What Is Mushing? The Ultimate Guide To Dog Mushing

Mushing - Neewa

Do you want to practice mushing safely with your dog? At Neewadogs.com, we have all the information you need on this dog sport!

Mushing is a method of exercising your dog, ideal for high-energy dogs. Mushing involves dogs transporting loads using a harness and sled designed to protect the dog from injury.

Mushing is a French term used to describe the sport, which has a long history, dating back to 6000BC. Many cultures have practiced mushing over the years, and the Native Americans used dogs to transport heavy loads!

Read on to learn how you can use mushing equipment and harnesses to provide a fun and healthy activity for your dog! We can teach you how to practice mushing, encourage your dog, and what equipment you will need for this bonding experience with your furry friend.

What Is Mushing?

Mushing is a sport that involves using dogs to transport loads. The French coined the term 'mushing', but the practice originated in Native American culture.

Nowadays, dog sledding is a practice that dog owners can use to help their high-energy dogs to get sufficient exercise. This works particularly well for breeds designed as sled dogs, like Huskies. The modern mushing practice is wholly cruelty-free and can stimulate your dog's mind and body.

Mushing Definition

Sled dog racing can be practiced using many different harness variations. Most sled dogs are harnessed in pairs for racing. In Greenland, dogs are given their own leads and pull the sled in a fan formation, though this is not practical for routes obstructed by trees.

Each dog has a function in the formation of sled dog racing. Lead dogs are responsible for setting the pace and forging a path for the other dogs to follow. There can be more than one lead dog in the formation, and in some cases, the lead dog is not harnessed.

Swing dogs are the next in the formation, and these dogs are responsible for guiding the other dogs around turns. The next group is the team dogs responsible for adding power to the formation. Wheel dogs are those closest to the sled. These dogs must be the strongest, able to handle the sled's weight right behind them.

Why Is It Called Mushing?

The word mushing comes from the French word marche, which means going or running. Since the sport was popular in Canada, a bilingual culture, the name was adopted by English Canadians, who started to use the term 'mushing'.

Who Invented Mushing?

Archeologists have theorized that mushing originated with the native and Inuit people in the northern regions of Canada. The practice was then spread throughout the continent and the world. The original sleds were much different than they are today.

Is Mushing Cruelty-Free?

Despite concerns, sledding is an enjoyable activity for huskies and other high-energy sledding dogs that need a lot of exercise during the day. Most dog mushing companies and schools provide training for sled dogs, along with regular vet checkups. It is essential to dog mushing practitioners that the dogs are well cared for and are not pushed beyond their capabilities.

We love our pets like family, and dog sledding can be a great way to care for your dogs and provide them with an excellent quality of life and stimulating exercise. Of course, you must ensure that your dog is fit and healthy before engaging in the practice of mushing.

Where Can You Practice Mushing With Your Furry Friend:  Denali National Park And Preserve

If you want to get involved with dog sledding, you need to know where to access dog sledding trails and dog teams. At Denali National Park and preserve, dog sledding is the best way to experience the park's essence.

You can assemble your team or borrow the dog teams provided by the sled dog kennel at Denali. You can even pay a visit to the sled dogs and say hello! There are several sledding trails across Denali park, with campsites along the way so you can rest your dogs and take a break.

Where Is Denali?

Denali National Park is found between Anchorage and Fairbanks in Alaska. Many rural locations in Alaska use a mile marker on the road to denote their address. The entrance to Denali National park is at Mile 237, Highway 3. To use GPS navigation to get to Denali National park, you may need to use the latitude and longitude location of the park entrance: 63.728443, -148.886572.

How To Arrive In Denali?

To get to Denali, there are several transportation methods you can use:

  • By car - there is one road entrance to Denali. You can find this entrance along Highway 3 at mile 237.
  • By train - Alaska's railroad connects Anchorage to Fairbanks and runs directly through the entrance of Denali. Please visit the Alaska railroad website for more information on using the train to get to Denali.
  • Air travel - you can fly easily to Anchorage or Fairbanks and make your way to the park via train or car.
  • You can also get a private train or shuttle bus to Denali.

Can I Practice Dog Mushing In Denali National Park?

