Sopka Pack Laikas
West Siberian Laika in Canada
West Siberian Laika
The breed is characterized by extraordinary physical and working traits. Evolved in the northern
taiga, laikas are resistant to the elements of weather, severe cold, health problems and issues with parasitic infections.
They put out lots of energy for little food consumed. Close relation to wolf, lack of
interbreeding with cultured dogs and selection among hunters, made dogs adopted to versatile taiga terrain and versatile hunting conditions it offers.
Most laikas are light legged. Their walk is light, jumpy and firm, with very good feet. They have an
advantage of speed in thick cover, windfalls, covering ground at an impressing pace.
During exercising, young dogs can be ran 10, 20 km or more over forest gravel or snow roads. They run
at speeds 20 to 40 km/h and over at short bursts. This can be done 2-3 times a week, developing anatomy for speed and agility, resulting in longer hunt times, confidence in baying and more ground coverage in later stages of dog's life.
Health wise, laika breeds are hardy and one of the healthiest dogs around. They also make good sled dogs.
Laikas are intelligent dogs. Gentle with humans and children but feisty on game. Hot nosed, rather short runners but can go kilometers in right situations. They use smell,
eye sight and hearing at the same time, constantly altering between these senses upon current
conditions. This is possible because they have exceptionally good eye sight and hearing.
Many laikas have natural respect for wolves, avoiding locations where
they can be sensed, usually moving out of the area. This characteristic of pack defense instinct remained in them from wild canines.
Laika dogs don't bark when trailing but start barking when they see the critter or get really close, much like mountain curs or hunting terriers. They usually see the animal in the tree due to their good eye sight. In general, laikas have very good baying capabilities. Speed, agility and feistiness are main factors. This allows them to cut distance and jump out quickly, feinting aggressive attacks without much physical contact.
Two dogs working together using this ability, work in an interdependent relation, constantly moving from the front to the rear, one dog distracting the bear or boar from the front and other trying to bite it on the rear.
Hunting with Laikas
It is good to start the hunting process with obedience training at a young age.
This is the communication language you establish with your dog for a life time. It is to make a dog more civilized in general and will strengthen dog's understanding of your expectations during the hunt as well as strengthen his co-operation with you. The dog will understand better that he's hunting with you and for you. Depanding on what type of hunting will you be using your dogs for, obedience training can be tailored to that specific hunt. If you're using the dog for bird hunting, this requires more advanced obedience to be able to control and direct a young dog in the field. If you're hunting the bush for large game cats and bears, you might only worry about being able to call your dogs off and heal command. Generally, if you would like to look into more advanced obedience, the four
common commands are here, heal, sit and run. With the here command your dog should come to
you. With time, the dog should automatically sit in-front of you and sit till he's being released with the run command, by
saying run and taping him twice on the side. This command can be used in three different ways, the verbal "here" for short distance, the two short whistle blows for longer distance if the dog is within sight and one loud short blow fallowed by a tone and vibration from e-collar to call the dog off.
Second one, heel is also an important one. It is usuful when walking out from the tree with several dogs. Dogs should heel, each fairly close to the other, unless you teach them to stay within eyesight when walking out, using correction collar. Third, the sit command is good for when the dog comes to you. It's a good way to have the dog under control for a short time. The run command is a releasing command from
the sit and down or lay commands. If you use sit or down commands, the dog doesn't know how
long should he stay in that position. Naturally it won't stay and will start running again. This is
not good as it constantly weakens the execution of these commends, plus you might want the dog to
stay in the down position for a while, so you have him under control and can do things
around him or the truck or stop him from running towards the road etc. You might want to add the
stay command so you can check tracks or even put a stock on animal in the mountains, maybe you're using the dog for packing, then come back and release him. Some dogs stay laying down for an hour or more while the owner disappears from sight. This is why a run command is important. Speaking of the down command, before the invention of the e-tracking collars, according to the German school, "down" used to be an important one. I used to teach some of my dogs to drop to the ground at short distances with a verbal "down" and long distances 200 - 500 m or more with a long whistle blow. This way dogs hit the brakes, lay down and wait till I walk over and release them with the run command. This used to be useful for preventing
deer, moose chases, running towards roads, etc. It was also used to strengthen other commands. If the dog didn't come to you after using "here" commend, a down command was used to let him lay for a while. Naturally the dog doesn't like to stay down, it wants to keep moving. If you call him now with the here command he'll come to you knowing it's the only way to be released from commands and run again.
