to dive into the build.


Sleds are fairly simple there is just not a lot of info about them out there. Modern sleds have aluminum runners that have replaceable plastics  on the bottom. Then there are up right pieces called stanchions that form the bed/basket sides as well as creating a place for the handle bars to attach to. The bottom consists of a wide and long piece of plastic laying in between the stanchions and is supported by cross bars to give it more support.

The front of the sled has bent bar in the front called the brush bow and a bridle which is a piece of rope that is attached to the sled which is where the main line connects

I collected what ever pictures I could find as well as looking at Mrs. MSK9’s sleds to figure out how each part was constructed and to get some ideas for how to change the parts I didn’t like. I wanted the biggest bed I could squeeze for hauling gear on longer trips but needed to leave enough room to attach a seat  for me. Her sleds were bought used and were used for by taller individuals.

After using her sleds I figured out that I didn’t like the angle of her stanchions, which sets the angle of the handle bars or the height of her handle bars. Figuring out the stanchions and handle bars  would have to wait until the runners got here because I would have to be able to stand on the runners to figure that out.

I measured the bed on her sled and found I would need to shorten it by a couple of inches to allow for a rear seat.(Our runners are the same length) The change was  small enough that our extra sled bag would still fit though. As I got started building some final parts that I needed become hard to find due to the supply chain issues so I had to resort to cannibalizing one of our old broken sleds.

The Building Begins

Finally December rolled around and as things winded down for the holidays I was able to get started on the actual construction which ended up taking into the new year. I used the kitchen counter and back splash to keep the runners square to each other while I started attaching pieces until I got it to a point that the frame would hold its self together. I started from the front attaching the brush bow that I bought which would set the width of the sled and attached a cross bar across the front for support and to attach the front of the sled bag.

After that was done I measured from the back of the runners forward to find the minimum space for the rear seat and started attaching stanchion brackets from that point forward. Once they were in their spots I added thread lock and tightened down the mounting bolts.


I Built the  stanchions using hockey sticks as they are light weight and very strong. I left the one the handle bars would be attached to at full length for now and held them at the angle i wanted while Mrs. MSK9 measured the length for the second stanchions which would support the first set. After they were all measured I cut the support stanchions and attached them to the brackets. Now they just needed to be attached together.

I took the old drag pad off the broken sled in order to get at a small sheet of plastic out of of it to make flat brackets. These would hold the two stanchions together on each side. This would give them support once finished as well as hold them together at the proper angle and location so that I could measure the handle bars. I then Added aluminum angle iron across the stanchions to give some extra support to the bed and make the sides a bit more rigid.

Handle Bars

The next step was bending and mounting the handle bars. The handle bars are plastic and come in straight lengths that need to be formed. To do this I started by drilling holes in one side for mounting to the stanchions. I then put two bricks on our wood stove to set the bar on and heat it up to make it soft enough to bend without breaking or weakening the material.

Once it was hot enough I mounted it to one side and bent it down to the other side and clamped it down where it would be mounted and allowed it to cool and harden in place. Once done I drilled the mounting holes on the new side and mounted it properly and removed the clamps.

The Bed

Next I attached a large sheet of plastic from the old sled for the bed. The sheet is attached to the brush bow in the front and the aluminum angle iron on the sides. This forms the bottom of the bed/basket as well as being where the drag pad will attach in the back.

I placed a piece of wood across the back of the plastic and attached it to the angle iron on each side. This was done to make the drag pad mounting as strong as possible. I also added some cross bars under the sled for added strength. The drag pad was then attached as well as the brake bar to the back of the aluminum angle iron. This marked the beginning of the end in the construction of the sled, verything that was left was finishing touches.

Wrapping Up

I used some climbing rope for the bridle and some 8mm cord for the back up. The two bridles are attached to two different locations on the sled so that if one bridle or where it is attached fails the other one should catch it and not detach the dogs from the sled. I wrapped the the handle bars in goon tape and added some D-rings to the stanchions by the handle bars for hanging extra neck lines and tug lines.

