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When I came across this suicide machine on the net my first reaction was to laugh. Then I read their comment about a squirrel and realized that even the promoters didn’t expect anyone to really try this.

Obviously I would never suggest that anyone try the contraption below. However the warning about squirrels applies whenever you have your dog hauling.

Dog-powered skateboard

Squirrels are probably the most common reason for adrenalin fuelled all out chases with no thought or reaction to anything else. However there are many such distractions and they vary from dog to dog; these could be such things as other dogs, bicycles, motorcycles, skateboarders, joggers and cats.

I started dog carting before there were any books or articles on the subject. All I could find was literature on dog sledding, so I had to learn carting from the school of hard knocks. Having made more mistakes in this area than anyone else I quickly became an expert. One of my early “been there, done that” experiences involved a squirrel; this episode ended with a Newfoundland dog half way up a tree with a cart attached. Wish I had taken a photo so that I could have started an album on how not to dog cart. Another thrill was when my carting Newf saw a cat being let out of the front door of a neighbour’s house. The decorative fence around his front lawn was replaced at my expense.

Such screw-ups on my part taught me early on that one shouldn’t cart in public until the dog has established a certain demeanour when harnessed and hitched to a vehicle. Fortunately for me, the dogs involved were not injured and there were no passengers, which could have turned these incidents into terrible tragedies.

Among other things I teach control of a dog through body mechanics. One of the techniques is an emergency stop for situations such as a wild chase after a squirrel or other object. However the technique which involves a 180 degree turn with the leash wrapping it self around you, doesn’t work so well when a cart or wagon is attached to the dog. Such violent turns with a vehicle could cause an upset with harmful consequences. So something more is required for the carting dog.

Demeanour is not a word normally used in dog training but it has a special place in dog carting. By demeanour I am referring to the dog’s outward bearing. It should noticeably change as the dog is harnessed and hitched to an apparatus. The exception would be for canines that are super calm at all times, who would not be incensed at the sight of a squirrel running across their path or throwing broken nut shells down at them.

For the majority of dogs, as you attach them to the cart, they should become visibly aware of a difference in their status and much more alert to their handler. If your dog does not show such a change, then you should concentrate on affecting this. First of all, work with him in a contained area with little or no distraction. Then get your dog’s attention by executing a series of immediate starts, stops and sharp turns. Vary the routine often and quickly. Eventually your canine buddy will take nothing for granted and realize that he has to be alert to your signals at all times. You will know that your dog is ready to cart in public when you can easily see the change in his bearing whenever he is hitched.

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.

Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.

Newf News

July/August 2012