With time he realizes it's better to come right away then be laying down for a while.
With the down command I do not use a correction collar in the training process and the use of the command later on. Each of these commands can have a characteristic hand signal so after a while you can use them in certain situations without the verbal option.
With all this being said, you'll have to balance the training and execution of obedience with the passion to hunt,
the drive, the temperament, the braveness and feistiness, being careful not to suppress these natural traits in your dog.
Too much rigouristic obedience training and execution might suppress the dog's drive to hunt. The level of training should be applied individually to the dog's individual
behavioral characteristics and different stages of his overall development.
Specialized training and hunting
Hunting with Laikas can be done in several ways. You can free cast them, simply walking the terrain, allowing them to run free. They search the ground naturally without any
directions from you and call when game is treed or bayed. You can also free cast them while driving
forest roads, horse riding, river boating, canoeing or drifting down rivers. For this, it's important that dogs are
trash broken. It's good practice to start teaching them to avoid trash before actual hunting. Still it might happen that your
dog will chase a moose or deer when you free cast him and so should be corrected only if you're 100% sure
what it is chasing. The only way to be sure is by checking tracks in the snow and what it is following.
Other method of hunting is trailing tracks in similar manner as it's done with hounds. Here, it is
important to do many tracking exercises, starting at young age. First making drags with meat and
pieces of skin, leaving meat under the skin at the end of the drag. After a while, whole skins or
animals can be used for drags, with chunk of meat left underneath it. These exercises should be done on a lead, slowing the dog down, allowing him to really concentrate on smelling,
processing the scent. Later you can do artificial tracks with piece of sponge or fabric tied at the end of a stick, imitating lynx or cougar paw print, marked with cougar or lynx glands or scent oil, again
leaving skin or whole critter at the end of the trail. Don't worry about your own tracks left from previously
setting up the drag, the dog is not dumb and will differentiate between this, it's all an exercise.
Finally, you start tracking real tracks in snow, always on a lead. You should also do this for longer
distances, teaching the dog persistence of staying on tracks. Here you might also flush the
critter and now having hot trail will excite the dog.. you might let him go then. The more of these
exercises, the more nose training will the dog have, keeping in mind to stay away from monotonous repetition of same exercises too often.
In the end, dogs noses can definitely be trained and this means that the dog
is now capable to intensively process the scent in his head. You can have a good nosed dog with no
training and worse scent dog with trained nose and that dog will perform better. Be patient with
your dog and keep trailing. If you loose tracks as it happens with lynx a lot, tie the dog
to the tree, find exiting tracks and proceed. Here you will also teach your dog to respect trash.
If deer, moose or hare are cutting across and the dog gets off the trail after them, you correct
him and put him back gently on what you're after. This is also when you discover if your dog is
interested in hunting a particular critter you want him to hunt. If you have finished dogs, this is the best method to train your young dog by putting him on the trail with experienced dogs. Nevertheless, separate individual nose training discussed
above should be done with any young dog.
In the old country, laikas are used for wolverine, badger, euroasian lynx, wild boar, brown bear,
moose, sable and birds. They will naturally tree grouse if you show interest in it from the beginning, if not they quickly learn to avoid it.
You can also train them for a classic flusher for all type of upland birds, at the same time you can use a laika for ducks and geese. They usually like water and this type of hunting.
In Canada and US laikas are used for bear, cougar, lynx, bobcat, wild boar, raccoon, opossum and other small game.