At St. Hugh's Mountain Kennel we are gradually shifting the emphasis of our dog kennel from a sled dog kennel to a multipurpose Northern dog Kennel. Pulling a sled with a dog is useful in the far north, but we want more from our dogs than just pulling a sled. We came up with a concept we call, "Boreal Prepper Dog," or, "Boreal Survival Dog." The breeding goal is to simply merge sled dog instinct with a suspicion of strangers(watch/guardian dog) and a hunting instinct(treeing and retrieval of wounded game). When I say simple though... it is not that simple to achieve. It requires cross breeding carefully selected breeds of different temperaments, then selectively keeping the pups that display the list of traits we want. Each breed has traits we want and traits we want to eliminate. This means that, though each puppy is a good dog for someone, not every puppy has what our kennel needs for our special situation in bush Alaska. It also requires about 4 generations of cross breeding resulting puppies to merge them into one final new breed. So intermediate generations are not the finished product we are striving for.
The above photo is the result of a first generation cross breed. His name is Sherman(after the civil war general and WW2 tank). He is about 7 months old cross between a Central Asian Shepherd and Karelian bear dog. The goal of his litter was to merge the watch/guardian dog traits with the hunting traits. We also were hoping to get some long legs and slightly larger size than the typical Karelian bear dog. In our wilderness hikes he has shown a strong territorial protectiveness and alertness for intruding threats. More than once he has warned me with some deep, subtle growling that something was near. He scored high on prey drive as a young puppy, but we are still waiting for opportunity to really test his hunting instinct in the field.
We also kept a female pup that is his sister...
She is highly athletic, and on a late winter trek starting showing signs of being a potential tree dog. These two dogs are powerful, loyal and very healthy. I plan to cross breed them further in another generation of breeding to get closer to the end goal. The main trait that seems to show through in these siblings is the confrontational trait. They tend to go forward and confront anything that intrudes into our space, getting between the threat and the family as a shield. It is not uncommon for them to give deep gruff barks and growls as warning.
I call that, "Forward Projection of Power," or FPP. Both have shown themselves to have a strong sense of smell and are aroused by scent during our wilderness hikes. Being large in body and long of leg I plan to cross them with some combination of Siberian Laika and/or Huskita to pump up the hunting drive and give a little sled harness pulling instinct to the resulting crossbred. The Central Asian Shepherd is a serious watch/guardian breed but also genetically disposed to work in pack, thus reducing dog conflicts in the Kennel while still having a suspicion of intruders. These two bring that trait to the kennel well.
Some other cross breeds that so far look to be a success are these two...
I call her, "Sassyass," because like a good northern hunting dog she is sassy with prey. But with me she is real sensitive, attentive, and shows some desire to please by obedience. She displays a rare intelligence, picking up rather quickly on what I want if I communicate properly. On her first outing in a squirrel patch, she immediately took to sniffing the den holes in their spruce cone midden piles. She soon spooked a squirrel out and up the nearby tree. She immediately began to look up searching for sight of the squirrel. Not every pup in her litter had such genius, but she is born with the squirrel instinct. We went out recently and she again went straight to a squirrel midden pile and starting searching for squirrels. Unlike the typical squirrel dog though, she does not bark much and works quietly in close proximity with the hunter. She needs more opportunity to learn her hunting skills, but the genetic hunting drive is there. She may range about 100-200 feet out in search, but I expect her to expand her range as she gets more confident. She also has the heavy boned stocky proportions of a freight quality sled dog. So I expect she has what it takes to go out in a two to three dog sled team. Next is her brother pictured below...
I unofficially call him, "Butterscotch," because he retains the creamy white coat of his mother and Grand-doggy dad. He is white but has these subtle caramel hues that remind me of butterscotch. Though his prey drive is not as strong as his sister's, he does test well for harness potential. He and his sister are half Karelian Bear Dog, and half Huskita. He seemed to take the traits of sled work from his mother, while his sister, Sassyass, took their father's meticulous hunting trait. I think that his hunting drive will awaken if he is taken out often and watches his hunting human partner harvest game. Some dogs seem to understanding hunting from the womb, and others have to experience it before they get the point of hunting. I think this guy will be a great ski-pulk harness dog, used to pull a ski-pulk sled as I travel on skis to check trapline, or do winter hunting.
