Features December 2009 Issue

Dog Carting and Draft Training

In this case, it's a good thing!

What do you envision when someone says “draft work“? What probably comes to mind are horses, mules, oxen, and other large “beasts of burden.” Think again. Since the 18th and 19th centuries, dogs have assisted humans by hauling wagons and carts across fields and through towns. Dogs have delivered milk and mail, hauled the day’s catch of fish from boat to town, and even hauled lumber in lumber camps. This heritage forms the basis upon which the sport of carting was built by a variety of breed clubs. Between the 1970s and 1990s interest in the sport grew; the St. Bernard folks offered their first competition in 1988, and Bernese Mountain Dog fans added theirs in 1991. The natural inclination of dogs to pull has been literally harnessed by a variety of people through the years. Put backward pressure on a leash and collar, and most dogs will pull forward. Take that “opposition reflex” and a nice, padded harness, and you can see where this is going. Forward, of course! Sledding. Weight pulling. Sulky driving. Skijoring. Carting. Some of these activities are still used to help humans with important tasks. Sled dogs have delivered critical medicines in the dead of winter. Service dogs pull wheelchairs. And some dogs show off their carting skills during public demonstrations and therapy dog visits. This sport has a very practical aspect to it. If you are creative, I’m sure there are tasks around home that you can find for your carting dog.

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