A great lead dog a crucial component to having a great dog team. A lead dog is the dog or pair of dogs at the very front of a dog team who listens to the musher’s commands and helps guide the team down the trail. Although a musher should always retain control of a dog team, the lead dog is the key ingredient to success. That is why they are often the most well-known dogs in a team or kennel and why many races choose to honor their contribution through various awards like the Golden Harness award in Iditarod, which usually goes to the winning lead dogs.
There are many famous lead dogs, like Togo and Batlo from the 1925 serum run. These lead dogs helped bring crucial medicine to the village of Nome during a notorious blizzard thus saving countless lives. Then there are the famous lead dogs of Iditarod racers such as Granite, who belonged to Susan Butcher and Zorro who belonged to Lance Mackey. More recent famous lead dogs include Brent Sass‘ dog Silver, who did such an amazing job helping not only his team but other teams over a notorious stretch of trail in the Yukon Quest not just one year but multiple years that they named an award after him.
Great lead dogs have taught us a number of things about what it takes to be a truly successful person. It doesn’t matter the circumstances surrounding them, great lead dogs simply figure out a way to get their job done through a combination of focus, determination, and readiness. There is a lot to be learned from a determined lead dog who will stop at nothing to conquer the trail.
Focus on the Task At Hand
A great lead dog does not get distracted but remains focused on leading their team down the trail. It doesn’t matter if the team is traveling down the crowded streets of downtown Anchorage during the ceremonial start of Iditarod, if they are passing a team that is camped along the side of the trail, or if there are a bunch of camera men in their faces shooting a scene for a television show: a great lead dog will ignore these distractions and continue down the trail.
Successful people identify the tasks they need to accomplish in order to achieve a goal and they get them done. They do not make excuses or get distracted. They are able to keep their end goal in mind and focus on the tasks that will help them get closer to achieving their goal. By clearly identifying their goal, they are able to achieve it despite distractions.
Get Excited By Challenges
Any lead dog can run down a good trail but great lead dogs handle adverse conditions very differently. When the going gets tough, a great lead dog digs deep and gets going. They find challenges such as storms or wind-blown trail exciting. Great lead dogs thrive in adverse conditions. Rather than getting frustrated, a great lead dog enjoys a difficult trail because it challenges them.
Maintain A Spirit Of Optimism
A great lead dog stays enthusiastic about their job. Whether they show that optimism by barking and screaming, shouting their excitement or in their willingness to simply get up and go after only a short rest. A great lead dog never loses faith regardless of circumstances.
Develop Deep Bonds
Because of the intensity of training required to be a lead dog, lead dogs often form some of the deepest bonds with their musher. Their musher relies heavily upon them in times of need and they in turn rely on their musher to take care of them. The bond between musher and lead dog is that of profound trust and respect. Great lead dogs know that their mushers will take care of them — it’s what helps see them steadily through the toughest of trails. They know that their musher will ultimately do right by them and care for them.
Do More Than What’s Asked Of
A great lead dog somehow always manages to do more than what’s expected of them. Whether it’s fearlessly leading their team through a fierce blizzard or running up front for the entirety of a race, a great lead dog somehow never ceases to impress. They always find a way.
We have learned a lot about what it means to be successful because of the drive and devotion our sled dogs show us. They never cease to amaze us; our great dogs have turned us into better humans.