Instruction - Introducing Equipment


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

Introducing the Harness and Cart:

a) The harness can be introduced to the dog at any age. Usually treats and a lot of praise will be sufficient for them to accept the harness. If your dog is reluctant to have the harness put on them, it can help to work on this where your dog can see other dogs doing the same thing. They will learn from watching the other dogs having a harness on. Having them wear the harness while you are doing things like training for obedience is a good way to get them used to it. However, make sure your dog knows that when they are harnessed, it is time for work - not play. Your dog should be completely comfortable in the harness before ever hitching them to a cart or wagon.

b) Pulling something behind them can be a bit scary for some dogs as there is something making noise close behind them that they cannot get away from. Other dogs may have no problem with this concept at all - reactions can vary greatly. You can introduce your dog to pulling by attaching a light drag weight to their harness traces or with some rope. This can be something as simple as an empty one-gallon milk container or a 1 foot wide piece of wood or plastic pipe. The idea is for the dog to get used to something behind them that might make a little noise. You can also have them start out by pulling a child's plastic snow sled as this can also be a lot of fun - especially in winter!

c) Introducing the cart or wagon adds the element of the shafts. You need to get your dog accustomed to having rigid shafts touching their sides. Again, this can be scary for some dogs while others will accept it readily. You can start this training at any time, even when your dog is a young puppy, by using a shortened old broom handle or something similar. Start out by rubbing it on your dog's sides while you are petting them (sitting on the floor with your dog makes this seem less threatening to them). For difficult dogs, having a treat in one hand can distract the dog from the shaft in your other hand and help them slowly accept it. After they accept "shafts" touching their sides, you can then begin hitching your dog up to the cart or wagon and begin working as a real drafting team!

d) You should make practicing your draft work as much fun for your dog as possible. Lots of praise and treats will make it something they remember as a very pleasurable experience and one they will want to do again and again. Make sure that you start out with easy things like pulling in a straight line and work up to the more advanced maneuvers. Also, do not wear your dog out with very long and arduous training sessions. Keep them short and two the point. Shorter and regular training sessions are preferable to the occasional long session.

e) Only after your dog is reliable with most drafting maneuvers should you add weight to the cart for hauling. This is something that you need to work up to for your dog's safety and the key training point here is conditioning for your dog. For your dog to haul significant weight over extended distances requires that they be in top condition. Just like a human athlete, this takes significant exercise and time. Injury is always a possibility with heavy loads but with a well-conditioned dog, that risk is minimized.