How To Be an Expert Athletic Supporter at Dog Sled Races

Kevin Roberts
by Kevin Roberts
Got plans this weekend? If there’s snow on the ground, why not take in a local dog sled race? Kevin Roberts has an essential checklist of what you need to know before cheering the dog teams on.

Dog sled race season is here, and if you can’t tell, I’m super excited! If you have snow, chances are you have dog sled races taking place near you. Even if there’s no snow, die-hards hold dry land races, where you’ll watch wheeled rigs whiz by. Mushers love their dogs, and dogs and mushers both love this sport. There’s no question that dog sledding is a passion, a passion that mushers are happy to share with spectators. Before you head over to cheer on the racers, read my tips on how to make the best out of your spectating sport.

Know What to Expect

Sleds dogs are athletes. They’re athletes who are conditioned, trained, and are literally born to run! You aren’t going to see any fat dogs, and the dogs may even be smaller than you expected. Don’t be surprised if you see dogs who look skinny. That’s not a skinny dog – he’s a lean, mean, mushing machine.

The dogs are here for one reason: to race. This race may be the result of years of training and hard work. Respect the dogs, and stay out of their way. While they’re happy, friendly dogs, these mushers are focused and getting ready to work. Don’t ask to pet them or approach them. Let the musher and the dogs settle into their race routine. Part of the fun of watching a race is observing how each team gets ready and organized. A successful musher knows that winning a race starts well before the clock starts.

Related: How to Cheat Death When Kicksledding

A dog sled race can be a hectic, noisy place. There are going to be trucks, dogs and people all over the place. Things might seem chaotic, but there is an organized plan to all of this. Look for a crowd of spectators and join them. Chances are they’ll know the racers and fill you in with some interesting tidbits.


Plan to park and walk to the race site. Save the close spots for people who really need them. The race handlers, volunteers and organizers are counting on the primo parking spots in order to support the racers. Be a good sport – park closer to the back and enjoy the walk. Besides, walking warms you up, and you need a little extra heat in this kind of weather.

Spectator Provisions

You’ll want to bring a camera, because there is going to be a lot of amazing shots to take (and share on social media!). Bring some extra money, as some races will have everything from a canteen to souvenirs. Watching most races are free, but on occasion parking may cost money.

Defiantly bring a thermos of something warm to drink. Ensure the lid is secure, and store it upside down. An upside down thermos keeps all the hot liquid down at the bottom, so the lid isn’t going to be frozen shut on you. Just check that your thermos doesn’t leak before you leave home.

Listen to your mother and plan to dress for the weather. Races are rarely cancelled if it’s too cold or for a snow day. The more layers you have, the more warm air will be trapped around your body, keeping you warm. A nylon shell will block the wind and keep you dry. Dress for standing around – thick socks, and quality boots insulate you from the cold ground.

Related: Dogs Get A Kick Out Of Kicksledding

Everyone at the race loves dogs, but the racing dogs really don’t need the distraction of a spectator dog watching the show. Leave your pooch at home for this event. Sled dogs have been conditioned and trained for this environment, and this might simply be too exciting (and cold) for your dog. A seasoned racer needs to focus on the race at hand, not worry about a fan sniffing his butt!

If you like what you see, know that there are lots of ways to get involved with race events in the future. From parking attendants to chute handlers, every race is only as good as its volunteers. Contact the organizers via e-mail or social media to offer your assistance for next year. Hitting them up digitally allows them to keep track of your information and to contact you at their own convenience. Just know that mushing is a slippery slope. One year you might be helping direct traffic in the parking area, and the next you might be racing your own team!

Photo credit: Kamchatka-Peninsula; pljvv; salajean/Bigstock

Kevin Roberts
Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts lives for adventure. Together with his pack of rescue dogs and his husband, he spends as much time outdoors as possible. Kevin lives by the motto: "Get outside and play with your dogs!

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