How to Steer a Dog Sled

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Steering a dog sled requires a combination of communication with the sled dogs and the use of the sled’s handlebar or “gee pole.”

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to steer a dog sled:

1. Familiarize Yourself with the Sled:

Get acquainted with the components of the sled, including the runners, the basket or sled deck where you stand, and the handlebar or gee pole.

2. Understand Basic Commands:

Learn basic commands that are commonly used in dog sledding. These typically include “Gee” (right turn), “Haw” (left turn), “Easy” or “Whoa” (stop), and “Let’s go” (start or accelerate).

3. Position Yourself on the Sled:

Stand firmly on the runners with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your knees slightly bent to absorb any bumps in the trail.

4. Holding the Handlebar:

The handlebar or gee pole is a crucial steering tool. Hold it with both hands, keeping your hands spaced apart for better control. Your grip should be relaxed but firm.

5. Communicate with Voice Commands:

Use clear and assertive voice commands to direct the sled dogs. When you say “Gee,” it means a right turn, and when you say “Haw,” it indicates a left turn. Repeat the commands consistently to establish communication with the dogs.

6. Leaning and Shifting Weight:

While standing on the runners, shift your weight to one side or the other to help guide the sled through turns. Leaning slightly into a turn can aid in the steering process.

7. Observe the Dogs:

Pay attention to the sled dogs and their behavior. They are trained to respond to voice commands and can also pick up on your body language. Stay attuned to their movements to anticipate their actions.

8. Use the Brake:

Most sleds are equipped with a brake, commonly known as a sled dog brake or snow hook. When you want to slow down or stop, push the brake into the snow with your foot. This provides resistance and helps control the speed of the sled.

9. Practice in an Open Area:

Before embarking on a longer journey or joining a dog sledding tour, practice steering and handling the sled in an open area. Get comfortable with the commands, handling the gee pole, and using the brake.

10. Be Mindful of Trail Conditions:

Adjust your steering techniques based on the trail conditions. Different terrains may require varied approaches to steering, especially when navigating turns or rough patches.

11. Learn from Experienced Mushers:

If possible, learn from experienced mushers or take a guided dog sledding tour. They can provide valuable insights, tips, and hands-on training to improve your sledding skills.

Steering a dog sled involves a combination of clear communication with the sled dogs, proper use of the handlebar, and being responsive to trail conditions.

With practice and experience, you’ll become more adept at maneuvering the sled and enjoying the unique experience of dog sledding. If you are new to dog sledding, check out this article on what to wear dog sledding.

Brownlee, Emma. “5 Tips for Planning a Dog Sled Adventure in Stowe.” Go Stowe,
Halpern, Ashlea. “Mushing Mastered: 7 Lessons From a First-Time Dog Sledder.” Afar Magazine, 25 March. 2019,
“Sleigh-Driving Tips.” Hetta Huskies,
“6 dos and don’ts of dog sledding.” Visit Greenland,

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