Ailsa Harvey

The sport of dog sledding involves racing on sleds pulled by dogs, usually over snowy cross-country courses.

The dogs in the dog sled teams have different roles when racing. Lead dogs, at the front of the pack, must have common sense and be able to find route in bad weather. ‘Swing’ dogs and ‘point’ dogs are responsible for guiding the rest of the team through curves in the trail. They run directly behind the leader. ‘Team’ dogs are primarily used for their power, running in the middle and ‘wheel’ dogs stay close to the sled to pull it out of deep snow.

When practising the sport in countries without constant snow, wheeled carts are used instead of the sleds.  The person who races the dogs on the sled is called the ‘musher’. Their main roles come before the race in taking care of the dogs, preparing them and training them to perform at their best. Did you know…
– Most racing sled dogs are Alaskan huskies, a mixed breed which originated around 10,000 years ago. They are known for their tough feet, fur which can stand extreme weather and their eagerness to pull.
– A race has to be approved by the International Sled Dog Racing Association. They ensure no abuse of the dogs takes place, a vet is always on call for every race, no performance enhancing drugs are used and every sled is equipped with a dog bag to carry dogs who become too exhausted to continue racing.
– The musher controls the dogs using only his voice. “Gee” and “Haw” mean right turn and left turn.
– Dog power in transportation has been used for centuries in snowy regions. In some places dog sled was the only transportation method possible.

Look out for dog sledding stories appearing in the ‘Winter Sports’ section of PACE News soon!