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Lesson: The Back Up In Cart

Lesson: The Back Up In Cart

Many draft tests will require your dog to back out of cart and to back in cart. The length of the back can vary from 1 foot to 5 feet, but just to be safe, teach your dog to back 20 feet. Teaching your dog to back is an unnatural behavior, and there are countless ways to teach a dog to back. I only explained a couple in this video, and I may be updating it with other methods over time.

Lesson: Turns, Side Stepping, 360s, and 90 degree turns

Lessons: Turns, Spirals, Side Step, 360s, and Navigating a 90 degree turn

Teaching a dog to turn in cart is a long process, and I urge you take your time with this.  Pushing a dog further than it is comfortable may cause the dog to lose confidence or spook in cart.  I start teaching turns by making large spirals in the cart.  Sometimes the radius of such spirals begin at 50 yards.  Once the dog is comfortable doing smaller circles (~20 ft in radius), I will start to teach a dog to turn and to perform side steps.  Once a dog can side step, I teach the dog how to do 360 turns.  Here’s two videos demonstrating how to teach a turn and how to navigate a 90 degree turn.

Teaching a dog to turn and perform 360s

Navigating a 90 degree turn

Lesson: Harnesses, Harnessing, and Hitching

Lesson: Harnesses, Harnessing, and Hitching
Here’s a video on harnesses and harnessing.  I may make other videos  with more details, but here’s the basics to get you started.

Here’s a video on hitching your dog from a sit position.  It works the  same way from a stand position.  Mouse just happened to be sitting. 

Balancing this Front Heavy Cart

This cart showed up at a training session, and the owners had a problem.  The judge at the previous test deemed this cart unbalanced.  How could an empty cart be unbalanced?  Upon further inspection, it was noted that the shafts on this cart were particularly heavy, and thus, it put a substantial amount of weight in the front of the cart (in front of the axle).   To balance this cart, we added a counter weight.  That might seem odd, but we added the counter weight BEHIND the axle, thus, balancing the cart on both sides of the axle. 

The best way to do it would have been to measure the weight of the shafts, and then to add that exact weight to the back section of the cart.  This was a quick way to solve the issue for now.



What’s Wrong with these Rigs?

Over the years, as a participant, judge, or steward, I’ve seen a variety of mistakes that have caused people to fail out of a draft test.  The following are photos of what might be overlooked during harnessing.  Now, I haven’t made all these mistakes, but I’ve made some.  The others were stories from other judges.  Sometimes when people get nervous, flustered, or frustrated, they tend to forget to check over the entire done before indicating to the judge that harnessing is complete.  Always double check! 







Social Media has gone to the dogs!

Social Media has gone to the dogs.  After training, showing, handling, and judging dogs for eight years, social media and dogs have their similarities in concepts and behaviors.  *Note: This post is mostly intended to be humorous.  Don’t be too offended.  Also, Happy 8th Birthday to @Mousethedog!

1. Classical conditioning is an old dog training principle.  Classical conditioning is simply the pairing and associating of two things.  In Pavlov’s case, his dog associated a bell with dog food which lead to drooling.  Eventually, the dog would begin to drool with sound of the bell even in the absence of food.  In dog training, the trainer should always be in a cheerful mood regardless of what the dog is doing (much easier said than done).  The dog will associate the trainer with cheerfulness and other good things.  If the trainer is always angry and upset, the dog will begin to associate the trainer with angry and upset feelings.  It isn’t hard to figure out why some dogs avoid their owners in this case. 

If your Twitter voice and Facebook posts are always unhappy and angry, people will stop following you.  You are a debbie downer, a stick in the mud, an angry cloud on a sunshiny day.  On the other hand, if your Twitter voice and Facebook posts are always cheerful and happy, people might start to associate you with positive emotions, engage with you more, and tend to follow you.  Classically condition people to like you, not to run away from you. 

2. Everyone wants to chew on the new toys until it is broken.  Dogs love to play with new toys until they are un-stuffed and shredded.  Just give a group of dogs a fuzzy stuffed toy and check back in a few weeks to see if you can find the parts of the stuffed toy.  This is the same thing with social media tools.  Today, Twitter is big.  It is so popular that it fail whales frequently.  Everyone wants to play with Twitter, and now we’ve broken it.  Tweets have gone missing. Twitter search is a joke.  While the Twitter toy has lasted a couple of years so far, how much longer under social media gets a new toy?  Other examples of broken toys include the iphone.  AT&T’s network (especially in San Francisco and Austin) just can’t support iphone users anymore.  Looks like the HTC Evo 4G is the new toy. 

3. In dog training, like social media, there’s not only one single right way to do things (many wrongs as well).  There’s countless numbers of dog training methods, and there are also countless numbers of social media strategies and tactics.  Different methods for different dogs.  My big dog doesn’t respond well to repetition methods.  He gets bored.  However, my little dog loves doing the same exercise over and over again, especially when she is very confident about her performance.  Different social media strategies for different audiences.  In social media, hard selling or spamming on Twitter usually get you a kick in the pants.  You’ll probably also get blocked.  However, hard selling or spamming in the adult website industry probably works considering how many wind up in my spam box. 

