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In it for the Long Haul

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132 – June, 2021

By Steve Oppenheimer

Before the era of motor vehicles, if you were a farmer who had no larger draft animals, you used big farm dogs to haul tools across the farm and goods to and from market. In Europe, breeds such as Bernese Mountain Dogs and Rottweilers specialized in draft work while also serving other functions, while Canadians used their mighty Newfoundlands. In the Old Times, the tribes of the American Great Plains often used dogs to haul their goods in travois.

Today, draft work is a fun way to teach your dogs practical skills that people have employed for centuries while keeping them fit. Whether your dog does practical draft work or not, recreational carting is great fun for dogs and people. My Kuvasz have all quickly taken to carting, but in general, it’s wise to introduce your dog to the harness and cart gradually so they get used to having shafts at their sides and a cart rumbling along behind them. If you make it fun, most dogs will soon become enthusiastic. Be patient.

Cart down a quiet street, in a local park, even on a wide sidewalk at a shopping center; children and adults alike will smile and point at the working dog doing its job. Some ask whether it’s a form of exercise, as indeed it is. I very rarely encounter disapproval, but if someone does remark that I shouldn’t “make the dog work like that,” I simply tell them that this is what my dog loves to do—and we cart on.

My dogs sometimes give rides to children, and we delight in offering carting demos at fairs and AKC shows, as well as participating in parades and other public events. When I shop at dog-friendly stores such as Home Depot, where the aisles are wide, I have a dog-powered “shopping cart”—to the delight of store staff and fellow shoppers. At dog shows, my dogs haul our crates and supplies in our wagon.

Rally with a Cart?

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132 – June, 2021

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  • June 2021