Archive for September, 2010

The Future Home of Iditarod Dreams: Mush! You Huskies Radio Show

The Future Home of Iditarod Dreams: Mush! You Huskies Radio Show

As promised, yesterday, I wanted to showcase the sister show to our highly popular, Dog Doctor Radio Show to my rabid reader, fans and friends– Mush! You Huskies, better yet, was brought on board on the Dog Works Radio platform to fill a need for the future followers of Team Ineka and my quest to train for, and run the Iditarod in 2013.

We started the show to coincide with the start of the 2010 Iditarod in March and we followed the progress of the mushers on the trail and gave daily insight and commentary  about the race. Not being a sportscaster, our shows had more of a statistical bent to it but hey, we will get better in the future, right?

This summer, we started our very popular Dog Sledding Legends series and did shows profiling the greats such as Leonhard Seppala, Scotty Allan, Doc Lombard, to name a few.

Our goal is to chronicle the adventures of my training and racing career though the show. I plan in the future of offering interviews of me (by my co-host, wife and business partner, Michele Forto). I hope to have other musher’s interviews as well.

I would also like to showcase our sponsors on the show and allow them the opportunity to take advantage of this unique advertising medium. As any musher knows, in order to get to the “big race” we have to run miles, miles and more miles, and we are often dependent on our generous sponsors in helping us reach our financial goals.

By continuing to use the BlogTalkRadio format we are able to bring the cutting edge technology of the platform and have the ability of adding video, chats, remote interviews, email, call-ins for our guests and of course an international audience. With this perfect marriage of technology and social media it is our hope to bring the sport of mushing and one man’s quest to make his own personal history a reality.

As we always say… Never Forget Your Dreams and we will see you on the trail!

I welcome your comments and suggestions. Please comment below.

Robert Forto | Team Ineka | Alaska Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works


Dr. Robert Forto is a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the popular radio shows, Mush! You Huskies and The Dog Doctor Radio Show

Willow Dog Mushers Association Symposium

The Willow (Alaska) Dog Mushers Association is holding its annual Symposium next weekend!

Two amazing days of dogs, information, history and fun! Keynote speaker: Mary Shields, first woman to run and finish the Iditarod (in 1974)! Speakers, demonstrations, hands-on workshops and activities for ALL breeds of dogs, awards, gear swap, vendors, movie, dinner, and a silent auction. The Mushing History Conference will be held in conjunction with the symposium. Come join us! Please invite your friends by sharing this event. All dog lovers are welcome!

When: Saturday, September 25 at 10:00am – September 26 at 6:30pm


Willow Community Center

MP 69.9 Parks Hwy

Willow, AK 99688

For more information please visit


Dr. Robert Forto is the national dog sledding examiner, a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the popular, Mush! You Huskies radio show

The Future Home of Iditarod Dreams: Skoli

The Future Home of Iditarod Dreams: Skoli

In the mostly ultra-competitive world of mushing in Alaska and especially in the two disciplines of sprint mushing and long distance (Iditarod) it is sad that very few people are running Siberian Huskies anymore. The old timer mushers, they were called dog punchers in those days, made the breed what it is and unfortunately it is not the same dog today. Today when you look at a Siberian Husky it bears little resemblance to the great dogs on the mushing trails of yesterday. Today you will see short, fluffy, powder-puff dogs that do well in the show ring but probably could not pull a sled if their life depended on it.

When you think of the greats such as Leonhard Seppala and Scotty Allan and Doc Lombard and Earl and Natalie Norris you think of sled dog first, looks second. Their dogs required the brains and the braun to get down the trail and that is what they breed for.

I was talking about this the other day and the gentleman said, and I am paraphrasing just a bit here: it doesn’t make financial sense for a musher to run Siberians anymore. The job security is in Alaskans.

One of the biggest struggles that I have come across sine arriving from Alaska is the two sides of the fence debate. The Siberian mushers and the Alaskan Husky mushers. It is funny, just in my neighborhood there are three Siberian kennels and two Alaskan Husky ones and those are just the ones I know about.

On Sunday I was privileged to obtain an awesome example of what a Siberian Husky should be. Her name is Skoli and she is a six year old female from some of the greatest Siberian Husky racing lines in the world. She has race experience and is a very good dogs. Many of you may be asking why would I want a dog at six years old? Its simple, racing and breeding do not necessarily go hand in hand as it was explained to me the other day. A six year old female is in the prime of her life when it comes to her second career (as a “mom’).

And just another perspective: this same kennel where I got Skoli from has a fifteen year old Siberian sled dog that looks like she could pull all the way to Nome. That is amazing to me. That shows me what a well cared for and well bred dog that is doing what it is supposed to do is capable of. Many of the show lines have been so watered down and so over-bred that many of them don’t live passed the age of 12 and by then they are bestrewed with health problems.

