Femund Race ABC: What characterizes a good lead dog?

Author: Kjetil Svanemyr / Morten Haugseggen (Transl)     Photo: Kjell O. Brun     Publish date: 31.01.13 09:32

The best lead dogs become legendary heroes that all mushers love telling great stories about. But what is it that make some dogs so great at leading the team?

Just to make one thing clear, a good lead dog is not necessarily a pack leader. A good lead dog loves running up front and is doing so very well. However, he can at the same time be far down in the social hierarchy of the pack. Small females can be just as good lead dogs as strong and dominant males. During the race a lead dog must have the ability to maintain an even speed that matches the abilites of the team. It must be able to understand commands from the musher and have a strong pshyche. This is necessary to drive the team forward even in bad weather and difficult conditions. To experience a top lead dog taking responsability in front of the team during a long and exhausting race is a magical experience. It is all about the ability to maintain speed, about spreading good spirits and energy back through the team, as well as good communication with the musher. A common characteristic of the best lead dogs is also that they will seldom be injured or sick, along with the fact that they always finish the race. Dogs that have completed and led the team during large portions of the Femundløpet race, the Finnmarksløpet race or Iditarod reach high status. They are also sought after for breeding. The sales prize for a lead dog increase proportionally to its performance. The very best are usually not even for sale. At least not until they reach retirement age.