4. In dogs, they all want to sniff the newbie’s butt.  Who’s that new dog at the park?  What’s his story? Should I pee on him?  In social media, we all tend to google and search for dirt on new users.  Who’s that new blogger?  Has anyone ever met that newbie with only 3 followers?  Before you get started in social media, be sure that you clean up your Facebook and Myspace (may it rest in peace) accounts.  No one needs to find that photo of you doing a keg stand in your sister’s bikini and high heels when sniffing your online butt.

5. Dogs breeds were developed with certain innate characteristics over hundreds of years.  Border collies love to chase moving objects.  Daschunds love to dig.  Huskies love to pull.  You can try to train them to not engage in those behaviors, but the dogs like to do what they like to do.  Your audience has innate characteristics.  They like what they like, and you can try to change it, but good luck.  If psychologists knew how to consistently and reliably invoke attitude and behavior change, we would have put an end to drug abuse, unsafe sex practices, and unhealthy eating habits.  We’re still working on those. 

6. Motivation.  Dogs wake up in the morning wanting to pee on things, eat cat poop, slobber on the couch, and hump stuffed animals (maybe not in that order).  They are dogs after all, and that’s what they are motivated to do.  Users wake up in the morning and look for interesting news, follow new users, and play Farmville.  Face it.  They don’t wake up saying, “I would LOVE to spend my time writing a blog post about your product!”  Dogs have different motivations than their handlers.  Consumers have different motivations than businesses.  While your business might have fans who like your products, they aren’t as motivated as you are to stay afloat. 

7. Be genuine.  Dogs can smell a fake from a mile away.  They can read your body language much better than humans can.  Users can also smell a fake on social media as well.  You can’t put up a fake front for long.  We’ll call you out!

8. Dog training and social media never ends.  I get asked frequently how long it took to train my dogs.  My reply is, “It never ends.”  The notion that one can take a dog through few obedience courses and get a well-behaved dog is pretty far from the truth.  Training a dog happens is a never ending process, especially if they are trained for performance activities.  Training lasts a lifetime.  Successful social media also never ends.  I’ve been asked “How long do we have to use Twitter? When do we are we finished with social media?”  The answer is: Unless your business or your internet presence ceases to exists, social media should not end.  Social media tools may come and go, but hopefully the social part never ends. 

What’s the difference between drafting, carting, and weight pull?

Most people I know use drafting and carting interchangeably. Drafting or
carting is usually pulling a cart, wagon, or travois. These apparatuses have
shafts and brakes so that the rig can be maneuvered through turns. IMO,
drafting or carting (whichever term one prefers to use) is not about sheer
weight, but rather about how well the dog and handler can maneuver a cart to do
everyday farm activities.

Weight pull is the activity that involves heavy duty pulling. During weight
pull competitions there are no shafts, and the goals is to test how much weight
a dog can pull. The weight can be either on a cart(wheels or rails) or on a
sled on snow. Weight pull carts and sleds do not have shafts as the goal is not
about maneuverability, but about weight pull only. For people who do use their
dogs on the farm to do work, I usually hear the terms hauling or pulling. I
only hear the specific term weight pull when speaking about the sport.

Just to make things confusing, it is common to cross train dogs in both sports
to improve both sports. My dogs are active in both drafting/carting and weight
pull. I might have my dog pull a 100 lb load in his draft cart to train for
weight pull for a miles to build endurance. Or I might have might dog
participate in weight pull to build up strength and confidence.

To make things even more confusing, if you look through breed club rules and
titles, most all carting/drafting titles are called Draft titles or Draft tests,
even though people refer to it as carting. ND stands for novice draft. DD
stands for draft dog (the open title in GSMD). There’s also team draft which is
sometimes referred to as brace.

Tackling hills

Tackling hills in drafting is serious business.  While it seems like a simple task, taking a dog up or down a hill in a cart can pose many risks.

bullet Wet ground and loose gravel can cause the dog to loose footing and slip.  Going up incorrectly, a loaded cart can drag a dog down a hill.  Going down incorrectly can have a cart run up on the dog and cause the brakes to fail resulting in serious injury. 
bullet A hill that is too steep can put undue pressure on a dog in either direction. 
bullet Asking a dog to hold a loaded cart on a hill in either direction pointed in the incorrect direction can cause undue stress on the dog either pulling or pushing a dog down a hill. 
bullet I’ve been on hills so steep that even empty carts were rolling down a hill into a pond.  Unfortunately, the organizer of the event insisted that we position the carts parallel to the slope instead of perpendicular to the slope. 