While the debate will continue I will do what is necessary to qualify for the Iditarod and that looks like I will be running a very fine team of Alaskans. That is okay though because in the future I am going to do my best to promote the Siberian Husky breed for its intended purpose and at some point run under the burled arch in Nome with my team of Siberians under the Team Ineka banner.

What are your thoughts on the Siberian Husky as a sled dog and as a breed? I would love to hear from you.

I welcome your comments and suggestions. Please comment below.

Robert Forto | Team Ineka | Alaska Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works


Dr. Robert Forto is a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the popular radio shows, Mush! You Huskies and The Dog Doctor Radio Show

You are Never too Old to Run Sled Dogs

You Are Never To Old Too Run Sled Dogs

By Robert Forto and Mac McClanahan (Nov. 2000)

About three weeks ago, Robert “Mac” McClanahan gave us a call and said that he received a copy of The Gangline and wanted to learn how to run sled dogs.

I said, “Sure come on over!”

This is his story.

Mac McClanahan is 82 years old and full of life. He said that he has done just about everything; flew helicopters in the Korean War, forced landed three planes, paraglide, walked the Colorado trail, but nothing compares to being behind a team of dogs. Mac said it was one of the most emotional times of his life the first time he was behind a team of dogs and that was just a mere two weeks ago.

Mac was looking for a dog last year that could meet some pretty rigid requirements. After months of research and reams of paper on the internet, he and his wife Melba, decided on a Siberian Husky.  They put their plan into action and happened to find exactly what they were looking for. They found a female, open faced, gray, with blue eyes that had the build of a sled dogs, according to all of the books that Mac had read. Why a female? On Melba’s insistence, she said that you can’t get smarter than a woman and if you wanted a lead dog you needed a female.  They must have made the right choice because it just so happens that the dog that they picked is a sister to one of our sled dogs here at Team Ineka, Nixon.

For the past year, Mac had been working with his new dog and friend, Chukchi, which Mac says means “sled puller”. Mac says, “I thought I would give her a name and hope that she can live up to it. It is her destiny!”  They walked miles and miles and even walked a portion of the Colorado Trail this summer. Mac says “I was walking with friends 30 to 40 years my junior and if it wasn’t for Chukchi I might not have made it to the top of that pass.”

Mac’s goal is to run with some of Team Ineka’s dogs this year in a race or two with a team of three or four dogs. He is working very hard on his training and he and his dog are doing great.  Right now they come over for a “session” twice a week and we try to teach something new each time.  He is learning quickly.  He has been dragged, had a dog fight with a dog on the trail, and even gotten lost when his team took off too fast for me to catch him with my team.

We talked about the future of the sport and what he thought about the Iditarod and he said he thinks the future is very bright. Mac said that this is a “word of mouth” sport and he will do his best to promote it.  He said that he has lived in Colorado for seven years and has seen lots of dog trucks driving around but nothing else. He said that needs to change.

There needs to be more advertising in local papers and different forms of media. Mac said that he is telling everyone that he talks to that he is running sled dogs.  When he does everyone stops, their ears perk up, and they want to know more and more.

That is what this sport needs. More ambitious people like Mac.  His spirit keeps me motivated and all I want to do is train and train.

Mac ended by saying, “I don’t know if she (Chukchi) has the ability to be a good lead dog or if she ever will, but I do know that she has a mind of her own and when she wants to listen she will do just that.”

Well, we are going to try our best to make that dream happen for Mac and Chukchi, she is a natural in harness and will be running in races this year. I have already promised him that.

Fall is in the Air

The Future Home of Iditarod Dreams: Fall is in the Air

What a great time to be in Alaska. The leaves are changing and the air is getting cooler. The nights are just a little longer and the mist in the wind refreshes your soul. Last night was a great day to run dogs. I helped out a couple new friends that are premiere Siberian Husky racers and I was privileged to go along while they trained three teams of 16 dogs. The dogs were remarkable. Probably the best trained Siberians I have ever seen in my life. Their leaders on all three teams responded quickly and turned on a dime. Many people train dogs for years to get their leaders to respond that well.

I arrived home about 12:15 with hopes of getting a first glimpse of the Aurora Borealis but it is still early yet and according to the forecasters as it a little north near Fairbanks. The aurora is actually the glow of solar particles blown into the earth’s magnetic field more than 60 miles above the earth’s surface at speeds up to 35,000 miles per hour.
The streams of charged solar particles surge and bulge along bends in the earth’s magnetic field. As they strike atoms in the earth’s atmosphere, they create greenish-yellow, faint blue, or even blood red curtains of color.

