How to Build Training Shafts and a Cart for your Dog – Video
Teaching a dog to back up in cart
Vesta, a 19 month old Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, demonstrates how to back up into a cart. She also shows how to make turns in cart, back up in cart, and a moving stand.
Vesta is owned by Jennie Chen. Her registered name is Seneca’s Roman Candle Reigns Vesta, CA, HIC, NWPD. You can visit her at romanreign.com.
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 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.
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.
Shaft height and length fine tuning
Here’s some photos showing correct shaft height and length. Shaft height and balance of the cart are very important. The height of the shaft should come the point of shoulder of the dog and should not extend more than a few inches past the shoulder. Length of the shafts, while not a safety issue, can affect maneuvering. The longer the shafts, the wider the turning radius. Shorter shafts have a shorter turning radius.
If you do shorten the shafts, make sure you also tighten those traces and move your brakes to the appropriate location. The shafts and cart should be parallel to the ground. Click on photos below for bigger version.
Siwash Harnesses – freight weight and the carting
Frequently, people ask me about harnesses. Which one is better? I can’t say that of the two siwash harnesses: freight/weight or carting, that one is better than the other. The both have advantages and disadvantages. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 harnesses now, and the only one I haven’t tried for carting is the parade harness. I’m not a huge fan of the parade harness, and I’ve heard through the grapevine that many other judges aren’t either. I’ll go into detail about that on another post along with specialty harnesses including the Wilczek, weight pull harnesses, and leather harnesses.
Mouse has a freight/weight siwash with a cinch and cinch loop added because I want to do weight pulling and carting. However, the freight harnesses is too “wimpy” for real competitive weight pulling. Do not take this to a weight pull. You will need a true, heavy duty weight pull harness to do some serious work. The disadvantages of a frieght/weight siwash is that it is a one-piece so you must take the entire thing off to let
the dog potty or else hook the spreader bar up to the shoulders of the dog so they can walk around without tripping. On the other hand, being a one-piece is also an advantage as it is easier to
untangle and easier to put on.
The carting harnesses usually is more complicated than the freight weight harnesses. There is the neck piece, belly band, and 2 traces. You MUST be absolutely certain that the 2 traces are the same length so that the weight is distributed correctly. These two traces either attach to a tree or 2 points on the vehicle. The advantage of the carting harnesses is that you can just unhook the traces without having straps hanging off everywhere.
I personally lean towards the carting harness. It’s just a personal preference. There is no performance differences between the two harnesses if used properly.