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swanny Posted - 03/13/2014 : 3:16:53 PM
It seems like back in the day most mushers ran a single leader. That changed at some point in time until today, when most teams are led by a pair.

I am curious about when and why it changed. Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore's leader, Quito, ran in a single slot much of the Yukon Quest and I'rod, especially during the toughest parts.

Any ideas?
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kissAnew Posted - 01/06/2016 : 6:54:09 PM
I personally believe single lead and dbl lead each have their merits. I would suppose there is the other end of the prism as well. I have experienced balking single leader getting a boost of confidence in having a running mate and yet that very same leader having confidence in running sngl.
I agree with and relate to the "dance" analogy in regards to single lead but Burner does need a boost sometimes. Especially after Snowy and Patrick(feisty little devils)decide he needs to get attacked from the rear....probably because he(Burner)isn't going fast enough. Actually the only reason I use Snowy and Patrick is because they are so strong and I haul very heavy loads of wood.

Now, regarding the original post asking when the sngl vs dbl leader situation changed...
Taking into consideration the stories I've heard about the "long-ago" teams as opposed to todays mushing style I agree that dbl lead is more predominant today because of rec mushing and/or bigger(more dogs not bigger/heavier) and/faster teams as opposed to working teams. That said I have heard stories of the old (collar)harnesses being used in tandem style team. I have seen an old style collar 2-dog set-up on a basket style sled. The sled was wider and heavier than todays but a basket sled none-the-less. The wooden runners were metal clad. It was(maybe still is) on display(suspended from the ceiling)in 1989 at Trapper's Tavern adjoining The Mystery Lake Motor Hotel in Thompson, Manitoba.
But can you imagine the tangle an old style collared team of 8-12 dogs could create? Three "main-lines"!!!?
bobclue Posted - 05/13/2015 : 10:49:32 AM
Trying to avoid, "I, me, we" in this response which is difficult. my approach is to eventually develop a dog into being a "confident" single leader using basically many take-offs on what has already been said. "I" do feel after watching in action that two front end dogs run together make for a faster pace. Long distance venues, my dogs, like to sleep next to each other, speed racing, seems there is a mutual symbiotic drive to a higher level when two are run together. I do not run a neckline between paired leaders up front. Have found this to be an extremely good training tool for an "upcoming" rookie. Breaking trail, if the dogs can "feel" the trail I'll still pair 'em up. If snow conditions are such making it difficult for leaders to "feel" the trail, I'll put a length of line I carry on the sled and attach it to the front end of the towline which effectively makes for a "single" leader and "single" "swing" dog, the added benefit of which two good command dogs are upfront in "single file" followed by a pair of "swing" dogs who more than likely know the commands as well. Makes for a "no-muss, no-fuss" method and allows a decent pace breaking trail, generally not a lot of the "herky-jerk stopping routine every few feet". Obviously this is all a factor of snow depth, wind, blah, blah, blah. But, for "racing", speed or long distance, I believe two together are faster.
snodogs Posted - 05/13/2015 : 08:10:10 AM
I have always run leaders as a pair, but more recently have been trying dogs in single lead. At first I thought they might balk at the prospect, but to my surprise it seemed they really enjoyed being in single lead! They did as well or better in single lead than paired up. Who knew! I also like the fact that training can be more focused on a single leader than when they are paired up together. I also like the fact that having multiple leaders means you can switch them out so that no one dog gets burned out in single lead.
vetbills Posted - 03/21/2014 : 4:13:41 PM
I have a really nice single leader - you may have met him at Eleanor's (she is borrowing him for the season). The interesting thing is that his line goes back to my very first lead dog. All the dogs in this line will single lead with confidence.
smushybanana Posted - 03/17/2014 : 8:09:14 PM
Don't forget about 1-dog skijor! Technically those are racing single leaders. Many 1-dog skijor dogs are single leader material just with no team behind. It is a slightly different problem than getting a dog with the confidence to run single in front of a team, but it is also very difficult to get a dog that will drive hard by itself. My 1-dog skijor dog will perform whether there are 0 or 14 dogs behind him.
Old Geezer Posted - 03/17/2014 : 02:53:14 AM
The best training method I've found for any young leader is to take them out on a lake with multiple snowmobile trails. Being patient, diligent, determined, steadfast in not allowing them to take any trail except the one I choose. This may not apply to sprint leaders but it works well for rec, trek and distance dogs. It makes for a bullet proof leader.
Log Dog Posted - 03/16/2014 : 10:00:18 PM
A friend of mine bought a very talented young Eurohound about 10 years ago. The dog ran up front just fine, but didn't know any commands. He had trouble getting him to take commands while running on trails. Finally, he put him in single lead and took off across the tundra. The young dog now had nothing but wide open space in front of him and he didn't know where to go. He quickly figured out the guy on the sled was telling him where to go if he would just listen. After about a month of open country leading the dog was one heck of a command leader. Everyone thought he had called Fast E, or someone like that, and laid down serious cash for a brand new completely trained leader. All he did was put that talented dog in front of the team and take off across the tundra. The rest took care of itself.

