Category Archives: Carting

Carting with Epic – May 5/19

Today, while beginning to unload some firewood from Sean’s truck, I had a moment of brilliance/insanity. Is there a word for an idea that has equal potential for wild success or epic disaster? A Schrödinger’s idea, maybe?

My idea was to the Epic with some weight in the cart (firewood) to see if I could use her tendency to lean in to pressure to help us make progress.

I loaded up the cart with some fire wood and, like last time, began clicking and rewarding with food for any weight shift or movement forward. What was really interesting, was that the pressure of the weight distributed through the harness did not seem to help us move faster, but it did help Epic relax enough to actually open her mouth!

I can hear a few people saying “Yes, her mouth is open, but it looks like she is stress-panting.” You’d be correct, which is why we worked for exactly 5 minutes and then unhooked her. Overall, i think the weight was a goid idea and so.ething we’ll use next time. 

Bit by bit, I think we’ll get there.


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Carting with Epic – April 19/17 (VIDEO)

Since I posted about Epic being worried about our cart this past Monday, I’ve been mulling over how I might approach our next session to encourage her out of her cart induced paralysis. Today, I decided to use her supper as a reward instead of the yummy soft treats I use at agility class. She loves those soft treats but, if it was a contest of treats vs. supper, she’d choose the bowl – Any day! Of course, feeding a dog raw food, certainly complicates things when it comes to using meals for training rewards.

I could just bite the bullet and use my hands to feed her mouthfuls of food, but I’ve tried that and…GROSS! Instead, I feed Epic mouthfuls of food from a spoon. Yes, that’s right, my princess eats off a spoon. I’m pretty sure her breeder taught her that in the whelping box.

One spoonful at a time, we were able to move across the yard getting 1-2 steps per ‘spoon’. This was a HUGE improvement from Monday when there was a lot of standing, a lot of stretching and very little movement.

Here’s a short video, showing part of today’s session is below.

One thing I’ve noticed in the video is that I really need to take a look at the cart shafts and make sure to place them further forward in their loops on the harness. Placed further forward, they won’t be poking her in the shoulder and that, in turn, may make her feel more comfortable.

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Carting with a Clicker: Ready to Hitch

The Rules

There are very few harnessing and hitching guidelines in the CKC Draft Test Rules and Regulations (2011). The rules are as follows:

  • Hitching and harnessing are the only times when the handler may touch the dog.
  • The dog must stand during harnessing/hitching/loading/unhitching.
  • During the harnessing and hitching, the handler’s skill and the dog’s willingness will be judged.

There is nothing written about HOW the dog must be hitched but the fact that the dog must be willing makes me think, lifting, dragging, poking and prodding won’t be allowed. Because I want Bear to be über comfortable with this process and understand his ‘job’, I am going to shape the behaviour with a clicker. I like to start shaping with a plan so I’ll outline my shaping plan below but you can find a printable handout on the Resources page.

Goal Behaviour

Your dog stands still comfortably between the shafts of the cart in his harness so that you can attach the shafts and the traces.

You have a few options where this is concerned:

  • You could hold the shafts up over the dog and teach him to line up beside you so you can lower them down over him.
  • You could teach your dog to step over the shafts resting on the ground and stand still between them.
  • You could teach your dog to back up in a straight line between the shafts.

I don’t think it matters which method you choose however you may want to take your dog’s temperament and previous training into consideration. I chose to go with method #2 because Bear was a little concerned about all that tubing over his head and because we have done some targeting work already with PVC boxes for Rally Working Levels which I think will help.

Training Plan

To begin with I’ll start in a smallish room with no distractions and ONLY the cart out on the floor in the middle of the room. I am planning to start standing in front of the cart beside the shafts so that when Bear is standing properly between the shafts he will essentially be in heel position.

