Instruction - Getting Started

 

Drafting overview
How to get started
Harness types
The Siwash harness
Harness your dog
Drafting vehicles
Introducing equipment
Hitch your dog
More training tips

Instruction main page

Although there is much to see and learn about equipment, the most important thing is your dog. The first two things you can do without any equipment are:
1) Insure that your dog is sound and fit enough for draft work.
2) Train your dog.

Your dog should should be in good physical condition before attempting an activity such as drafting. Make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise and has good muscle tone before having him/her pull a cart or wagon. Marginal elbows or hips do not automatically disqualify your dog from drafting activities but you should consult with your veterinarian about how much weight or distance your dog should work with. One other thing to consider is that the joints of large breeds like Bernese Mountain Dogs need time to develop. You should not have your dog pull a lightweight cart until they are at least one year old and not pull a heavy cart or with weight until they are two years old.

Training your dog to be obedient and understand commands is probably the most important aspect to enjoyable, safe drafting. If your dog "acts up" while he is on a leash, he is simply an annoyance to you and others. If your dog is not under control when hitched to a cart or wagon, he/she can become very dangerous to themselves and everyone around them.

I believe the best way to train your dog for obedience is to join a training club or attend classes at one. In addition to having an experienced trainer help you, your dog also get's used to being obedient with other dogs around. The key obedience training items to work on things to work on are:

1. Heeling - or walking next to you on a loose lead.
2. Halts - having your dog stop on command.
3. Waits and Stays - being able to leave your dog and have them hold position.
4. Turning right and left.

When you and your dog can do these things reasonably reliably, you are ready to begin training with a cart or wagon.