I cut some lengths of climbing rope for the snow hooks and a third longer piece for a quick release that we attach to a pole or tree as a back up when were getting the dogs hooked up.

I was not able to get the seat built for this season but plan on getting that built over the summer and ready for next season.

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Tails on the Trail: Colorado Creek

Colorado creek cabin ~ Mrs. MSK9

The dogs and us ate a nice breakfast before we packed our gear and loaded our sleds. Mr. MSK9 recently built a tow behind sled for additional gear that we decided to try out this trip in order to bring along a kennel, some straw for the dogs as well as some fire wood for the cabin stove.

Once everything was loaded, the dogs excitement was made obvious by their jumping, barking, and constant running back and forth to the door as we began harnessing each of them up to get ready to leave.

Once everyone was harnessed and hooked up it was time to head out.
Mr. MSK9 and his team of 8 left first with tow behind sled attached and then me and my team of 7 followed shortly behind them.

It was an overcast day and spitting snow and around 20 degrees above 0. It was a little over 15 mile trip to reach the cabin and Dogs were so excited to be on an adventure and had plenty of energy for the trip. Mr. MSK9s team was running a little slow however with the tow behind and straw was making it top heavy and causing it to flip over on turns. I was having a hard time keeping my team slowed enough behind him so we decided to have my team lead when we could find a suitable place for me to pass safely.

After I passed we stopped the teams and decided to take the straw off the tow behind and add it to my sled. This seemed to equal out our speeds a bit, spread the weight out a little better for both teams and kept the tow behind right side up.

Ham was running lead on my team followed by a new addition to our kennel Soliya and veteran Iron in swing. Charlie and Delta (2 of my 3 yearlings) were running in team and Blue and Echo(my third yearling) running in wheel. This was going to be Charlie, Delta and Echos first camping adventure, and first time sleeping on the picket line with the big dogs.

Chipper and Katy were running in lead for Mr. MSK9’s team of all experienced dogs, he decided to take no yearlings on his team this trip. Recon and Ditto were running in swing, Badger and Flash in team and Cooper and Foxy running in wheel.

As we headed down the trail we saw moose tracks in the snow and kept our eyes peeled, luckily we never did see any moose. Unfortunately others were not so lucky in the same area that weekend and were attacked.

The trail we were on crosses a major road shortly after leaving which after waiting for a few cars to go by, we accomplished with out issue despite the road being a skating rink which is the usual state of the road this time of year.

The trail was mostly flat until the last five miles which had rolling hills and tight turns. The scenery was beautiful as well as the raven who followed us on our journey who followed along our teams and would perch in a tree, watch us go by and then fly over heads again to find another branch to rest on.

Spruce and birch trees, mountain tops in the distance and going up and down through creek beds. Along the way we passed an old Roadhouse that used to be used in the 1900s as a stopping point for guests as they made their way to the the local hot springs, before the main road was built.

The dogs were getting a little tired and hot in the warmer weather before we arrived at the cabin so we stopped and gave them a break and some frozen fish as a snack to enjoy. Once everyone was barking and ready to go again off we went on the final stretch to the cabin.

Once we arrived we set our snow hooks and scoped out a place to set the picket line for the dogs. Mr. MSK9 set up the picket line while I stayed with the teams making sure they didn’t break loose and go anywhere or get in trouble. Once the line was up we took off the dog’s harnesses and clipped them to the line. Some of our older dogs and our leaders joined us in the cabin as the picket line was not big enough for everyone and once all the dog’s were settled in we pulled our sleds closer to the cabin and unpacked our gear. Mr. MSK9 started a fire while I laid out straw for all the dog’s on the picket line. The veterans fluffed their straw and made nice beds in it, while the rookies looked at it as to say what is this.

Eventually they got the hint after watching the veterans. Then the long process of melting snow began, once we had enough water and it was warm we soaked the meat and kibble for the dog’s and they enjoyed a well deserved hot meal which they all happily munched down. Mow with everyone taken care of I cracked open a seltzer and sipped on that while I enjoyed a piece of local pizza we had brought with us.

