Last month, we hosted a weekend with Sue Ailsby of Training Levels fame and one of the topics we decided to include was ‘Drafting with your Dog’. My reasons for wanting the seminar were purely selfish – but there were quite a few folks who were also interested which made for a great time.
Sue (and Jill from Regina) arrived with 4 carts and a tangle of harnesses so that most people would have a chance of fitting their dog properly. Sue brought a Powerpoint presentation on carting which described (among other things) the many types of harnesses available, the difference between a cart and a wagon and some of the basic rules of the CKC Draft Dog Test.
Once we learned the theoretical basics we got down to the practical basics of harnessing your dog, getting your dog used to pulling on the traces, teaching the dog that the cart is a good thing, and getting the dog used to pulling alongside the cart shafts. We did not get to hitch dogs up as Sue felt that was best saved for a time when dogs are more familiar with the process and less likely to spook in the shafts.
My primary goals were to have someone who knew about drafting to look at Bear’s harness to ensure that it fit properly. I also wanted to make sure my cart was of an appropriate size and that the shafts were properly placed. Here’s what I learned:
- The harness I ordered was too small around the yoke and rested too high on Bear’s neck. I’m really glad I found this out before hitching Bear to a cart or adding weight. In a great stroke of luck Bear’s harness fit another dog at the seminar perfectly and the dogs mom bought it from me on the spot! I would have been able to return the harness for a small shipping fee but selling it to Jenny meant I could have anew harness in my hands much, much sooner.
- The cart I built is WAY too big and bulky for a Draft Dog Test. There are no specifications for size or dimensions according to the CKC rulebook however there is clearly an advantage to a smaller cart when performing the manoeuvre and figure eight portions of the test.
- My shafts are the right height. They rest mid-body on Bear and allow his legs to move freely. However, the more I look at them, the more I think I may have installed them a bit too wide apart but I’ll make the changes to the size of the cart before I change the shafts.
All in all a great seminar – I learned many things that I would never have been able to learn through blogs, websites an books!
I also found out from Jill that there is going to be a Draft Dog Test in Regina in the Fall of 2012 so now I have a bit of a reason to resize my cart and get Bear hauling over the winter.