Posted - 06/04/2012 : 11:08:25 AM The photo reference to the Tarahumara long-distance runner is interesting. The traditional Tarahumara, Native people from this huge Canyon in Mexico where Mexican drug lords grow pot and ditch the bodies of people they kill, are known for completing ultramarathons and laughing, smoking, eating fajitas the whole way, all while running in homemade sandals. Most of the North American ultramarathoners running in their $300 dollar sneakers are puking and feeling like death approaching after about 25 miles - only half way. The Tarahumara's secret? Other than perfect technique and a life time of conditioning, they have a lot of fun running - much like our best dogs. The book, "Born to Run," is an awesome read about the Tarahumara and the human ultramarathons - there are A LOT of crossovers to conditioning a distance mushing team, and yourself. (Dallas Seavey won the Iditarod this year in part because he kicked, skipolled, and ran his ass off for it.)
Feeding, training/conditioning, genetics of the dogs, and I would tentatively add "general enjoyment" is what really gets our dogs down the trail and looking good doing it. It's not always going to be fun, but the ones that can have fun running through storms, or bounce back quickly and be happy after falling through the overflow or a hard run are better than dogs that don't. (Then again, their attitude is very much tied to your ours.) If happiness is connected to brain states and certain weird things in your blood levels, then "general enjoyment" is connected genetics, and maybe some of our best running dogs are slightly more predisposed to getting more high and feeling more pleasure than the others? There might also be a connection between mental and physical toughness - dogs that are less susceptible to pain - and happiness. Overall, dogs in peak condition, well fed, well bred, tough and happy are pretty much unstoppable.