The lead dog sets the pace


By Dr. Michael J. Marx | PREVIEW Columnist

My name is Nugget and I’m a sled dog. The lead dogs set the pace when they hear the musher call.

“Up, up!” means speed up.

“Easy, easy!” means trot, don’t run.

“Whoa, whoa!” means stop.

The musher puts two dogs in the front row, sometimes three, sometimes one. They are responsible for setting the pace. A gang line connects us. If we tried to run faster than the leaders, there would be a big mess. A ball-up. The dog behind us gets his feet in our faces. The tug lines get wrapped around our legs. The dog in front of us sits on your head. It’s no fun. I’ve been there many times.

I run in the middle of the pack next to Poke, my sister. Understanding commands is not my job. The leaders do that. We run at the speed the musher wants. If the whole team runs too fast, the driver stands on the brakes. In fact, that’s what happens most of the time. Left to our own devices we would run, run, run. We would run as hard as we could until someone keels over.

Paws to consider:

Do you know how fast to run? 

Does someone help you keep pace?

Are you going: 

• Too fast?

• Too slow?

• Too recklessly?

Who helps you stay under control?

About Nugget: Nugget is a white furred Alaskan husky with one bent ear. She loves to pull with her sister, Poke. They were named after a gold-digging theme. She has run in the Alaskan interior, the Herbert Glacier and now the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

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