Always so peaceful out in nature with the dog’s the sun set and the dog’s rested we lit candles in the cabin in order to see. We melted more snow and then boiled the bater so that we would have clean water for us to make breakfast and fill out water bottles with for the trip out.

Once dark we enjoyed watching the northern lights make a short but great appearance as we started to grow tired.

We had to fight for our sleeping bags as the dogs had all claimed them for them selves.

Foxy was not budging an inch, giving up her spot was not an option for her so we “shared” which in reality meant I had only half my spot and she kicked my pillow on the floor.  Chipper slept on my feet until I forgot she was there, rolled over and she jumped down, sorry Chipper. Blue tried laying on top of me, several times and couldn’t decide if she was comfortable there or not as the wood stove had made the cabin boarder line hot.

In the middle of the night as the wood died out and the cabin grew colder Blue was a little chilly and decide to come back and crawl head first in my sleeping bag, once all the way in she realized that it was more restrictive than she prefers and came backing out at full speed resulting in lost skin on my body, thanks Blue.

I got as far over to the wall as I could, making room on the sleeping mat for blue to come and snuggle up. It was around 6am, my bladder was calling and out to the outhouse I went. Dog’s all jumped up excited to see me and I promised I would have breakfast for them shortly. We had soaked their food overnight so it would be ready for morning.

Once back to the cabin. I started feeding the dog’s their breakfast which they were eager to eat. Mr. MSK9 made us Irish coffee as is tradition while I was feeding the dog’s. This was followed by morning conversation over our coffee.

Once finished we had a small snack and slowly began to pack up. Pulling our layers back on as the temps were colder and began packing our sleds and dragging them back up to the launch spots were we could hook up the dog’s.

Once we had everything ready to go we swept out the cabin and raked up the straw. Had let the fire die out. It was time to harness up the dogs and head back home. Once the final dog was harnessed and ready we grabbed the picket line off we went. The dogs were pumped, the sleds were lighter, and we were flying away from the cabin. It was crystal clear blue skies and a slight breeze, as we whipped through the trees for the first 5 miles, unable to fully restrain the dogs excitement. Going so fast I accidentally flipped my sled trying to get a video of the flight out. I righted my sled and off we went again.

The wind has kicked up the night before as the cloud cover moved out resulting in a section of the trail that goes through a saddle in the hills being wind blown and drifted, completely hiding the trail and resulting in a stretch of deep snow the dogs had to over come. The dogs slowed to a crawl and Charlie got tangled so I set my hooks and attempted to reach him in the deep drifts but before I could get there he was untangled and off they were going. I hung on to the side of the sled till I could get my feet on the ground and right my self up to stop them. 7 happy dogs can be remarkably strong. I stopped, got things situated, caught my breath and we were off again.

In all the excitement Blue aspirated on snow or her saliva and was making a weird noise. I stopped the sled and unhooked her to make sure she was ok, out of an abundance of concern for her I cleared a spot in the sled for her to ride. For the first few minutes she was happy but after a while and she started feeling better she started barking and trying to jump out. I convinced her to calm down and just enjoy the ride, despite her visible and audible disappointment. She even tried to assist by popping her leg out and running her single leg next to the sled. I got her leg back in and she enjoyed barking along the way to make sure the team knew what they were doing.

Soliya and Ham were in lead, Charlie and Iron in swing, Delta in team and Echo in wheel. We made our way close to home and our Raven friend joined us again along the way. As we got closer to home it started to warm up the dog’s got a little tired so It was time for another fish snack and some swapping of dogs.

I noticed Echo was listening to the direction commands so I put her in lead with Ham, for her first time in lead, Charlie and Iron stayed in swing, Delta stayed in team and I put Soliya in wheel and Echo did great. She is such an amazing little dog!

We made it home making much better time than we thought we would. Then came the clean u, unpacking and putting all the gear away.

The downside of any good adventure.

~ Mrs. MSK9

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Introduction to Medkits

This is the first post in a series of posts on medkits and supplies that is going to cover the different kinds/sizes of kits that we use and our basic philosophy on when to employ them.

