A new adventure – carting!

(Picture from an archive of historical dog photos, sorry, I don’t remember which!)
I’ve dabbled in carting and dog scootering before, but I decided that now that I have a new victim, I mean volunteer, who is small enough to actually RIDE in a collie-drawn cart, I really should get on with training it in a systematic way and work on some draft dog titles. (The American Working Collie association offers a Carting Dog and Carting Dog Excellent title progression, although I have to find out the requirements after I get my membership.). I’ve really enjoyed reading Liz Palika’s posts about the carting classes she offers at Kindred Spirits and carting with her Aussie Bashir on Pet Connection, so I decided to get off my butt and get started.

Carting as a sport is mostly associated with the larger European breeds that included carting as part of their historical duties- Bernese Mountain Dogs, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, Saint Bernards, and Bouviers. Newfoundlands, Lagatto Romanos, and Rotties also historically did some cart pulling as part of their historical work. But any dog can do it (although small dogs are pretty limited in what they can pull), and there’s a lot of historical dog artwork and photos showing dogs of all breed pulling small carts and wagons. A lot of these feature collies- not terribly surprising, given the popularity of collies as a family pet in the late 19th and early 20th century, when a lot of these illustrations and photos were made! (It’s a little bit like how the ‘generic family pet’ in today’s advertisements is pretty likely to be a lab or a golden.)

Figures for what a dog can pull safely in a cart vary. Unlike weight pull, where the dog is only hauling a load a very short distance (30′, if I recall correctly.) and can safely pull 25 times their weight or greater (Toby the Strong, a Chinese Crested, routinely pulls 133x his body weight of 14 pounds!), carting dogs are pulling the weight over greater distances, stopping and starting, turning, and for a greater period of time. The figures I have read assume between 40% of their own body weight (which seems very low to me) and 2-3x their body weight, depending on conditioning and conformation. Kaylee is 50-odd pounds in lean condition. I’d really like to put more muscle tone on her, and as part of my recovery from surgery and plan for getting more fit myself, I’m hoping to improve her conditioning as well as my own. So a lightweight cart with a bag of dog food, or garden supplies- or groceries- isn’t at all out of the question. And I’d really like to advertise Dogstar Academy’s versatile dog philosophy (and add carting classes in the future once I’m more experienced myself) by walking in one of the christmas parades with a dog-drawn cart/float.

In my previous experience, we didn’t use a cart with traces- I used an x-back harness and a gangline, more like a dog sled or bikejoring is set up. I’m not sure if I want to change this- there are some real advantages to a cart with traces, but from a training stand point, the gangline is an awful lot easier to teach and condition. I’ve had Kaylee assist with pulling my dolly at dog shows in a makeshift setup this way, and it worked pretty well other than some steering issues.

Time to experiment and go train!

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