It's important that the dogs remain in shape year round to avoid fluctuations in their physical abilities -- which ultimately reduces the risk of injuries during exercise. But with the summer months being so warm, and there obviously being no snow, how do we keep the dogs in shape?
We provide a number of activities for the dogs to help keep them stimulated both physically and mentally. Since Siberian Huskies are known to be a breed of devious behaviours, mental stimulation is just as important as (and some times more than) physical stimulation. We always try to avoid the hottest parts of the day when the dogs are engaging in activities, to avoid them over-heating. So most activites are done before noon hour and/or after 4 pm; except in the case of swimming, which is done during the afternoon.
Free run time provides both. The dogs are allowed the chance to run loose together with a few of their buddies and interact as dogs -- just like an off-leash park, except that they're in a fenced enclosure. This allows the dogs to stretch their muscles out, run, fetch, play, dig, jump, and do anything else that they fancy. But at the same time, with the addition of other dogs in their space and around their toys, the need for tolerance, patience, and obedience becomes necessary. No, we don't let loose dogs that we know absolutely do not like each other. That would be setting them up for failure. But we do make sure to challenge the dogs by providing them with new play mates, new toys, and new situations where they have to learn to share and get along.
On an individual basis, we practise rally and agility courses with the dogs. Rally is a course of 'stations' set up, where at each station to have to perform a task that relies heavily on basic - advanced obedience concepts. The level of obedience we do at each station is normally relative to each specific dog's training level. This is an excellent way to re-inforce and teach basic obedience in a fun and mentally-engaging environment. Agility is a course of obstacles set up that challenges the dog to move quickly on its feet, respond to verbal and visual hand signals, and stretch/exercise all muscles of their body in a physically and mentally challenging state. We consider agility to be a step up from rally and can only successfully do a complete course with a select few.
In small groups, we take the dogs swimming at the lake. We usually go to a more private area so the dogs are not distracted by too many people. Many of the dogs, surprisingly, actually enjoy swimming, and go out quite deep. Others, not so keen of the idea of getting wet, will just wade as deep as their stomachs. Still, this provides the dogs with a day out, the opportunity to swim and wade, and a warm summer afternoon to frolick and play.
We also do cani-cross with the dogs. Cani-cross is cross-country running with a dog. The dog runs in harness, while attached to a long leash that is attached to a belt around the runner. We normally only do this activity in the early mornings or late evenings as it's purely a physical activity for the dogs. There's little mental stimulation in it, as it's really just playing on their natural instinct to run.
Ensuring that the dogs are both mentally and physically stimulated through out the year is important to avoid injuries to the dogs and keeping them out of trouble!