Yes. You can either visit the park on your own to use the resident sled dog teams at the park, or you can bring your dog sled team. Denali provides several ideal routes for dog sledding, and they believe sledding is the best way to truly experience the magic of Denali National Park.

Mushing, What is Mushing - Neewa

Pro sled dog harness

Mushing Dogs: How To Treat Them?

Sled dogs must be trained ethically, attending to issues such as their breed, diet, exercise, and training. The dog breeds most commonly trained in sledding include:

  • Alaskan Malamutes
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Canadian Inuit Huskies


Maintaining a healthy diet for sled dogs is essential. Your dogs must be well fed and healthy to maintain optimal body strength and energy for sledding. You should opt to feed your dogs a diet of raw meat, salmon, and plenty of water. If you choose a raw diet for your dog, you must ensure that you feed them exclusively raw meat.


You should make sure that your dogs run as much as possible. The more they run, the faster and fitter they will be, meaning they will perform better in competitions.


When it comes to training your dogs for sledding, you should enlist the help of a professional trainer for the best results. Dogs can begin their training at 9 months and can practice mushing until they are 10 years old. When your dog becomes senior, sledding can be tough on their joints, which may poorly affect their health, so it is recommended that you retire your dogs at 10 years old. Dog mushing training is performed in teams.

Mushing Equipment

To start sledding, you will need to invest in the proper equipment. You will need a sled, a brake for your sled, harnesses, a tug line, collars, a snow hook, and a snub line.

Choosing A Sled

When choosing your sled, you must consider how many dogs will be in your dog team. Then, think about what kind of load will be in the sled.

Sled Pro Harness

You should invest in an X-back racing harness or a sled pro harness to attach your dog to the tug and snub lines. The sled pro harness also has an X-back structure to optimize your dog's pulling capabilities. 

When putting the harness on the dog, some owners find it easier to place their paws on the owner's chest while fastening the harness. When placing the harness on your dog, you should ensure no tangled or twisted lines, as this could cause your dog some discomfort. If you would rather not encourage your dog to jump up, you can apply the harness while the dog is standing. For the sled pro harness, since it is not adjustable, make sure to check correctly the measurements of the neck, the back, and the chest to avoid choking or constrained breathing.

The Snowhook

The snow hook acts as an anchor to keep the sled in place when you make stops along your journey. When the snow hook is in place, you can ensure that your dogs will stay put until you are ready to resume your journey. Think of the snow hook as a parking brake for your dog sled.

Dog Booties

It is essential to consider your dogs' comfort when you take them out into freezing temperatures for dog mushing. Dog booties protect the pads of your dog team members' feet from sharp ice and objects on the terrain. They also stop the fur between your dogs' toes from freezing which can cause discomfort. 

Neewa’s Cordura booties are designed to protect sled dog feet in professional racing and activities on compact snow. They’re extremely easy to manually put on or off, and with their stretch Velcro fastening design, there’s no risk of them coming off during a race.


Brakes can help you steer the sled, slow it down, and bring it to a halt. The brake line is essential in dog sledding to prevent the gang lines from becoming limp, which could cause you or your dogs to become injured. If your sled is traveling faster than your dogs, you run the risk of it impacting one of your dogs or causing a tug that your dogs won't like and may react to.

You can use a foot as your brake and steer the sled. But, a drag brake is possibly the safer option. If you apply pressure to the drag brake with your foot, it will slow the sled. If you apply pressure to one side of the drag brake, it will help you to steer the sled.


Lines are essential to connect your dogs to the sleigh. Without your lines, sledding isn't possible. You need several types of lines to combine the different sectors in your team of dogs:

  • A single lead tagline is required if you have one lead dog.
  • A double lead tagline is required if you have two lead dogs.
  • A line connecting your wheel dogs and team dogs to the gangline.

Neewa’s Neck Line is used to connect lead dogs together on each of their collar rings during pulling or sledding activities in order to keep them straight ahead of you. All metal pieces are extra light and made in naval brass to ensure maximum durability from wear and tear.

Mushing, Mushing gear, Mushing equipment, Neewa, Mushing DogPro sled dog harness


Mushing is an enjoyable activity for you and your dogs. It can help you mentally and physically stimulate an energetic breed like the Husky designed for sledding. Mushing is cruelty-free and can allow you to create a stronger bond with your dogs.

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