Duane Posted - 03/16/2014 : 7:02:17 PM
In 1979 , when I got in this sport , all our sprint races , in Eastern Ontario at least, were 3 , 5 and 7 dog classes and everyone ran a single leader. By mid 80s double leaders were being tried because most of us had small kennels and it was difficult to find single leaders; dogs felt more secure running in pairs and few would run single ; so races switched to 4,6 and 8 dog classes and double leaders became the norm.
I know in my 11 dog kennel I have 9 dogs that will double lead but only one that single leads although I must admit I have never pushed the dogs other then just trying once or twice in single lead as I run even numbers.
Old Geezer Posted - 03/15/2014 : 05:14:16 AM
Swanny I agree - for day tripping, camping, recreation- ain't nothing like a single lead. Especially when the leader is top notch. Run single lead a lot when just out havin fun. Double leaders in swing position for change over.

I've always wished a race could be held that is set up for testing leader ability. A mid distance somewhat technical trail where kennels could prove the abilities of a leader. Challenge course whatever. A different discipline in dog mushing for leader ability / speed combo. Not sure there would be much interest amongst the mushing community.
Laughing-Bear Posted - 03/14/2014 : 11:27:59 PM
Log Dog, I loved your dance analogy, I could not agree more. Back when I ran siwash I found I preferred to run a single leader. I would often switch out a dogs running in the swing position that were either leaders or a leader in training with my main leader. This kept the dance very smooth.
As I now only run traditional I always keep a leader in training or a solid leader in the swing position. As I have working dogs the need for speed is not an issue. On the other hand Iím a little odd as I only run single file between trace lines and double leaders donít fit well into this equation.

Off to dance, Laughing-Bear

Bill Laughing-Bear
Willow, AK
Northern Lights Adventures
Sirius Posted - 03/14/2014 : 9:47:23 PM
Couple of thoughts. I have been in more than 100 distance sled dog events and most every one of them allowed a maximum of an even number of dogs including my first race. I started with a single leader in that one and just a couple others. On most distance race trails a 65 foot outfit is already too much for me without adding another 8 feet.

I am not so familiar with them but I seem to remember many of the sprint races used to allow a maximum of an odd number of dogs which I think I would prefer to be allowed so it can be my choice. I ran 13 dogs in the 14 dog Beargrease Marathon but that was because I only owned 13.

When traveling over untracked lakes, especially bare ice, to hit a portage in wilderness areas it has always been easier for a single leader for me. I don't think I have ever had more than one dog at a time that could do that comfortably without making big S turns the whole way down a big lake. Some of my trails have been embarassing with just a skiff of snow on the lakes and then they insist on following it back again the next day. My dog did that on Knife Lake solo fishing/camping between Grand Marais and Ely once. In calm winds it is enough stress already for dogs I have let alone the dog having to coordinate with the dog next to it having to bump it or pull it or getting bumped or pulled even once in a while over the long haul. I have traveled untracked wilderness, portage to portage, with a single leader in Spring time ice conditions in up to 20 mph winds. My dogs always drifted downwind. I am just fishing and camping but that, and my current age, makes me appreciate just a little bit this years Iditarod and Sonny Lindner's run. I am glad I was not in it!