To protect against these problems, hills should always be tacked.  This concept is not new nor is used only in dog drafting.  The concept of tacking, sometimes called switchbacks, is used in sailing, windsurfing, biking, skating, and driving.  In sailing and windsurfing, the operator sails or surfs at an angle towards the wind, not directly towards it.  In biking, skating, or driving, it is easiest to go up a hill at 45 degree angles instead of dead up the hill.  That method reduces the steepness of the hill and makes it easier to go up or town.  If you want to test this theory, just grab a pair of skates and try to go straight up or down a steep hill.  Make sure you wear a helmet and protective gear first.  You’ll quickly learn that you can bleed off speed by tacking down the hill or ease the steepness by tacking up the hill.  In driving, cars with short clearances that need to make it up or down a steep incline should approach at an angle either way.  Here’s some photos to illustrate the concept.
 
If you’re familiar with Lombard Street, here’s a photo of cars tacking down this 27% grade hill.  Read more details here

Tacking a hill (up or down) is pretty self-explanatory and straight forward.  You traverse a hill by going up diagonally at a comfortable angle.  You will be traveling more distance to go up the hill, and it will be at a less steep slope.  More importantly, it will be safer!  I also go up curbs and small hills with my own dogs at angles.  When leaving your harnessed and hitched dog or cart (without the dog) on a hill, make sure that they are positioned perpendicular to the hill.  You don’t want the cart or dog to be overcome by the weight of the cart when on a steep hill to cause a runaway. 

Here’s a photos of some cars parked perpendicular to the slope (correct).  If you don’t do this in San Francisco on some extremely steep hills, you’ll have some runaway cars.  

Upcoming Weight Pull Jan 23-24th!

The IWPA Weight pull will be on Jan 23-24th at SouthPaws Playschool, 2324 South Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX. 

You may also sign up online to reserve your spot here (Novice dogs only): http://austinweightpull.eventbrite.com/.  You will pay the entry fee on the day of the event.  Dogs competing for titles should not use the online sign up. 

If you are interested in the IWPA sanctioned weight pull competition (Sunday), weigh in will be at 9:00am. Pulling starts at 10:00.  Weigh in NOT required for novice rounds. You may enter any of the novice rounds up to the time it begins.  Please see www.iwpa.net for specific rules in the competitive rounds.  Novice teams should be treated like training rounds.

Weight pull general info:

Any dog can participate and earn a title through IWPA for weight pulling.

What’s the fee? Free for spectators. $10 for novice rounds – enter when you get there. Consider novice rounds a training session and a chance to see if your dog enjoys it. I will have harnesses for you to use. Most dogs take to a harness quickly. $25 for competition rounds.

What can my dog get out of weight pulling? Physical activity, confidence building, socializing, and improving their relationship with you.

What do I need to train my dog to do before then for weight pull? The come or recall command. Your dog should have basic control.

What’s the most weight a dog has ever pulled? The most I’ve seen is 50000 lbs.  Most dogs in healthy condition can pull 10x their body weight without any additional physical training.

When do I enter? On the day of the event. Novice can enter any time before the round begins. Professional/competition rounds must be entered and weighed in before the start of the pull.

Who can participate? Anyone and any breed. No registry or club membership required.

What should I bring? Your dog on leash and yourself. Camping chair and crate if desired. I will have harnesses available for dogs 20 lbs to 160 lbs.

My dog is small. Is there anything for us to do? Yes! Even the “little” ones can weight pull. There have been Jack Russells and Italian Greyhounds that pull with success!

Is there a judge out there named Steve? Distance from rear legs to cart.

I recently received a comment on the blog from Steve (also a draft judge) inquiring about distance from the rear legs of the dog to the cart.  He wrote that the guidelines online are vague about the distance so I wrote back to Steve.  Unfortunately, I wrote back to the wrong Steve.  Steve, if you’re out there, this blog post is for you. 

My email to the incorrect Steve:

My trainer said that there should be enough space for the dog to extend their rear legs while in cart, but not hit the cart.  As a quick guideline, it should be an 18 inch ARC (not the direct points when standing) from the foot to the back of the cart.   I’d have to put Mouse in cart to measure the distance from point to point instead of the arc.  The length might also be different for each dog, given the height of the dog and the dog’s hocks. 

There’s nothing inherently unsafe about having the cart much further away from the rear of the dog as long as the traces are snug.  The problems you get when the shafts are too long and the cart is too far away is that it is difficult to maneuver, and the turning radius is much wider.  The shorter the shafts, the easier it is to turn.  However, if the shafts are too short or the dog was placed too far back (move the brakes forward to fix), then the dog’s foot or hock would hit the bottom side of the cart. 

I would not fail a team for having really long shafts as it isn’t unsafe.  It is a mechanical disadvantage that the team will have to work with that may cause them to fail.  That’s the handler’s responsibility and choice to have longer shafts.  However, if the shafts are long and the traces are not tight, I may fail the team depending on how dangerous I perceived the rig.  I judged one particular trial in which almost every single team had really loose traces, even after I warned them of how dangerous it was (it also changes the point of pull).  Anyways, one dog was almost pulled down a big hill when the shafts slid out of the shaft loops.  It nearly gave me a heart attack seeing that happen. 

I would also fail a team the dog’s rear was too close to the cart, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in practice or at trials.  Dogs are usually too far with loose traces.