  1. Click for looking at the cart
  2. Click for moving towards the cart
  3. Click for moving towards the cart shafts
  4. Click for front feet approaching shafts
  5. Click for raising a paw over shafts
  6. Click for placing a paw on the ground between the shafts
  7. Click for placing two paws between the shafts
  8. Click for placing three paws between the shafts
  9. Click for placing four paws between the shafts


After each click I am going to toss a cookie away from the cart to encourage Bear to move away so that he has to re-engage with the cart to get another click and another cookie.


To get you started, below is a video of one of our first training sessions so you can see how I am teaching this and so you can see a dog’s mind at work.

This video is a great illustration of why having a plan and knowing what you plan on reinforcing is important – sometimes your dog “gets it” a lot quicker than you’d imagine and you need to be ready to capitalise on their enthusiasm.

Problem solving

  • If your dog is worried about stepping over the raised shafts…try removing them from the cart and shaping your dog to line up between them on the ground. Then, very gradually, raise the shafts until they are the same heigh as they would be when attached to the cart
  • If your dog is spooked by the shafts touching her sides…try removing them from the cart and have a friend hold them further apart until she is more comfortable, then gradually, bring them closer. Alternatively, you could forget about lining up between the shafts for now and click and reward each and every time ANY part of her body touches the shafts.

Next Steps

To begin with I plan on teaching this exercise without Bear wearing the harness and once Bear is readily moving into position I will harness him and start all over again. Once he’s offering the behaviour consistently, I’ll add our cue “hitch up!”


Filed under Carting, Training, Videos

Making a Cart – Part Three:Behold! The FrankenCart!

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I planned to attend 2 seminars and 2 rally trials within 4 weeks. Add in the fact that Sean was away for  a week of that time, and the fact that I was planning one of those seminars and POOF! There went the time.

Lack of time made for a furious week of cart completion which went right up to and including the Saturday evening before Our Weekend with Sue Ailsby. The complications seemed endless:

  • I did not have the proper saw for cutting the very expensive aluminum angle but eventually realised that I needed a hacksaw. Once I found the right saw, I purchased a Mitre stand when I really needed a Mitre Box. and now I know more about mitre-ing than anyone should know.
  • Once I had the aluminum angle cut for some reason, it did not fit the boards (bottom and sides) I had prepared. Since wood is relatively inexpensive, and easier to cut I decided to cut the boards down so that they would fit the angle.

By this point I gave up all pretence of following the instructions – since I had clearly not followed them to begin with.

  • Since I wasted so much time cutting aluminum, I thought I would get ahead of the game and drill holes in the angle before I assembled everything and, of course, I drilled holes in the wrong places the result is aluminum angle that looks somewhat swiss cheesy.
  • Where the wheels and shaft were concerned, things went relatively well. The threaded steel rod that Sean procured for me was a bit long but using my newly acquired hacksaw skills I was able to cut it down. Once the wheels were mounted on the shaft, I could tell that the turning of the wheel was going to wear on the sides of the cart but I have a plan to fix this. I will also have to find a way to secure the wheel to the cart from the outside.
  • The cart shafts were probably the most stressful part to complete – I had no clue where to find a tube bender and no desire to purchase one (I’d never need one ever again). Luckily Sean and a coworker of his suggested cutting and welding the tubing into a 90 degree angle creating the same basic shape that was called for in the plans. They did this after work, on their own time and I shall be eternally thankful because the shafts are the best looking part of the cart!
  • If all of the above was not enough, the eye bolts I purchased to serve as the brakes on the shafts were too short and the end caps that I purchased for the shafts keep falling off.
  • and Finally, I never did find the ½ u channel to ‘finish the top edge of the cart but it’s a relatively minor issue compared to anything else.


Behold! The FrankenCart! Do you thnk Bear looks impressed or worried?

With a few weeks hindsight I have decided that the cart is not all that bad. I have lots of ideas for how to improve it which are as follows:

  • Cut boards and the aluminum angle to make the cart a more manageable size – I have experience with this now!
  • Purchase washers for both bolts that attach the shafts to the cart to prevent the shafts from wiggling so much.
  • Purchase washers and possibly lock nuts for mounting the wheels.
  • Find some appropriately sized bolts to use as brakes.
  • Use plumbers tape to help seal the end caps onto the shafts.
  • Look (again) for ½ U channel to finish the top edge of the cart.
  • I am also going to install some more eye bolts onto the cart to provide anchors for bungee cords and tie-down. Apparently the load n a draft test can be anything and if you lose it – you automatically fail!

