A good way to start dog carting is with a wagon rather than a cart. First it is much less expensive to get a wagon and the wagon has other uses as well. For the handler, less knowledge is needed as balance and tipping are not issues with a wagon. It is also easier to start a dog with a wagon as it is less constraining than being hitched to a cart and is a natural progression in draft training a canine.
While some outfitters sell wagons, I don’t suggest getting one from them. It is much less expensive to buy a wagon from a hardware or department store and then purchase a wagon conversion kit from an outfitter. Ideally the wagon will have pneumatic tires and the normal standard is 10 inch wheels; however if you can find them, the 13 inch wheels are superior in terms of rolling resistance.
On the internet there are many sites detailing how to make your own conversion kit, essentially a set of shafts that replaces the wagon handle. Regrettably I have not yet found a single site that I can recommend. They are all inappropriate in design featuring ease of construction over concern for the comfort or the dog.
This means you should purchase the conversion kit from an outfitter. Here the news is not much better. To date I have found only two outfitters that I can recommend. One of these suppliers is my son, Allan. I am not recommending Allan because he is my son but because he learned the basics of draft work and equipment from yours truly before taking over my outfitting business. Allan provides a single dog hitch, a double dog hitch and a team hitch for three or four dogs. With one more component, these hitches can also be used for a toboggan or ice fishing sled.
Here is the single dog hitch:
Note the design of the shafts, wider at the rear, then narrowing and finally spread out. All of this has a purpose. The rear section widening allows the dog to manoeuvre without pressure on his hind end. The narrowness near the front permits proper harnessing and the spreading of the tips keeps the shafts from poking into the dog. While it is difficult to see in the photo, there is a whiffletree which is mounted at the rear of the shafts. This is a rotating bar to attach the traces (pulling straps) rather than to the vehicle body. This, along with the shaft design ensures the comfort of the dog while hauling.
The other outfitter that I can recommend for wagon conversion equipment is Dog Works and you can see their products at DogWorks.com. Here is a photo of their single and double shafts. As you will note, the design of the single dog shaft is similar to that made by Allan, complete with whiffletree.
Dog Works also offers accessories like a trailer and seats.
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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