Quite a few years ago I mushed by myself in to Rog Lake, BWCAW here, where I caught a few beautiful Brook Trout. I fell asleep under a giant white pine with my sleeping bag on the tarp that I wrapped my auger and gear on my tobaggon. About 9PM it started raining hard and continued all the next day. I pulled the tarp up over me. Living here I had picked my weather forecast but this wasn't it. My dogs, it was a single leader, had no problem going straight the miles of Seagull Lake the same route as the day before but I was plenty nervous. The tobaggon made really big waves through inches of water end to end. In the widest section it looked like an open water hole just downwind. I didn't see that the day before.
Neil Rasmussen
D.Heilbrunn Posted - 03/14/2014 : 5:33:50 PM
I ran a single leader named Kodo for three years straight from when I first had her (as a yearling) pull my camping stuff to getting two more dogs in the mix. For three years she didn't have a break from single lead from when the snow first came until Mid May. The furthest we went was about 25 miles. Although she's pretty much only ever worked for me and is getting a little older, last year she was leading my twelve dog team (if we were going to have a slow run), and is big enough to yank any dog in my yard anywhere she wants. Not bad for an Inuvik special (street dog).

As a yearling, neither her nor I knew anything about dog mushing, but now you can whisper gee and haw (and especially whoa) to her and she'll do it instantly. I really believe that lead dogs who listen to you (and have lots of drive) have to be trained. My girlfriend and I have spent a lot of time training our Rat Terrier to do all sorts of agility things and I always think there has gotta be similarities in terms of generally training dogs.

Despite all the advantages of single leaders though, I gotta admit that 99% of the time, I don't use them anymore, and I rotate my leaders around every run. Nevertheless, I love to fool around with single leaders in the Spring time with small teams just for old time sake.
swanny Posted - 03/14/2014 : 2:32:18 PM
Part of the reason I ask is because I've been experimenting with running some of my leaders as singles, and I'm really enjoying the results.

LogDog, Orion, Capella and Cassiopeia from our Lucky/Torus litter all ROCK as single leaders. They've each had occasions to guide the team alone over the past couple of months and all three seemed to perform even better alone than when paired with another dog. They seem more focused on their jobs and quicker to interpret and respond to gee/haw cues than when running beside a partner. That was SUCH a great litter. I like your dance analogy, BTW. It seems to be pretty spot-on.

FastE, you are probably on to something. The transition from predominately single led teams versus doubles seems to have been coming about at the time when racing was replacing traveling and day-to-day trail work as the primary job of sled dogs. Of course it also provided a "space" to plug one more dog into a team without lengthening the gang line.

D.Heilbrunn, while it would seem intuitive that a leader would gain confidence when working beside another dog of similar talent, my observation with my leaders is that they seem to be more confident when running single than when beside another dog. Perhaps less confusion about which one is correct when responding to a gee/haw cue?

In any event, I plan to keep it up for the rest of the season, letting my LITs (leaders in training, I have several) run in swing (point) behind these good single leaders. I think they may actually learn the cues and expected behavior better as their view of the world ahead isn't so obscured by the tails and butts of the dogs they are following.

Fast E Posted - 03/14/2014 : 07:13:44 AM
For speed racing 2 are better then one i feel,if one slips(they do) or falls off the side of a packed trail into soft the other leader helps get them back on track quickly.
My first leader(1973) was an exellent command dog that a very well know elderly trapper willed to me and she was a single leader and could evan run in front of the team bout 100 feet and take commands.
I have been beat in a speed race by single leaders before--just not often.
Log Dog Posted - 03/13/2014 : 10:03:00 PM
The men who taught me how to mush used single leaders exclusively. The only reason they would hook up double leaders was for one to train the other. In fact, they would not honor a dog with the title "leader" unless it could lead a team all alone.

I think it started changing when trails got so darn good. If a team is scooting along on well defined trails the leaders don't really have to think, just keep ahead of the dogs behind them. When they come to a fork in the trail they either "gee" or "haw", only two choices.

When running a team in the absence of a defined trail it is very difficult for one musher to be on the same page as two lead dogs. I describe mushing across open country, on glare ice, or around obstacles as a dance. The dog will be asked to do much more than go left or right, they must dance with their musher. I love seeing leaders and mushers with that kind of connection. It is the pinnacle of animal/canine cooperation. Using my dancing analogy, have you ever seen three people waltzing together? I never have. Two dancers play off each other, feeling each others movements and responding to each other. Waltzing with three people would be too darn hard. Each dancer must react and feel the movements of two other people, making their movements fit the movements of two others. The dance would be jerky, uncoordinated, frustrating and ugly. This is exactly how it feels to navigate difficult country with two leaders. It's jerky, uncoordinated, frustrating and ugly. Much more fun to dance with one good partner, I mean Lead Dog.


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