In the May/June issue I wrote about the Dog Carting Aptitude Test that I had come up with as an event for the big Newfstock weekend being held on September 17-19, 2010. This was all theoretical and come the big day on September 18th I had to put it into practice. As is always the case, theory and practice never seem to quite match.
First thing I discovered was that my time estimate was way off. I had figured that I could select a loaner harness and fit it, take the dog through four and possibly five pulls with the first two on different surfaces [see Dog Carting Aptitude Assessment Form] in 15 minutes and then write up an assessment for each level, a general assessment followed by a suggested training plan. Well I’m good but not that good. With only two and a half hours available for this type of event, the time between the parade and the live auction of original Newf art, I asked the registration desk to schedule 20 minutes time slots allowing for a total of seven registrants. With the first dog I discovered that the 15 minutes should have been 30 minutes. Should have shortened the assessment procedure at that point but I so enjoy taking a dog that the owners have told me is kinda dumb and can’t accomplish very much to giving rides in a matter of minutes. This enables me to tell the doubting guardian that their dog is terrific and his/her only handicap is the owner, followed by “you have to believe in your dog”.
The second revelation was when a lady showed up with her eight month Newfie pup. I nearly died as my strictest rule is to not cart a dog before 12 months of age. Realizing I had not stipulated a minimum age, I explained my dilemma to her. She calmly remarked that she thought this was an aptitude test, not a hauling exercise. Of course she was right and once again I had goofed. Quickly I revised the test so that the pup only pulled empty toboggans, once with no shafts and once with shafts. A light bulb went on and I realized that I didn’t need to do all four types of pulls to do the assessment – it was just my ego to show how quickly I can train a dog to haul that caused me to want to do the whole thing as originally planned. Naturally, in the suggested training plan for the pup I emphasized that it should not start until the pup was at least 12 months old.
While the assessment form will remain the same I have now revised the procedure. I will continue to start with hauling an unshafted toboggan but then will pick only one of the four next steps depending on the assessment at stage one. In the case of pups, step two will always be the shafted empty toboggan so as to put no stress on the still forming bones. Of course with dogs over a year of age, if the time slots are not fully booked, I may not be able to resist showing off and taking the pooches with great carting aptitude through all the steps.
On November 13th of this year in Quebec City I’ll be conducting my second dog carting aptitude testing at an event being run by the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Quebec and most likely I’ll do even more fine tuning.
Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979. In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada. When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.
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