The lead dog is the dog’s connection to its owner, it’s used in many situations from training as a puppy to everyday walks. There are different types of leads available depending on your dogs needs, behaviour and size.
A lead is a piece of rope or cord that the dog’s handler uses to control and guide it whilst out on a walk. There are different sizes and styles of leads, but they all have one thing in common – they fasten around the dog’s collar and can be used to guide it as you walk.
Lead dogs are positioned in front of the sled and called leader dogs, they respond to the musher’s commands such as gee (right turn) and haw (left turn). They also help find the trail through deep snow or other conditions. It is important that a lead dog is intelligent, aware of the environment and has a good understanding of what the musher wants from them.
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They have alpha characteristics but it’s more about brains than dominance – they are eager to submit and follow their musher’s orders, especially when the sled is moving quickly. Lead dogs are highly sought after by mushers as they can make a big difference to a team’s performance. It is sometimes seen as a high honour to be a lead dog and it seems there’s almost an ESP between musher and their lead dog. During the Iditarod, it’s not uncommon for a lead dog to be challenged by another dog, and a fight may break out.