Siberian huskies take about three years to learn voice commands and Payne spends an additional two hours a day training and running his dogs.
“When they are pulling the sled the dogs can’t look back,” Payne said. “It is important they learn all the voice commands necessary to run the team in the direction they need to go.”
Huskies live 16-18 years with a working life span of 2-10 years for sled purposes.
Payne uses a Prairie Bilt Sled for his dogs to pull, one of the best in the sled industry. In the spring and fall, he uses a go-cart type vehicle with tires to ride. The temperature must be below 65 degrees for pulling.
The harness used for the dogs is an X-Buck harness, which is the most friendly and safest for the dogs. These are cut to specific lengths so they do not affect the dogs’ backs or hind legs. Payne’s wife makes booties for the dogs so their feet are protected when running.
Payne runs his dogs at Kennekuk County Park, Lake Vermilion, Kickapoo State Park and around the Bismarck area. His biggest problem, like many running young dogs, is the fact that they sometimes get tangled up, which slows down the process.
Payne runs his dogs for about three hours. Once the dogs have returned to the trailer they are much more quiet and obedient than before they run and, once home, each falls asleep on his or her own rug.
“A tired husky is a happy husky!” Payne explained.
With names like Bandit — the lead dog — Moon Dance, Wile E and Neeko, Payne continues to work his dogs and learn his trade.
“My main goal above all is to have fun and enjoy what I do and to let my dogs do what they enjoy doing.” he added. “It’s not so much about me as it is my dogs!”