Logo bar of the Alaska Public Lands Information Centers which are located in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Tok and Ketchikan
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Dog Mushing 101
Experience the Alaskan tradition first-hand!

Stay up to date on the Iditarod race

Lily, Erin's Sled dog, kissing her in front of her sled at the Alaska Public Lands Information Center.
nps photo
Erin and her dog Lily.

Dog Musher Spotlight

Erin was born and raised in Connersville, Indiana and fell in love with the sport of dog mushing when she moved to Alaska. Erin is a long distance musher and a veteran of the Serum run, one of the three long-distance mushing races in Alaska.

As a musher, Erin has experienced it all: frostbite, dehydration, a broken sled and crazy dogs. Despite all these challenges, Erin couldn't imagine life any other way. "It's a labor of love," she says.

Dog teams mush through downtown Anchorage during the 2013 Fur Rendezvous.
Alaskan huskies pull a sled down 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage during the 2013 Fur Rendezvous.

Dog mushing became the official state sport in 1972 and the Alaskan malamute was recognized in April 2010 as the official state dog.

Alaskans have used dogs to pull sleds for centuries. It was once the primary transportation in Alaska and today it is a worldwide sport for both professional competition and recreation. People from around the world participate in Alaska's annual Iditarod sled dog race, "The last great race."  

The Iditarod race began as a heroic rescue to deliver medicine to the Alaska Native children of the town of Nome, who were sick with diphtheria. The 20 pound cylinder of serum was shipped by train 298 miles from Seward to Nenana and then relayed 647 miles by dog teams to Nome. The last leg to Nome was run by a team led by the siberian husky Balto, who became an international hero.

Dog Mushing Terms:

Mush: Originated from the French word "marchez" which means "go." French stampeders brought the word to Alaska but it is considered too soft a sound to be used as a command and is usually replaced with "hike!"

Gee: Turn right

Haw: Turn left

Easy: Slow down

Musher: Person who drives sled dogs

Mushing: The act of driving sled dogs

Lead dog: Dog that steers the sled dog team and regulates speed

Wheel dog: Dogs closest to the sled

Sled: Wooden rig the dogs pull in the snow and on which the musher stands

Snowless rigs: Also called training carts, these four-wheelers or off-roaders take the place of the sled when there is no snow.

A profile view of a striking canvasback duck swimming in grassy waters. The bird has a red head and neck, black chest and tail feathers and white wings. Did You Know?
The fertile lakes of the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge generally harbor over 50,000 canvasbacks, which is more than the rest of Alaska, combined.