Icy-cold, snow weather just what the doctor ordered for Branhams

With snow on the ground, Mark Branham could be mistaken for a resident of Alaska as he trains two of his Siberian huskies to pull a sled. Branham and his wife, Frances, live on Laylin Road in Norwalk Township and he is training two of the dogs the couple has acquired after 20 years of breeding as sled dogs.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

With snow on the ground, Mark Branham could be mistaken for a resident of Alaska as he trains two of his Siberian huskies to pull a sled.

Branham and his wife, Frances, live on Laylin Road in Norwalk Township and he is training two of the dogs the couple has acquired after 20 years of breeding as sled dogs.

"When I met my wife, she had a Siberian husky and we started getting males and breeding them," Branham said. "She bought that first one Sheba Blue Clover from a friend for $300 in 1988."

After years of breeding, the couple now has four dogs Sky, a red-and-white female; Snowball, an all-white female; and Leo and Rufus, two silver and white males. Rufus, the one-year-old male, is the only one they can use for breeding now since the older male is fixed.

The Branhams started out with official papers from the American Kennel Club for their dogs, but decided not to continue to register births because of the cost.

"We've been selling them for so long," Mark Branham said. "We keep the ones we want. We know they're pure-bred." The couple had 18 dogs at one time.

Branham said though two breeds of huskies are popular in cold climates, Alaskan huskies and Siberian huskies are different.

"Alaskan huskies are mixed breeds to run faster and Siberian huskies are built to withstand the weather," he said.

Branham said he decided to start training two of their dogs Rufus and Snowball to allow the dogs to reach the potential that has been bred into them for generations. He hopes to eventually breed the two for another generation of Siberian huskies.

Branham build a sled from a kit he had shipped from Wisconsin and then built a track for training on the couples' six-plus acres. He also bought harnesses and a tug line for the dogs.

When he first started training the dogs, Branham quickly saw how much the dogs enjoy the work their breeding has trained them to do over the generations.

"It is amazing how smart they are," he said. "They sit still to wait for me to put the harnesses on them. They love the exercise."

Than they get to work. Branham said the dogs can hardly wait to start pulling the sled around the training track. Now he works them with weights in the sled, but eventually the two should be able to pull the sled with one person sitting inside and another standing on the back, Branham said. The racing-type sled can hold up to 400 pounds.

The exercise isn't just fun for the dogs it is also Branham's favorite hobby now.

'I love doing it with them," he said. "I gave up deer hunting this year just to work with them." He said he spends about two hours each evening training the dogs.

The breed is meant to enjoy the outdoors, Branham said. They tried keeping one inside as a house dog, he added, but the pet made it clear he preferred the large outside pen with the other dogs.

"I don't like chains," Branham said, so they built a large outside pen years ago for their dogs. He said Siberian huskies shouldn't be left to run free because they will take off running for the sheer joy of it.

Branham's dream is to build up a full team and compete in dogsledding competitions.

"At this time next year I should have a six-dog team. I hope to go up north to compete," he said. "That's my dream, if my wife lets me."

Branham said a husky should be able to pull 100 pounds per dog for a mile each, which means they train for two miles with two dogs. He trains his animals two or three days each week.

Even if he doesn't get to follow his dream, Branham is just grateful he has found a hobby he loves. He said it takes time to learn to understand the husky breed.

"No matter what kind of dog you have, doing the things the dog loves will make them love you," he said. "And you will have the best time of your life. Working with your best friends in the winter is better than spending your money on 'fun' to have a good time."

Comments

Those (Anonymous)

...are some beautiful dogs.

dog33hut (Anonymous)

I'd like to no more about training the husky dogs to sled.

Dan (Anonymous)

I would like to know if there good with kids and other animals?

Terry (Anonymous)

When are you going to have pups.

Jeff (Anonymous)

How cold can a husky with stand?

tammy (Anonymous)

Rufus is a funny name but I like it.

Huskies (Anonymous)

are a high energy breed and they LOOOve to run!! Depends on how well the kids treat them...don't tease them mine didn't like it...Huskies are also predisposed to epilepsy(not all get it) can be controlled with good diet and proper medication, had mine for about 14 years....gorgoeus loyal dogs and well worth the extra effort.