Further posts will cover the contents of each kit individually for more detail. Always remember that skills trump equipment but some basic supplies are going to be required to treat most medical conditions and trauma to a sufficient standard to prevent further issues or depending on the issue possibly death. You should know how to use any and all of the equipment and supplies, that you carry in your kits, as well as know when and more importantly when not to administer any medications that you carry.

IFAK – Individual first aide kit. This is a small kit, able to fit in a small to medium size pouch. This kit has enough supplies to handle most basic traumatic injuries for one individual. This kit is carried on us in either a chest pack that we wear, in a belt pouch or broken up through out different pockets of our clothing.

Basic – This is a larger kit than the IFAK that is carried in our pack. This kit supplements your IFAK with additional supplies as well as carrying some basic medications. This is the bare minimum we carry when we are carrying a pack and the first tier of kit that we carry if we are the “medic” for our trips or are responsible for more than our selves when it comes to a medical issues such as untrained or unprepared friends or family members on a hike.

Extended – This is a larger kit that we carry when we are going on a multi day trip but still need to minimize weight or are in a larger sized group. It carries a hand full of more specialized items and additional supplies and attached to our pack that we are already carrying.

Base camp – This is a full size jump kit on steroids that is carried in one of our vehicles when we are doing anything such as long road trips or off-roading. It also lives at base camp when we are doing longer trips or expeditions. It holds every thing the others kits hold plus more as well as additional specialized items and equipment as well as some reference materials.

Special considerations – You will want to factor in any special medical conditions you or your family members and friends may have and if they require any special supplies or medications if they have an issue. You also want to be sure you know how to handle the treatment of any of their possible problems. Your canine companions also require some special items in case of emergency. Most first aide items are the same but most medications for humans are not safe to give to animals and vice versa.

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Threshold Safety Training

As with any form of training consistency is key, and threshold training is no different. We are talking the door threshold safety training. This training teaches your dog not to go though doors or at least certain doors without you telling them to or lacking certain situational contexts.

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This is an important step in their training for safety reasons. You don’t want your dog running out doors when you are not ready or before you have checked out side. In our case moose is the main concern but for those in the city, traffic is a major concern.

Now this doesn’t just apply to your house doors, this should also apply to your truck/car doors and kennels. If you open your car door in a parking lot you don’t want your dog jumping out randomly in paring lots and this is the same reasoning for the kennel. This also i necessary if you have multiple dogs in a house that cant always be out at the same time or in the same room. Whether that is for aggression issues or simply because one of them is in season.

This is one of the simpler behaviors to work with your dog on and you want to start by making sure that your dog under stands making and maintaining eye contact with you.

Starting out you want to make sure that you have the dog on a leash. If you have decided to use a trining collar such as a prong collar you will want the leash attached to that.

At this point you need to decide if you want your dog to sit or stand or if you care, just make sure if you decide on one be consistent with it.

First You will crack open the door or approach the threshold you will be training on, As you should be crate training your dog, their crate door is a great place to start. (Keep in mind if you are using a good quality crate you wont be able to use their leash at this point) Now if your dog tries to push their way out or moves toward the door you will close the door not letting them out, if are using a leash and collar at this time pull back on the collar keeping them from exiting as you close the door and then you will reset by getting them back into their position and then oping the door again. Then you repeat this step until they don’t try to go out the door any more.

Once you have them at the point where they dont try to push out you will start opening the door more and more until At some point they will likely try again to go out the door with you telling them too at which point you will close the door again. Continue to open the door more and more a closing it when they try to escape until you get the door open to the point you want them to be able to leave.

Eventually you will get the door all the way open and your dog will not try to go out. At this point you want them to look up at you and make eye contact before getting the command to leave. So you will now give them the command usually their name then once they make eye contact with you give their command to go through. This can be what ever you want but “go ahead” or “okay” are common choices.

Consistency is key and you need to do this every time your dog comes to a threshold you want them to pause at. For most the minimum for this should be any exterior door of your house or building, your apartment  door if you live in an apartment, your car doors, and their kennel door.

