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Talk like a real dog musher

Trying to understand what is going on during a race can sometimes be confusing, especially when being new to the dog mushing world. We have put together a small list of useful terminology, in order for it to be easier to recognize and follow what is actually going on, the next time you are watching a sled-dog race. 

Mushing terms and vocabulary list: 

  • Booties: Is a type of sock which protects the dog’s paws against snow, cold weather, ice and other sharp object. Booties can be made from various types of fabric
  • Come Gee! Commands a 180 degree turn to the right
  • Come Haw! Commands a 180 degree turn to the left
  • Dog Bag: A fabric bag carried on the sled. It is used to put a tired, sick or injured dog into, carrying it to a place where it will be cared for
  • Dog in Basket: Tired or injured dog carried in the sled
  • Dog Box: A carrier for dogs, most often seen as a wooden structure in the bed of a pickup truck. It can also be integrated in the truck itself. Designs vary widely, but it is most commonly built with individual sections that hold one or two dogs each
  • Double Lead: Two dogs leading the team side by side
  • Dropped Dog: A dog that the Musher has dropped from his team at a checkpoint during a race. The dog is cared for at the checkpoint until it is back with one of the Handlers or with the Musher

Discover: The most famous long-distance dog sled races

  • Easy! Slow down

  • Gee: Command for turning right

  • Handler(s): A person who assists the Musher, usually during a race or in the dog kennel

  • Harness: A webbing of fabric, usually nylon and fleece. The harness snugly fits around a dog’s body, to even out the weight while puling

  • Haw: Command for turning left

  • Heet: Is an alcohol-based fuel used by mushers in their cook stoves along the trail

  • Hike! Get going. Used to start a team or increase speed

  • Lead Dog or Leader: Dog who runs in front of the other dogs. Lead dogs must be both intelligent and fast, usually not the biggest dogs in the team

  • Line Out! Command to Lead Dogs to pull the team out straight from the sled. Used mostly when hooking dogs onto the sled or while unhooking them

  • Long-Distance Race: Is a multi-day dog sled race. It usually includes wilderness, outdoor camping, extreme weather and rough trail conditions. Finnmarksløpet or the Iditarod are great examples

  • Mush! Let’s Go! All Right! Command to get the team to start

  • Musher: Also called a Dog Driver. The person who drives, trains, cares for and manages a dog sled team

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  • On By! Pass another team or a potential distraction

  • Overflow: When the ice gets so thick that the water has nowhere to go, it pushes up and over the ice. The overflow can often get a thin layer of ice which is a potential hazard when encountered on the trail

  • Pedaling: Pushing or kicking the ground with one foot while keeping the other on the sled. This help provide extra momentum for the dog team, commonly used uphill

  • Rigging: A collection of lines to which the dogs are attached

  • Rookie: A Musher who is participating in the race for the very first time, or has never completed the race

  • Runners: Two skis that extends beyond the back of the sled
  • Straight Ahead! Command to move forward, used at a crossing of trails
  • Swing Dog or Dogs: They run directly behind the Lead Dogs. Further identified as right or left swing, depending on which side of the tow line they are positioned. The Swing Dog’s job is to help steer the team in bends and turns
  • Team Dog: All dogs other than the Wheel Dogs, Swing Dogs and Lead Dogs
  • Toboggan: Is a sled with a flat bottom instead of having separate Runners. Used when deep, soft snow is expected instead of a well prepped trail
  • Trail! Request for right-of-way on the trail
  • Wheel Dogs or Wheelers: Dogs placed directly in front of the sled and Musher. Their job is to pull the sled out and around corners or trees, these dogs are usually the strongest in the group
  • Whoa! Command used to halt the team. Stop!
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