If You “Mush” Know: Stopping a Team

This question comes from Mrs. Dagenais’ Class in Baltimore:

How does a musher stop their team of sled dogs?

Photo: Terrie Hanke

Gary Paulsen describes in Dogteam the beauty of a winter night run with a team of dogs pulling the sled taking you on a wonderful ride along a trail. Paulsen shares the beauty of the energy one feels riding behind a team of dogs.

Sled dogs live to run. Their stamina is incredible. So how does a musher stop their team? Leaders and the dogs in the team know the commands to go and trail directional commands of “gee” and “haw”. Contrary to what many believe “whoa” is not as easily learned. A dog team does not stop and wait for the musher who fell off to get back on. They may keep going. dragging you along, or pulling an empty sled. A combination of snow hooks, using a claw brake, and a verbal “whoa” will help stop a team. The snow hook is embedded in the snow to stop the sled.

Having the respect of your team is important. Always staying calm and in control is vital. Training with the command “whoa” and practicing using brakes on a training rig or claw brake on a sled during those early learning runs needs to be practiced. When the sled can’t be stopped you must lay your sled on its side while hanging on. Never let go!

It is easy to get a team to go when the dogs are jumping and barking with excitement but it’s tough to get them to stop.

By: Lynne Witte