As a Newfoundland breeder with a special interest in dog carting I am often asked what criteria I use to select a pup as a potential draft dog. My answer comes in three parts and the second part usually surprises people.
Since the 1800’s there has been fascination with three wheeled draft vehicles for dogs to power. One of the most unique is this tricycle from France in 1875. The back wheels were like giant hamster wheels with the dogs inside of them. Fortunately this didn’t catch on but similar devices were patented in both France and the USA.
Modern day wagons tend to have 10 inch diameter wheels although there are some with 13 inch wheels. The smaller wheels on a wagon means more rolling resistance which causes the dog or dogs pulling it to have to work harder. However the four wheels of a wagon make it a more stable platform and this enables greater versatility both in terms of types of cargo and for jazzing up the appearance.
On land the Newfoundland dog is almost as good as they get as a draft dog probably only surpassed by the Bernese Mountain Dog. However in the water he is in a class all by himself both for strength and endurance.
One of the biggest hurdles for newcomers to carting and other forms of draft work with dogs is the terminology used. For amateur cart builders this is especially so. For example when someone starts to make their own cart for the first time, they see the pivoting bar but not knowing the purpose, may ignore it in their construction. However, if they know it has a name (whiffle tree), they would be more likely to do their research and find out why other cart makers took the trouble to install such a device.
Winter in Canada can be special for you and your draft dog. Our native people developed vehicles for the winter long before Europeans came to this continent. These vehicles have survived to this day both in their original form and in evolutionary forms. When one thinks of a fundamental winter vehicle, a sled often comes(…)
A good way to start dog carting is with a wagon rather than a cart. First it is much less expensive to get a wagon and the wagon has other uses as well. For the handler, less knowledge is needed as balance and tipping are not issues with a wagon. It is also easier to(…)
The regulations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 give all encompassing access for service animals without them needing to come from a professional service animal institution. This is important as a dog trained for carting or other draft work can easily be taught at home to pull a wheelchair or act as a living cane. Some Newfoundlands even do this instinctively with only some minor practice needed.
Demeanour is not a word normally used in dog training but it has a special place in dog carting. By demeanour I am referring to the dog’s outward bearing. It should noticeably change as the dog is harnessed and hitched to an apparatus. The exception would be for canines that are super calm at all times, who would not be incensed at the sight of a squirrel running across their path or throwing broken nut shells down at them. For the majority of dogs, as you attach them to the cart, they should become visibly aware of a difference in their status and much more alert to their handler.
Ever since I saw a young lady in a wheelchair at the US National Specialty Show in 2003 being pulled all over the site by her Newfoundland dog I have been fascinated by this modern adaptation of canine draft work. This wonderful Newf was a true service dog and I couldn’t have been more proud of our breed.