For the last ten years I have been teaching basic obedience. In an effort to expand my repertoire I have added carting to my class schedule. I became acquainted with carting through the Newfoundland Club of Seattle and our ownership to two Newfoundlands. There are, however, a few steps between acquaintance and teaching a class. Here are the steps I took in creating a carting class.
First my husband, John, and I taught our two Newfoundland to pull carts. Cart pulling is also referred to as draft work. I read the book Newfoundland Draft Work, Second Edition by Consie Powell. I watched two different videos on draft work; An introduction to Canine Carting with Beth Ostrander and Carting with Cheryl Dondino. As I watched and read, I took notes on the flow and content of these instructional materials. With my notes in hand I started creating my lesson plan.
Some of the things I wondered about were: How long will the classes last; 4, 5, or 6 weeks? What equipment will I need to have on hand? Can small and large dogs alike enjoy carting? To answer these questions I asked a few of my friends to be my guinea pigs and participate in a run-through of my classes. I taught one of the classes in the morning and another that evening. Any changes that were needed in the lesson I made and then used in the evening class. (The morning dogs were a Newfoundland, Malamute, and Leonburger; and the evening dogs were a Newfoundland, Great Dane, and Malamute.)
We covered all the basics in four weeks of lessons. The owners would need to continue the draft work on their own at home. Briefly this is what was covered in each lesson.
In Lesson One, we went over the equipment needed for carting, such as the different types of harnesses and carts that are available. I explained the importance of conditioning for the dog who is now going to be doing physical labor and how to get started on an exercise program. Basic control was practiced and areas that needed work were discovered. Along with the Lesson One handout, each student was given a catalog from Dog Works, Inc. that carries a full line of harnesses and carts and anything else you might need to get started.
Lesson Two consisted of review of basic control, first without, and then with, the harness. The handlers and their dogs started learning the commands needed for draft work, such as backing up, close, whoa or stop, and right and left turn. By this time the dogs were comfortable in their harnesses so we first had them pull empty traces and then a lightweight drag. Some of the dogs started pulling with no problems and others needed more reassurance and practice in the privacy of their own homes.
Lesson Three consisted of reviewing the new carting commands and continuing work with the dogs pulling. This is where the dogs started progressing at different rates. Some of the dogs by the end of this lesson were happily pulling a cart, while others were still pulling a lightweight drag and getting used to an item following them everywhere they went.
Lesson Four was more practice of the carting commands (no carts) using an obstacle course. We finished off the lesson with the dogs being hooked to the carts and pulling the carts through my neighborhood. Of the six dogs that took the course, four were reliably and eagerly pulling a cart by the end of this lesson. The two dogs that were not pulling a cart by this time needed more time, although they enjoyed their harnesses and were doing very well with the carting commands.
I had three carts for us to use during the classes and three harnesses, that seemed like plenty of equipment for starters. Class size will be limited to four dogs and it was very helpful having John help. I think you would need an assistant especially once you started having the dog get into the carts.
A “real” class starts next week and the canine students are a : Miniature Schnauzer, Lhasa Apso mix, and a Miniature Dachshund. The harnesses and carts have been made and I can’t wait! We should all have fun and doesn’t that sound like a cute group to be seen cart pulling?
To order the items mentioned in this article contact:
Cheryl Dondino at Harmony Enterprises, 20600 SW Johnson, Aloha, OR 97006 (503) 591-9187 to order her carting video: or Dog Works, Inc., RR 3 317 Curvin Circle, Stewartstown, PA 17363 (800) 787-2788 for their catalog, the Consie Powell book or the Beth Ostrander carting video.
©1996 Carol Cronan (Gannaway)