Intro to CARTING, with photos

Photos were generously supplied by Dori Likevich.   Ellyn Signet Assisted with this lecture and presentation.  Ellyn has been actively carting with Sean and Tye for a couple of years and is now training with her younger dogs, she has since given carting lectures and demos on her own - for more information about a carting demo or lecture for your club please email either of us for more information

Sharyl Mayhew (me), or Ellyn Signet

This Page will take some time to load as there are many pictures.  This Page will give an Introductory Demo with photos on how to get started with teaching your dog to cart and do draft work.  I have given many lectures and clinics all over the country on Draft Training, I have co-judged at Draft Trials and Draft Matches and I have been actively participating in Training, Demos, Seminar, Clinics and Trials since late 1991.  This is an activity that the dogs really enjoy and when introduced properly very few dogs and trainers have much difficulty learning the steps.  It is of course, much easier to teach in person, but for these beginning steps, I think everyone can get started from here.  The key is Patience.

Step one:  See your veterinarian before starting any physical activity with your dog or puppy.  Make sure your dog is in good health and structurally capable of doing what you are asking of him/her.  You can start puppies down the right path for draft work by doing all the steps leading up to hooking them into the cart, anything short of pulling weight.  Any weight should be introduced only to mature, physically fit dogs (at least 18 months old and preferably 24 months old for the large draft breeds). 

Step two:  make sure you have some minimal control over your puppy/dog, i.e. if you grab your dog by the collar or body to keep him from spooking, will he panic more?  will he try to bite you??  Make sure your dog trusts you and will stop if you say "stop" and will hold still if you take hold of him to help him hold still even if he gets scared.   If your dog is very fearful or likely to bite -- work on confidence building exercises first, before trying to introduce harness, traces, drags, etc.  For example, Don't put a fearful rescue dog that doesn't know you in a position to panic, you might get hurt and he/she might get hurt. 

Okay, here we go, first you need to make the dog happy, you can start working even without owning a harness, in fact if you have a puppy, don't go out and buy your harness yet, wait until you have an idea how big he will be, before you get a harness (although DogWorks sells a completely adjustable harness for growing or multiple dogs- see links to DogWorks for supplies at the end of this page)... If you have a Harness, put it on the dog, be happy, use lots of treats, this should not be a struggle, if the dog is not HAPPY wearing the harness, play with him while he has it on, feed him and then take it off, that is enough to start with.  Each time you put it on, do only fun things, and then take it off before he is tired of playing.  He will start to associate the harness with FUN, good now you can do anything!!

demchharn.jpg (43842 bytes) This is me and Chuck E. at a Demo in 1996 at the National Specialty for GSMD in PA (at the Gerner's).  Chuck E. is almost 9 months old in these photos and I used him to demonstrate how to start a "green" dog.  We put the harness on and walk around a little feeding tidbits as we went.  then we attached the traces and let him pull those to get used to the traces tickling his legs and sides.  You can do this step even without your harness, just attach two long leashes to either side of your dog's collar and voila, faux traces!

After your dog is completely at ease with wearing the harness and the traces --and all along you are teaching your dog to walk nicely on lead not pulling nor lagging and he/she should slow down and stop on verbal commands at this point, try to use the lead very little, try to train them to pay attention to your voice, not the tension on the leash, as the leash is not very useful once they are hooked and in the cart.  The next step is:  

Attach empty milk jugs to the long traces and have the dog pull those around.  Go in a straight line at first, if the dog doesn't look back or seem to notice he is pulling anything, start to make a wide arcing turn, if and when he notices the jugs, praise him if he continues going along happily with you, praise him for noticing and dealing with it!! demchjugs.jpg (45601 bytes)

*** If however, he notices and then startles or starts to panic, immediately stop him by his collar and your other hand on his flank.  Say "ENOUGH" and then start to move almost immediately, praising as you go, go three steps and take the jugs/traces off and do something fun.  Each time, stop the dog from reacting in fear but don't accidently pet him or soothe him for being afraid, that will just teach him to do it more often for the attention.  Stop the behavior, move on and praise for the positive, confident three steps or ten or whatever he can do-but don't push him too fast too soon.  If you do, you will have a harder time getting that dog to ever trust and work well in the cart. 

demchbmp.jpg (45636 bytes) Okay, the next step you need someone to help you, you walk your dog wearing the harness but otherwise no traces or jugs, you have your friend walk along beside you pulling the cart by the poles.  Your friend will say softely to you as you are walking along..."now" and then bump your dog with the poles - gently as they would bump if he were pulling the Cart.

At precisely the time your friend bumps your dog, you say "Good" and pop a treat into his mouth (small tiny tidbit) and THIS IS IMPORTANT--Keep moving, don't stop and let him THINK about that pole that just smacked into him, keep moving and a few steps later, yrou friend will say "now" and then bump, you repeat the process.   Soon your dog will LOVE it when the cart bumps him, he will be anticipating goodies and thinking about walking and chewing and goodies and not thinking at ALL about being bumped by the poles/shafts. 

Also, turn around and walk your dog on your RIGHT side the "off" side for most dogs and have your friend repeat the process going and bumping from the other side, this is when you see MOST dogs that are going to react, react.  Make sure you are ready to "ENOUGH" and then move on, happy, happy, treat, treat.  Make if FUN FUN FUN!!!

Once your dog enjoys and actually LOVES this activity you can start to hook the small practice cart or even your larger cart to the traces, go forward with the cart hooked to the dog only in a straight line at first, take him out of it and do something else (something boring like stays for a little bit) then put him back into the cart and do a few more steps and a slow arcing turn (always have a person to help you at this point), praise him if he notices the cart, stop him if he starts to worry about it, take three sucessful steps, remove him from the cart and quit on a positive note. 

chdemo.jpg (50435 bytes) Feeding them while they are being bumped, and introduced to the cart banging behind them, reinforces their cooperation and confidence.  They don't get the treat if they are acting afraid and most of our dogs are soooo cookie motivated that they don't even realize they could be afraid, they just go with the flow.

That is why we try to really really praise and pop a tidbit in at the split second they realize the jugs or a cart is following them.  They see it and then get rewarded for their bravery, they think, "nothing bad can happen, they are serving dinner here".  The younger you start to show them this way, the more confidence they have.  Don't be too over sure of your dog, however, if at first he doesn't seem to care one way or another about the cart, make sure you are always paying attention and have someone to help you should your dog suddenly startle or panic -- for they can twist in the harness and poles and hurt themselves and all around them severely, if they panic and throw that cart around into people and/or get tied up and tangled in the harness and traces and poles!!  GO slow, be careful and they will show you when they are confident enough to do this in public with Distractions. 

More to come.........

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