If you’re like me, you grew up associating dog sledding with the oft-heard command “Mush!” After all, there’s a reason they’re called “mushers.” Perhaps you saw it in a movie. Jack London uses the command in The Call of the Wild. According to Wikipedia, its derivation is the French-Canadian command “Marche! which means “Go!” or “Run!” English-Canadians may have heard this as “Mush!” and before you know it English-speaking sledders everywhere became mush-mouths.

Today, the more commonly used command for dogs to go is “Hike!” (don’t ask me its derivation), or, more simply, “Let’s go!” Sled dogs don’t need a lot of incentive to go–they’re usually bursting out of their harnesses when they sense it’s time–so a musher could probably use any command. “Purple azaleas!” might work just as well. Or “Discount checking!”

Here’s a list of commonly used musher commands.

Hike! Let’s go! All right! Commands to go.

Gee! Command to turn right.

Haw! Command to turn left.

Come gee! Command to turn right 180-degrees.

Come haw! Command to turn left 180-degrees.

Straight ahead! Obvious.

Easy! Command to slow down.

Whoa! Command to stop.

Trail! Request to other mushers to have the right-of-way on a trail.

Line out! Command telling lead dogs to pull the team straight out away from the sled. It is usually used while hooking dogs up to the gangline. has a complete list of mushing terminology and definitions here:

So, what are you waiting for? Go grab your dog and a leash and give it a try with your bicycle or skateboard. (Toy dogs not recommended.)

Categories: History and background | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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