Mushing Lingo

The language of mushers sounded so alien to me at first. But I'm starting to get the hang of it. I've yet to find a complete glossary, so I decided to start one of my own!

Water with some kind of meat or kibble mixed into it provided when temperatures drop below freezing. To encourage their dogs to stay well hydrated, mushers add "bait" to warm water. The goal is to get the dogs to drink the water before it freezes.

Image from arthropolis
A covering for the dogs' paws. Sled dogs usually have pretty strong pads on their paws, but even the toughest dog needs paw protection in some settings that put them at risk of cuts and fissures. Patches of sharp ice and exposed frozen ground can be hard on paws. Booties may be made of fleece or a more durable fabric like cordura. Velcro straps attached to the booties keep them on.

Big, fleece lined-mittens often made of deer-skin. They're incredibly warm and are often worn over some kind of glove liner. Mushers need the use of their fingers in a hurry when it's time to harness dogs to the sled or unharness them. So glove liners give them a little more dexterity. But choppers keep them warm when they're driving the sled.

Image from Ruffwear blog
Most dogs are born with a claw that sits a little higher than the others on the inside of their lower front legs. They're kind of curved looking and can cause working dogs that spend a lot of time running trouble if they get snagged on the booties or brush. For that reason, the dew claws of most sled dogs are removed when  they're just a few days old.

This word has a couple of meanings:
(1) To remove a dog from the team during a race. Sometimes dogs are just aren't having a good run. They're distracted or tired or grumpy or injured. When that happens, and the dog just can't keep up with the rest of the team or is causing trouble, the musher will "drop" the dog at a check point. In a race like the Iditarod, volunteers care for the dog after the musher has gone back out on the trail and the dogs are flown back to meet up with the musher after the race is finished.
(2) To let the dog relieve itself while its still attached to the vehicle the team is traveling in. Dogs often travel in specially built "dog boxes" that give them just enough space to turn around, but not so much that they can't brace themselves as the truck or car moves. The boxes sit in the bed or a truck or travel on a trailer towed by the musher's vehicle. Because they love to run and are easily distracted to give chase to a critter they consider prey, the dogs remain on a tether that allows them to get out of the box, stretch, and "do their business."

A person who assists mushers with kennel chores and during races. Handlers do a lot of the grunt work, like "scooping" (see below), feeding, watering, replacing straw in the dog houses. During races, they help keep the dogs under control while the musher waits for his or her turn to enter the chute (starting place) for the race. Handlers also drive the vehicles or trailer with the dog boxes to wherever the musher will stop. Being a handler is a great way to learn how to care for sled dogs and, mush, and perhaps even race.

A verbal command the musher gives to the dogs and in particular to the lead dog to keep the line of dogs tight.  Lead dogs understand this command well and will pull tight at the front of the line to prevent any slack in the line that could lead to tangles. 

How mushers keep their dogs' living area -- usually a house and a circle of space -- clean and clear of (no easy way to pup this) poop. The act of scooping usually involves some kind of shovel, maybe a small rake, and a wheel barrel. Yes, it's a nasty job, but someone has to do it. And the up side is getting to visit with the dogs. Where does the product of scooping go? Each musher has his or her own method. Mostly, I've seen  the "deposits" go into a special pit.

Light-weight and sturdy sled designed to give a musher maximum speed and control.

A stable sled that typically has a bed lower to the ground.

WATER (verb)
Provide the dogs water, either in the dog yard or on the trail. It's used as a verb as in "It's time to water the dogs."

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