Dog Sledding Basics

Anyone that wants to become involved in dog sledding needs to start with the basics. This includes those who wish to participate either for pleasure or dog sledding events. Also, those that are going to watch exciting races want to know the basics, so they have a better understanding of what is taking place.

The Commands

While there are many things that the dog’s driver is going to have to learn close to the top of the list for learning will be the commands: that they have to use to control the dogs. Some of the common ones are as follows.

Ready and Alright

This is the command that is used to alert the dogs to get ready for their run. It is used every time the dogs stop and are being prepared to run once again. When the dogs hear this command, they should be able to get themselves untangled and get prepared to head down the runway. As soon as the word ready is spoken, then the next term used is alright, which gives the dogs the command to go ahead.


This is the term that is used to stop the dogs as it is easier for them to understand compared to using other methods such as reins, for example.


To get the dogs to go to the right, this is the term that is used. Quite often, on a course, there will be a fork in the trail or the road, and the dogs need to be directed as to which way to go.


Go left is the term that will be used to get the dogs to make this turn.

Straight Ahead

Periodically when the course is a straight run, the musher will give this command to let the dogs know that they are going to be travelling straight ahead for a period of time. It will also be used when there may be some confusion for the dogs as to which direction they should be going.


The dogs are full of energy and get excited about their participation and, at times, have to be taken into control or made to slow down, and the term easy is what they will expect to hear to do this.

Type of Sleds

Reducing the weight for the dogs to pull in dog sled racing events is important. Emphasis has been put on the sled itself for this purpose. Normally they weigh anywhere between 20 to 30 pounds and are flexible and are considered as lightweight. The most common component used for making the sleds is ash, and it will be laced together. Although trends are starting to come on the horizon where composite materials will be used.

Types of Dogs

The types of dogs used for dog sled racing is critically important. These dogs have to have the stamina and be intelligent to be able to follow the commands. The most common breed used for this type of event is the Alaskan Huskies. These are mixed breed dogs. However, there have been other breeds, such as:

  • Eskimo Dogs
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Samoyeds
  • Alaskan Malamute

Types of Races

One of the exciting aspects of dog sled racing is different types of races can be enjoyed, and these are as follows:

  • 30 miles. This is classed as a sprint race.
  • 50 to 200 miles is classed as a mid-distance race.
  • 200 to 1000 miles or more is considered a long-distance race.

Dog Races

The type of race and the rules will also dictate the teams of dogs that can be used. These can be anywhere for two to 10 dogs, usually, although some races will have a team of 18 or more.

Usually, during a standard race, the route will be comprised of a race that is run along the back roads or trails with the objective of getting from one point to another. Generally speaking, 6 to 8 dogs are capable of handling speeds of about 20 mph and can easily handle the weight of sled as well as the driver.

Most races are speed races. One of the challenges that come with this racing is that if something happens to one of the dogs, they cannot be replaced with a fresh dog.