Now some of you will have specific situations you want your dog to go through the door without you telling them too. Whether its for protection or service K9s  or your pet dog, you will want to wait and only start training them on these situations after they are pausing at the door fully opened and waiting for you to let them through.

Some examples of these situations could be….

* K9 Officers wanting their dog to jump out to apprehend a suspect. This can be trained using either a door popper or the officer opening the door. To train this you will want to build the situational context for the dog by incorporating this into your apprehension training scenarios.

* A personal protection K9 who you want to jump out and protect you, in which case the same thing applies as the K9 Officer and you should incorporate this into their protection training scenarios.

* A service or medical alert dog that you want them to go through the door and do their job. You will incorporate this into their training on what ever they are trained. For instance if a person faints and the dog is trained to run over and protect them/alert someone to help you want them to do this even if their human is out side and they are not.

You may have your own situations where you want them to know they can go out with out you telling them to, you just need to build a mock scenario around that situation and allow them to go out during it to build that context for them so they learn that its ok for them to leave under those circumstances and not under others.

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How to Train With Situational Context

Once you have your basic foundation of training down with your dog and you start getting into more advanced forms of training you will start coming up with special circumstances that you want your dog to do certain things. This is where the power of building situational context with your dogs comes in. This is primarily done by putting together scenarios that put the dog into experiences that you can then show them how you want them to act when that happens. There is no real step by step to this process so we will continue on with some examples for you and hopefully you  will get the idea.

Lets say for example you are like us, and you want your dogs to pull when they are attached to the sled but not when walking on a leash. You could, also like us get your dogs a specific harness and collar they are allowed to pull in. If they are not wearing this harness and collar they are not allowed to pull. There is also the context of being attached up to the sled which is a major situational context for them as well.

An other example could be you have a tracking dog who is also an apprehension or protection dog and you want them to differentiate between when they are tracking a dangerous individual that will likely end in an apprehension or bite vs ending with them finding a lost victim. In this case you can also have different equipment or types of harness for the different kind of tracks.

You can add to this context by getting them into their gear in a specific manner for each type of tracking. This repetition forms a pattern of associations in their brain that reminds them what specific task they are about to do.

For instance, in addition to having say a tactical harness for dangerous tracks and a leather harness for search and rescue tracks, you can attach your long line in a different manner for each track, such as to their collar and run it under their belly to keep their head down looking for the scent on a search and rescue track, vs attached to the back of their harness allowing them to keep their head up looking for threats and hunting the dangerous individual.

You can also repeat a specific short speech or string of words, or touch and rub them in certain areas each time. The more you do these patterns the stronger their associations to the specific situational context will be.

Back to the tracking dog for a complete example, for your search and rescue track you could talk to your dog and say “Someone is lost lets find them”, then put them in their leather tracking harness and attach their long line to their collar and run it under their belly and run your hand down their back and tell them “lets go find him.”

Then for their apprehension track you could put them in their tactical harness attach the leash to the link on their back and tell them “Lets get the bad guy” then pat them on the side.

Then after either case, you would give them their command for that specific kind of search.

These were fairly specific examples but the scenario based training and situational context can be applied to anything. Whether its protection work and you want them to switch on when they are walking to and from buildings, or apprehension work and you want them to know if their door pops open their handler needs them to stop a dangerous individual. Situational context is the primary driver in medical service dog training to show them the different medical situations and how they should respond to them.

Situational context is a staple in advanced training of any K9 discipline and is key to unlocking your dogs potential. So if you are not using it you are doing your self and your dog a huge disservice

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Outfitting Your Adventure Dog Part 1

This is the start of a multi part series of how we out fit our dogs for hikes, or any wilderness type adventure thats not mushing. This first post is going to center around the basic equipment and Non-consumable items.

A high quality Collar: we use K9 Tactical Gear. You want something that is strong and with a good buckle so that it will hold up to the abuse of the trail and stay on your dog.

ID Tags: Simple dog tags with your dog’s name, Your name, and phone number. We use Boomerang tags because they do not dangle. Tags that dangle can get caught up in their collar and at best rub your dog raw and at worst puncture and get lodged in their skin. We also use Road ID collar adaptors to get them to fit on the larger collars.