Matt (Anonymous)

I'm glad your doing what the siberian husky is used for and not seeing them cooped up. Beautiful dogs.

Sib (Anonymous)

It's so kool to see dog sledding in Norwalk.

joe (Anonymous)

I would like to know how to to train my husky girl to not drag me but to walk with me? Your thought's

If so (Anonymous)

Can huskies get along with cats or other animals?

Hope (Anonymous)

I hope you get some more snow to work your dogs. beautiful pictures.

Jake (Anonymous)

Kool dude.

Go boy (Anonymous)

I have never seen anything like it in Norwalk.

Glen (Anonymous)

That's true love of your animals.

Don (Anonymous)

Great picture.

Nate (Anonymous)

I'd like to do somthing like that, if I had the room.

to joe (Anonymous)

watch the dog whisperer...you'll learn how to control your animal and you'll walk them, not the other way around. you can see the dog whisperer on the national geographic channel. good luck!

333

There's a differnts in training and the cotrol of a husky to walk, before training them to pull as a working dog.You train your dog to walk as you are the leader of the pack.Then thay respect and trust you when training them to pull a sled.Don't need a dog whisperer when you have been training dogs for 20 years.I give them there space when thay want it.And don't push them in to any training, that there not ready to do. If you watched them before hooking them up.There ready to go.When there done sledding,thay want to go back and sled some more.

Deer Dave,

that's exactly what the dog whisperer says...YOU must be the pack leader. people try to put dogs in the same catagory as people, and it just doesn't work. if they're a working breed, then they LIKE to work. builds their character! lol!

333

I want people to under stand that, don't buy a dog because there cute. Don't buy a dog because it's big or small. Before you buy any breed of dog, you better know what your getting in to. I know alot of people who didn't read up on siberian husky breed. There runners and a working dog.People buy them for the fact thay have blue eyes and thay show them off. Then what happens? Thay don't have time to even walk them. That's when I feel sad for any dog.

marco

Man people better listen to the boy! Mark doies the talk and the walk. He knows what the dog world is all about.

dog33hut

I want to know how old doies a dog gotta be before training. How long doies it take before thay learn?

Mark.

333

I hold them from birth to three months. Then train and play at two to three months.Thay learn fast but spending alot of time training is not good. A pup to to a ten year old, can get board after about 10 to 20 min. unless there runnning or pulling a sled. Thay want to slow down or you make them stop.I'm not saying to every body to get a husky. Just read up on the dog of your dream, before wasting your money on a dog that's not your way of life and the dogs way of life.

David L.

good job uncle mark! i didnt know you were out there with the dogs training like that! i bet thats a blast. good luck. tell aunt fran i said hi!

333

Is having a siberian husky good with other animals? If you have a cat, make sure the dog is a puppy. So thay will grow up around the cat. Older husky dogs will defend! If you buy a husky pup, make sure you have another husky or another dog breed present. Thay are a pack dog and need to be around other dogs.When your not home and husky is a house dog, I used a pen. to keep them in. Or you will come home with over turn plants and somthing chewed up.Thay are very good with kids.

333

My closing comment. I served in th marines.Never went to war. My brother served 22 years,2 years in Iraq. If it weren't for the troops fighting for the freedom that we have. We wouldn't be able to do the things we all love to do. "PRAY FOR OUR TROOPS''

bill bridgeman

As a siberian husky owner, I thoroughly enjoyed the article, and share much of the owner's joy and enthusiasm for learning just what a husky is and is meant to be. My female was also named Sky initially when I got her...but I renamed her "boots" after my father's nickname for my mother. She too is an escape artist, having found her way over, under, around and through the cyclone fence surrounding my yard. She has gone into the woods for as long as 6 days without food, water, or shelter...in temperatures in the single digits. Sometime I think she hear's the "call of the wild". She's always ready to answer it.

Dan (Anonymous)

Doies your huskies dig holes in your the yard? My husky doies. What can I do? What can you do went thay get loose?

marco

How can your dog get loose from your pen? My husky mix, get out, don't know how.

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