Stay tuned for photos after FrankenCart’s makeover!


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Notes on Our Draft Dog Seminar with Sue Ailsby

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.


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Bear’s New Duds: A Carting Harness Review

I THINK it's on correctly...

Something very special came in the mail this week…Bear’s carting harness!!!!


After much internet searching I decided on a Nylon Siwash Carting Harness from Dog Works in Tennessee, USA. I placed my order on October 5th and it came on the 25th which means it made pretty good time, considering it had to cross the border.

I do my fair share of mail order shopping and I’m thrilled with my Dog Works experience. The order was timely, correct and came wrapped in plastic inside the sipping box. Shipping to Canada was reasonable (around $9USD) and I did not have to pay duty on the order. Packed in the box with the harness, came a handout on fitting your harness, a guide for how to tell if it’s too big or too small. There was also a note about their hassle free exchange policy which means you send it back with $7.50 and they’ll send you a new one. In my opinion, having to pay the shipping does not make it ‘hassle free’ but paying less than $20 for a new harness is a lot better than paying the full price for a brand new one.

Like many dog owners, I have a large collection of dog hardware and with a large dog, I have my share of well made stuff and not so well made stuff. Compared to my entire collection, the craftsmanship on this harness is pretty darned good:

There is a D-ring on the front of the harness for leash clipping.

The padding on the yoke of the harness is nice, fuzzy and soft

There are handy dandy little strap clips on the adjustable girths to keep wayward webbing out of the way.

All joints are stitched multiple times!

The company name, website and phone number are sewn right onto the harness so you know who to call when you have issues or want to order another harness.

The only teeny tiny complaint that I have is that the all the hardware is plastic, except for the brass clips on either end of the traces. That being said, I understand that brass or nickel hardware is costly and that I could get all the brass hardware a girl could want on the Dog Works Varsity Leather Harness which is only a little more than my nylon harness ($215.50 more, to be exact).

Now…to finish that cart next week!


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Making a Cart – Part Two: Wheels on a Budget!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about our cart building progress. This weekend I was finally able to take some decent photos! I just added the last coat of stain to the cart boards and put the wheels back together which means by next weekend, I should be able to assemble the cart.

Last month I visited a great store in Winnipeg called Casterland that has everything from cart wheels to chair casters and anything else that rolls. They had a really nice BMX-style wheels with a pneumatic tire and plastic spokes but the cost was nearly $40 per wheel! I’m not sure about you, but $80 for wheels for a cart that may or may not ever be used for competition sounded ridiculous to me…and so I put my thinking cap on…

What I needed was a bicycle wheel. After a quick online search I decided that a new wheel would also be cost prohibitive but then I got to thinking about how the wheels on a used childs bike would be just perfect! I had a look on our local buy/sell site and found a used boys bike with 20 inch tires for $20!

I brought the bike home and took off the wheels but soon realised that the gears on the rear wheel were impossible to remove. Another quick online search told me that I needed a special tool (apparently everything on a bike needs a special tool). Since I don’t have that tool or any friends with that tool, I took the wheel down to A & L, the local bike shop. The nice young man there took the gear off for me in about 10 seconds for free!

Next, I wanted to recondition the wheel as there was some rust showing and scratching/wear from the brake pads. Since I’ll be using aluminum trim, I went for handy dandy metallic tremclad (in aluminum gloss) which costs around $5 a can. 

I took the tires and tube off the wheel, scrubbed it down with some steel wool and then gave it two coats of paint. Apparently there’s a special tool to take tires off and put them back on but I used two screwdrivers to get the tire off, and Sean’s strong hands to get the tires back on!

Now I have a great looking pair or wheels for less than $30 which is much, much better than $80!

Next Up…Axles, trim and assembly!

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