With such a dramatic show of force in the sky, it’s easy to see how some Alaska Native groups believed the lights had serious powers. Some believed the lights were the dancing spirits of children who died at birth. Others thought them spirits of the dead playing ball with a walrus skull. Some believed that whistling at the aurora would cause it to sweep down and take you from earth. Still others carried knives to keep it away.

Have you ever seen the aurora? Where where you and what did you think? I know things like this becomes common place to folks who experience it all the time but sometimes you just have to ‘stop and smell’ the roses because someday you might not get a chance…

I welcome your comments and suggestions. Please comment below.

Robert Forto | Team Ineka | Alaska Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works


Dr. Robert Forto is a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the popular radio shows, Mush! You Huskies and The Dog Doctor Radio Show

Never Forget Your Dreams

Never Forget Your Dreams

About a decade ago unbeknown to me dogs would change my life.  At the time I owned two Alaskan Malamutes and I was recently widowed and newly a single mother of three very young children.  My Malamute’s were just pets – great pets, who loved my children and wanted nothing more than to be by their side.

My good friend who just so happened to run Siberian Huskies in mid-distance dog sled races, which I knew nothing about, decided to come to Colorado and give Sprint mushing a try and to expand his kennel, Trafalgar K9.  I knew a little bit about training and a little bit about breeding dogs, I knew nothing about harnessing, lining out, or dog sledding at all.

Within two months Robert and I had gathered about a dozen ragamuffin Siberian Huskies who had been in harness but let’s just say were not quite third string team members.  Robert showed the kids and I a whole new world.  We did things that we had never done before.

Never Forget Your Dreams – was discovered by us one day while traveling to a dogsled race in South Dakota – it has become our families motto and we have given countless people the opportunity to find and follow their dreams through training their dogs to be the best they can be.

After a decade of waiting and growing together as a family – Robert is finally getting back on track and following his dream.  While Robert prepares for running the Iditarod in 2013 – I am reminded that he originally was preparing to run the last great race in 2003.  He has patiently waited while our children have grown and while I’ve taken myself down a different career path just to return to the dogs.

I am very proud of my best friend for never forgetting his dream and more importantly for standing by my side while I developed my own dreams.


Michele Forto is the Denver Dog Training Examiner, the owner of Denver Dog Works and the co-host of the Dog Doctor Radio Show

Team Motivation

Team Motivation

By Al Magaw

I just finished reading a rather in-depth article on team motivation written for people in a position of leadership and realised how many of the same principles apply when working with a team of dogs.


One of the principles of motivation the author spoke of was to reduce the distracting activities that take energy and desire away from the goal to be achieved, which is a close parallel to keeping dogs confined until it’s time to run a team. A dog that is constantly running loose with a multitude of distractions is unlikely to have the desire to give it’s all to “the team”, while a dog that is generally confined is “released” to run when the team is ready to go, making the run even more fun and exciting for each individual dog.


The author of the article wrote a lengthy section on the advantages of having a purpose in life, and while he was focusing on human activity, anyone who has ever noticed the change in attitude in a puppy after it’s first successful run in harness will recognise the pride and confidence the pup has gained in itself after just one run in a team. As training goes on, the young dogs begin to show what position in the team they prefer to be in. Some want to be in front, setting the pace, using their own intellect in making decisions while taking guidance from “management”. Some like to be in the wheel position where their muscle power and strong backs can be put to the test. Other’s prefer to run at point where they can assist the leaders or take over when needed. And like their human counterparts, some dogs prefer to be just part of the team, contributing to the overall success of an activity that becomes greater than the sum of the individuals. That’s such a parallel to human goals!


While humans are interested in monetary rewards and some can be motivated solely by them, most get their greatest reward from being part of the team. Almost the same can be said for dog teams. Some trainers treat their dogs immediately following a run, thinking that the dogs will associate one pleasure with another, while other successful trainers let the activity be the reward itself.


The author speaks of the “risk” of participating in the team in reference to punishment for not performing as well as management wants. If the punishment is too great, the willingness to participate at all is diminished. The correlation to sled dog attitude is obvious


Humans, and dogs alike can be motivated by challenge. The teams that win or finish well in the Yukon Quest and then go on to do the same in the Iditarod seven days later are good examples of dogs being motivated through challenge. A successful result from a difficult challenge inspires self confidence, no matter the species being challenged.

There is not the space in this blog to finish the comparisons between the statements made about team work in humans and dogs, but I will conclude next week. I found the information to be valuable in my quest to understand my teams, and I hope the reader does likewise


Al Magaw is a musher from Salmo, BC. Al keeps a medium sized kennel of 20 – 45 alaskan huskies as well as several pet dogs of various breeds. Al has been training and racing for the last 33 years. Before becoming involved with sled dogs, Al, along with his family, kept and competed with horses for many years. Al can be reached through his website at Al is a guest blogger for Denver Dog Works and can be reached through our website at


September 2010

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