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The ins and outs of sled dog racing

The Lake Minnetonka Klondike Dog Derby Race Director fills us in on sled dog racing ahead of Sunday's race in Excelsior.

EXCELSIOR, Minn. — Bethany Hway is the Founder and Race Director of the Lake Minnetonka Klondike Dog Derby

She knows a thing or two about the sport. 

"I rode a sled before I learned how to ride a bike," Bethany says. 

Her dad raced when she was growing up and even competed in the Iditarod in Alaska. 

So, no one better to get us all up to speed on sled dog racing. 

First, that person riding on the sled is called a musher. 

"Most of these mushers are raising their own team," Bethany says. "Getting to the start line with eight qualified dogs is years of work."

The connection between those dogs and their musher is key.

"You really have to have a good lead dog out there who's going to hear your voice commands," Bethany says. "There's no reigns or anything like that – this is all voice command."

If you're along the race course on Sunday in Excelsior, here are some of the commands to listen up for:

"'Gee' for right and 'Haw' for left. 'Hike' means go," says Bethany. "'Woah' is to get the dogs to stop."

Bethany says that getting them to stop is a lot more work than getting them to go because it's literally in their DNA to pull. That's why you might notice that the starting line can be a little intense. 

"Most people are shocked at how noisy it is," Bethany says. "They are barking, they are rearing to go, there are handlers who are leading the teams to the start and also holding them back. I mean, the physical power of a sled dog team coming to the start of the race is impressive."

For Sunday's Lake Minnetonka Klondike Dog Derby there are eight dogs on each team, which means there are over 250 in town ready to compete. 

"It's really fun. There's nothing quite like it," says Bethany.

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