Every sled dog has a different personality. They are kind of like people. Some of the dogs are outgoing. Some dogs are shy. Some of the dogs are hard workers and some are lazy. The musher of a dog team needs to find the best position for every dog on their team. When the dogs are all working together as a team, they can travel far and pull a lot of weight. Teamwork is a very important part of dog sledding. Do you use teamwork at school? I bet you do!
Dave and I work with dog teams that are made of four to six dogs. The dogs run two by two. These pairs of dogs are important, because if any pair of dogs has an argument, the dog sled won’t go anywhere. To figure out which dogs we will pair together, we watch the dogs to see how they get along.
We look for dogs who have a good working relationship. Some dogs are enemies. We wouldn’t want to put two dogs that hate each other next to each other, because all they would do is argue. Some dogs are best friends. This is better, but sometimes when best friends are paired together they goof off and play around too much. Does that sound familiar to you? What happens if you and your best friend work on an assignment together? The best pair of dogs happens when the dogs are nice to each other, but they are both focused on pulling the sled.
A team of six dogs is made of two dogs in the front, two in the middle and two at the back. The dogs in front are the lead dogs. They need to be good at following the directions from the mushers. The dogs in the middle are called the swing or team dogs. These dogs need to get along with lots of other dogs, because they are surrounded by other dogs. The dogs in the back are the wheel dogs. They are usually the strongest dogs, because they are closest to the dogsled. If you were a sled dog, what would be your position on the team?