If You Mush Know: Ready? Start Your Engines!

This month’s question comes from…..


Why do mushers sometimes use four-wheelers with the dogs? Are the dogs really pulling those?

Or are the mushers driving them?


Ready? Start your Engines!

When temperatures drop the musher and dogs are ready to begin their training season. An ATV is a good choice for the best training equipment. The size and style may vary but the ATV allows mushers to maintain control of their teams during training.

The ATV allows the musher to have solid brakes when needed for stopping and offers the ability to assist the dogs on uphills giving them some gas if needed. The musher can vary the amount of pull on the dogs by the gears used. In first gear, the dogs will be pulling harder but using 3rd or 4th gear means the dogs can travel faster with less pulling. Using an ATV allows a musher to hold the dogs to a steady pace for distant training. A solid training program will have dog teams varying their workouts during the week between interval speed workouts, longer slower speeds, or speed workouts increasing over time.

ATV training gives the musher the opportunity to evaluate the individual dogs in a team safer than on a sled. They can observe the gait of individual dogs in harness knowing they have less worry of tipping or stopping.

A musher can be more confident training young leaders with ATV. The team can be stopped if needed to correct gee haw commands. Teams can train together for passing and parking alongside each other.

The musher can drive and train their team monitoring the speeds and amount of pull by using the ATV gears and brakes. As with a sled, remember to hang on – especially if a passenger is on the ATV. Ready? The dogs will be pulling to go!


By: Lynne Witte


Images: Rig Season, October 2021, courtesy of Lynne Witte