by Paula Cingota, Summerfield Rottweilers

It hasn’t been so very long ago that dogs pulled carts and did draught work for their owners. In fact, the many residents of European countries could not have done their chores without the help of the dog.

The milk went from the milking sheds to market, wood was hauled from the cord-stack to the home, and even small children were delivered to Sunday School in the dog cart.

The popularity of dog carting is returning, but as a pastime, not working necessity. With carting, taking a dog for a walk has the family members rushing to be home first to take the dog out.

Training your dog to the cart is not only simple, although it takes time and patience, but also your choices are limitless. You may train your dog to pull you, take out the garbage, carry wood, take all of you dog show equipment and his to the ring, give your children fun rides, carry the groceries, or just have fun spending more time with your favorite companion. Oh! Let’s not forget the carting competitions now frequently held by ARC.

As in many things one may train a dog to do, the proper temperament of the dog in question makes the given task much easier. Even the dog whose temperament is flawed in some way can still, in some instances, learn to perform as we wish.

I would look most for a dog that is calm and trusting, relatively unaffected by sudden noises, vibrations and distractions. I say “relatively” because a dog that has an extremely high pain threshold and/or is so calm as to be best described as “permanently out to lunch” mentally is not going to react either instinctively or by reason of trained experiences in a safe manner if and when things don’t go as planned. Although I have trained dogs that would panic at the slightest noise or sudden movement and they were dependable cart dogs, however they did require a long time to train.

Dependability is the key word. That is what you want in your dog, no matter what is in his cart, empty, a load or you. After you have selected your dog or have decided to train the one you have to cart, you need a carting vocabulary. There are advantages to well thought out commands. Careful examination is needed from the standpoint of sound quality, syllable structure and other commands the dog has been taught to obey. If you are dealing with a dog that is untrained (green, no obedience), his working vocabulary may be so small that there will be no conflicts. The goal in training a dog to do anything and everything is to stimulate his mind to its maximum development and to develop the relationship between the dog and handler or owner. I hope you have similar goals.

The carting dog needs seven basic commands: forward, left, right, back, slow, fast, and stop. When you develop your vocabulary, try not to use duplicate words or close sounds with different meaning, such as go as a forward command in carting. You may use it later on in training this same dog in the directed jumping exercise where the dog must go back to the end of the ring. I don’t recommend “halt”, especially for the heavily obedience trained animal, since he is constantly exposed to that word with the connotation of sitting afterwards. A good basic vocabulary is: pull, left, right, back, easy, (for slow), hustle and stop.

You can teach this to your dog on a leash with his regular training collar on without a cart. Encourage the dog to move out in front of you. This will make it easier to start the driving with you behind the cart and eventually in it. But for right now, you should be content with making your dog comfortable with his new commands and immediately responsive to them.

Now that your dog has a new set of commands, you may bring the cart home and introduce him to it slowly. This is truly the key. Take everything slowly, introduce new things at a moderate pace, let every new thing sink in. I always start a new carting dog on concrete or asphalt, as it is the smoothest and least noisy. After the dog is steady on the concrete and maneuvering the cart without complaint, take him to the park and take him from surface to different surface, grass to concrete to wood to grass. Started and trained with love and a firm, understanding hand, you will have a dog that LOVES to cart. Get out there and enjoy!

Paula started carting with her dogs in 1985. She designed the cart that is in most of my pictures. She is more than willing to help any and everyone learn to cart. She teaches classes in San Diego and along with her students, she educates the public in Balboa park. With only one lesson, Paula had me and my dog hooked. He was pulling the cart willingly and we were both well on our way.