The grandfather of these two young siblings is, "Grettir the Strong," pictured here...
He is the last of our original Freight Huskies, the culmination of 18 years of careful breeding plans. He is an elderly dog now, and will part from this life sometime in the next few years, but we were fortunate to preserve his genetics in these two pups. Here is a picture of him pulling the 300 pounds of my daughters in the pictured ski pulk...
To continue this 18 year tradition of trying to improve the breed, we plan on crossing Sassyass with Fenris, our Siberian Laika to further increase the hunting drive of her potential pups, yet retain the more muscular physical stature of our sled dog line.
Of all the traits that are most difficult to retain in long term breeding, it is hunting drive and hunting intelligence. So we regularly need to inject new hunting instinct in the breeding program. If you are looking for a northern hunting dog, buyer beware! Just because it may be a pup from a so-called hunting breed, not all pups are created equal. People who do not hunt with their dogs do not breed quality hunting dogs. Only parents with a proven hunting experience can reliably produce good hunting pups, and even then, not all pups in the litter are equal in ability. We test every litter of pups for prey drive, attention span on prey target, suspicion of strangers, dominance and assertiveness, and visual/scent stimulation. We test pups reaction to bear skin, moose leg skins, upland game bird wings, and furbears such as martin and squirrel. By such methods we increase the statistical probability of choosing pups to breed that are hunting stock, not just cute companions.
Pups are not good pups for hunting because of color, size, cuteness or any physical signs. Hunting ability is primarily a mental trait, and attitude, and a personality. People who hunt with dogs know what I am talking about, but those new to the practice of hunting with a dog can easily be taken advantage of by people who are just cranking out cookie cutter show dogs and passing them off as hunting dogs.
We are planning some more litters in 2018-2019 to merge some of these excellent new dogs another step closer to the Boreal Survival Dog. We will be moving our kennel in the next year to a more remote location so that our new pups will have opportunity to be tested and worked more in the the tasks they are bred for. I am very confident that the merging of these breeds and selectively keeping pups for future breeding paves the way for the creation of a superior breed for Alaskan uses.
One inspiration for this breeding program is the Argentino Dogo. The creator of the breed, Antonio Nores Martinez, set out to create a new breed. He used a merger of 10 unrelated breeds to create the Argentino Dogo. It was a success that shook up the dog breeding sensibilities of more conventional breeding traditions. He succeeded in merging a hunting instinct with a strong guardian instinct for home protection and big game hunting. The original Cordoba dog that Antonio started with, was so fierce and aggressive that it was too anti-social to work with other dogs. But by selective breeding and cross breeding he achieved an amazing combination of traits, ending in a dog that could hunt big game in socially cohesive packs, yet still protect home and family. Antonio had clearly thought out his goals, and was a genius in improving the breed he set out to produce. Imagine a breeding plan that included such a bizzare mixture as Cordoba fighting dog, Great Pyrenees, Bull Terriers, and Pointers! His contemporaries must of thought he was stupid or nutty, but he proved them wrong.
St. Hugh's Mountain Kennel is breeding with some similarities to Antonio's plan, but also some differences. We want hunting and Guardian traits, but also socially cohesive pack instinct to reduce dog conflicts common to the Akita and solitary northern hunting dogs. We also want dogs willing to travel long distance in harness and pack to be a draft animal when needed, something Antonio was not interested in. Finally the main difference between his plan and ours is the emphasis in Boreal forest environment. "Boreal," refers to the enormous band of subarctic northern forest that straddles the entire northern hemisphere. It requires a dog with thick winter coat, tough feet that are resistant to frostbite, and long legs to traverse deep snows in winter and the muskeg /bogs of warmer months. The Argentino Dogo is a warm climate dog, ours is a cold climate dog.
If these plans seem sensible for your situation, perhaps you should take a look sometime and see if we have a puppy or adult dog that fits your lifestyle and needs.