Microchips work, they cannot be lost like a collar or tag however. they can migrate around under the skin and get lost. Good vets/shelters will scan the whole body of a lost dog looking for the microchip, but not all are good. There is also new evidence that microchips may be causing cancer in dogs but is not conclusive yet. Our experience with Microchips from certain companies is that the number doesn’t show up in search engines like it is supposed to so who ever finds your dog has to look each chip company site looking for the one that number goes with. So this is something that you will need to evaluate on your own case by case basis and weigh the pros and cons.

GPS Tag: Now we do not recommend these at least most of them. This is because most require internet/data/cellular service to operate. This means if you are deep in the woods they wont work, if the power goes out they might not work, if you loose cell service for some reason they wont work. We use and recommend Garmin’s GPS collars as they operate off grid and connect to a hand held GPS unit via radio frequency. This means as long as both have a charge they will be operating the only limiting factor at this point is range. There are many ways to boost range but we also have never had issues. We do use a telescoping extendable antenna on the hand held in the off chance we need to extend range.

A beacon: We attach either a lighted collar or a beacon light to our dogs collars when we are hiking in a time of year when it does get dark. We have used many beacons and there are many good ones to choose from but we are transition all our dogs over to head lites collars as they are far superior to everything else we have used so far.

Good Leash: When we are in the woods we use our long lines that we make and sell. We use long lines for a couple of reasons. It allows a little bit greater range for the dog if the terrain gets complicated and they need to be farther away from us than a standard leash would allow, as well when we make camp if we are concerned we can wrap the long line around a tree and we know they cannot wander to far.

Secondary Leash: 2 is 1 1 is none. All our dogs that we take out individually have our collar mounted emergency lead attached to their collars in case we have them off leash and need a quicker lead then digging out the long line or our other back up leash that we carry in our packs.

Harness/Dog Pack: These two may be different items or the same for you depending on what you buy or you may leave the harness off completely. We train our adventure dogs to rappel so they have rappel rated harnesses. This came from our time in Colorado when we were in the mountains so that we could hoist or lower them if need be if we got hung up some where or needed to go down a steep incline. Remember if you can get stuck so can they and you need to be able to self rescue and rescue your dog as well if you’re going to take them in the woods with you. The rappel rated harnesses we use have saddle bag pouches built in how ever they are not made anymore but there are many rappel rated harness out there to choose from. We also use a separate pack when we dont need rappel rating that comes from nonstop dog wear. They are very roomy and water resistant as well as having many pockets for organization. Your harness or pack is what is going to carry all your other dogs gear that will follow.

  • Keep in mind that your dogs pack should not weight more than 25% their body weight and even still you need to slowly increase the weight they carry starting with an empty pack like you would any fitness plan for your self.

Doggles: These will protect your pups eyes. We use RexSpecs as they offer multiple lens option and offer protection against snow blindness and UV. Doggles will also protect your dogs from sticks and other debris getting in their eyes from high winds or running through the woods. Your dog will need to to get used to wearing them as it is not a usual feeling for them. Have your dog try wearing them several times at home before taking them in the woods. We always start them with the clear lenses as well to give them as clear vision as possible.

Dog Boots: Dogs paws are susceptible to harm from broken glass, jagged metal, sharp rocks and extreme heat and cold as well as hazardous materials. Boots can offer some protection against these issues. Acclimate your dog to the boots so that they are comfortable with the boots like you did the doggles. We use trex model boots from ruff wear.

Reflective: Markers, or Patches are usually built in to most dog gear these days but if what you buy does not have them you can find them to add to it from many suppliers online.

Dog Rain layer: Most dogs that will be capable of being adventure dogs can handle being wet when they are active and running around. but when you bed down for the night or once you make camp and they are not working they will chill just like you. Our dogs carry a thin rain layer incase its needed for this reason, and nonstop dog wear makes multiple great options.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series which will cover some basic supplies and consumable that you should have in your dogs pack before heading off on your adventures.

Check out our store HERE for Handmade in America custom dog and EDC gear to help support the us and the site.