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One of the biggest hurdles for newcomers to carting and other forms of draft work with dogs is the terminology used. For amateur cart builders this is especially so. For example when someone starts to make their own cart for the first time, they see the pivoting bar but not knowing the purpose, may ignore it in their construction. However, if they know it has a name (whiffle tree), they would be more likely to do their research and find out why other cart makers took the trouble to install such a device.

Here are some of the more common terms that we use:

CART</span > – Technically a two wheeled vehicle but the term is also used for three wheeled apparatus. Sometimes four wheeled vehicles are referred to as carts, in particular the SACCO cart.

WAGON – A four wheeled draft apparatus.

SHAFTS – These are the two rods/poles that go on either side of the dog when only one canine is employed. If there are two dogs abreast then there will be one shaft in the centre and optionally two more for the outside. On a cart the shafts are rigid to allow the dog to act as the front wheels whereas on a wagon the shafts flex up and down. The shafts are needed for turning and braking and in the case of a two wheeled cart, to keep the vehicle in proper balance.

WHIFFLETREE aka whippletree or single tree – This is the pivoting bar on a cart or wagon or other draft vehicle that double traces are attached to rather than directly to the apparatus. It converts the two point pull of the dog to a single point on the vehicle giving a smoother haul and makes the pulling more comfortable for the animal. Harness systems that employ a single trace do not need such device but may have a spreader bar built into the rear of the body harness.

DOUBLE TREE – A system of three whiffletrees that converts the four point pull in two stages of two dogs abreast to a single pull on the draft apparatus.

TRACE(S) – This is a strap or straps that provide the pulling connection from dog to draft apparatus. Almost all canine hauling vehicles require these. There are two notable exceptions: one is the SACCO cart which is designed to be pulled from the shafts and the other is a cart with a dorsal hitch; in the latter case, the cart is pulled by the single shaft that connects to the harness from the top.

BODY HARNESS – The part of the harnessing system that is fitted directly onto the dog’s body.

SIWASH HARNESS – A sled dog style webbed harness that is meant to allow a even pressure over the dog’s body while hauling but also tightens on the animal as the pulling gets harder.

CHEST HARNESS aka buckle harness – An adjustable harness that concentrates the pulling pressure on the chest of the dog in direct line to the vehicle. Some such harnesses may have a saddle or half saddle that protects from the clips of a shaft holder strap and also enables floating back packs to be attached directly over the shoulders.

SHAFT HOLDER STRAP – A strap that connects the dog to the shafts. It holds the shafts at a constant level to maintain the correct balance.

NEUTRAL BALANCE – Applicable to two wheeled carts. Refers to zero up or down pressure from the shafts. A slight down pressure when harnessing is desirable, much like tongue weight on an automotive trailer; however the cart should be capable of neutral balance both empty and when loaded.

GEE & HAW – The traditional commands for a carting dog to turn right (gee) and left (haw). These have been inherited from other animal drawn activities (e.g. horse & oxen hauling) and of course, from our musher cousins. Right turn and left turn are not used as these are the usual commands for a handler by a judge in a test.

GIDDY UP or WALK ON or LET’S GO – Typical commands to start a dog hauling a cart or wagon. Not used is the mushers’ command of hike as this means to start at a full gallop or the obedience start command of heel which includes an automatic sit upon stopping along with a position requirement vis-à-vis the handler. Forward is not used for the same reason that it is not used in obedience training as this is the usual command by a judge to the handler in a test.

WHOA – The traditional command to stop, also inherited from other animal drawn activities. Halt is not used since that is the typical command of a judge to a handler in a test. Some handlers use stop but whoa has a better intonation to support the gradual stopping that is wanted from the dog of at least two or three steps.

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

March/April 2013