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Snow is not far off and for Newfoundlands and the northern breeds and some of their guardians, winter is the best time of all. At one time, carters would put their draft dog gear away for the season but more and more, the fun of cold weather draft work is being appreciated. If you use a cart, the wheels are usually large enough that you can keep going all winter long. Cart wheels are usually 20 inches or more in diameter enabling the vehicles to easily go where ever a large dog can comfortably walk. Wagon users, however, have a problem in snow as the smaller wheels, usually 10 or 13 inches, can get balked down by very little snow unless it is hard packed. The answer for wagoners is to simply switch to a toboggan/sled for the snowy season. Up to now this involved attaching a spreader bar to a freight hauling toboggan and then hitching the dog to the spreader bar. Problems with this have been a lack of braking and the need for teamster turns. Without a braking system, the handler had to prevent the sled from overrunning the dog when stopping on hard packed level surfaces. Going down hills was even more challenging; some handlers solved this problem by attaching a rope to the back of the toboggan so that they could slow it down.

Spreader bar

For years I have been pondering taking the conversion kit for a wagon and attaching it to the toboggan. This would solve the breaking problems on hard packed snow and hills and eliminate the need for teamster turns. I kept asking people with more technical skills than me to design a way to attach the wagon conversion kit to the snow vehicle but they were either too busy or felt this was beneath them. So, despite being described as “mechanically challenged”, I decided that it was up to me to make this happen.


Working on the principle of “simpler the better” I decided to try a ridiculously simple solution, two U-bolts. To my great surprise it worked. All it takes to use a wagon conversion kit of the type that replaces the pull handle on the wagon on your toboggan is to install two 2-inch U-bolts as shown in one of the enclosed photos. Making the holes for the U-bolts was also simple; the plastic for the ice fishing sleds that I use is very durable but can be easily pierced with a simple punch tool. If I can do it, anyone can.

Conversion kit

Remember to use a hauling toboggan. They are usually called ice fishing sleds and can be found in the ice fishing section of stores like Canadian Tire. You can also go to an ice fishing outfitter. Another possibility is a calf sled sold in coops and farm supply stores; the problem with these sleds is that the sides are lower. The only outfitter in Canada selling the conversion kits that I am aware of is my son, Allan; you can reach him at Dog Training & Equipment Sales.

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

September/October 2008