Carting with Your Dog
Frequently Asked Questions

Last Update: 21 November 1998


This page attempts to compile the frequently asked questions on the carting-l mailing list, and the answers most commonly given. It is not intended to be the most authoritative reference, nor does it claim to be the "one true way" of doing things. The underlying premise of all answers is to keep things fun and safe for you and your dogs.

Carting - Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Administrivia
    1. Purpose of the FAQ
    2. Who maintains it?
    3. Where can the FAQ be obtained?
    4. How can I add more information?
  2. What is Carting?
    1. What is "Draft Work"?
    2. What is "Carting"?
    3. What is "Driving"?
    4. What is "Sledding"?
    5. What is "Mushing"?
  3. How do I start Carting?
    1. How old should my dog be?
    2. Do I need a big dog to cart?
    3. What equipment do I need?
    4. Where can I get carting equipment?
  4. Where can I get .... ?
    1. Where can I get books on carting?
    2. Where can I get plans for building a cart?
    3. Where can I get carting equipment?
  5. Carting/Drafting Terminology
    1. Term for "Vehicles"
    2. Terms for Harness Types
  6. What are the carting commands?
    1. Starting and Stopping
    2. Turning
  7. Training Considerations
    1. Getting a dog used to a harness
    2. Getting a dog to pull in a harness
    3. Getting a dog used to shafts
    4. Pulling a cart or wagon
    5. Turning
    6. Backing Up
  8. Draft Tests
    1. What is a "Draft Test"?
    2. Who runs Draft Tests?
    3. What does a Draft Test involve?
    4. What is a "Team Draft Test"?


Purpose of the FAQ

This FAQ is intended to help answer common questions that people have about carting and draft work involving dogs. It seeks to inform and educate. The foremost issue is the safety of you, your dog, and your (potential) passengers.

Who maintains it?

The FAQ is maintained by the members of carting-l, an Internet e-mail list dedicated to spreading information and stories about carting and draft work. The FAQ is hosted on a site maintained by Warrick Wilson.

Where can the FAQ be obtained?

Currently, the FAQ can be found as a link from the Carting with Your Dog WWW site. If you wish to use a bookmark, please bookmark the main Carting page, and not the FAQ page itself. The main Carting page will maintain its name for the indefinite future. No promise is made for the linked pages...

Please note that a text-only version do not exist currently. Maybe later.

How can I add more information?

If you want to add to the FAQ, you can post a message to the carting-l mailing list, or you may e-mail the question/comment/answer to Warrick Wilson.


What is Carting?

What is "Draft Work"?

"Draft Work" refers to an activity where a dog is pulling something - a cart, a wagon, a sled, or even a log.

What is "Carting"?

"Carting" refers to an activity where a dog pulls a wheeled vehicle.

What is "Driving"?

"Driving" refers to carting activity where the person controlling the dog rides in the vehicle being pulled.

What is "Sledding"?

"Sledding" is an activity where a dog, or team of dogs, pulls a dog sled or toboggan. While carting and sledding share some basic principles, there are a lot of places that have great information on sledding. Sledding will not be covered further in this FAQ.

What is "Mushing"?

"Mushing" refers to running sled dogs over snow. Again, this is not covered further in this FAQ.


How do I start Carting?

How old should my dog be?

This is a very open-ended question, and the best answer is probably "It depends". It depends on what sort of carting you want to do, the breed of the dog, the health of the dog, and what other training you've done.

You can start getting a dog used to wearing a harness as soon as he is big enough to fit the harness. Beware, however, because most harnesses won't grow as much as your dig will, so what fits as a puppy will be useless long before you can use it for real draft work.

Most places that train dogs to cart insist that the serious training involving weight be delayed until the dog has finished its major growth. A lot of places won't let a dog under 18 months old pull any weight.

Your dog should also be in good health, checked for congenital hip, elbow and shoulder problems, and be reasonably fit. Carting/drafting/driving is a very physical activity, and your dog needs to be in good shape to take part.

Do I need a big dog to cart?

In a word, no. Almost any healthy and fit dog can cart, even if it is just a small wagon with a teddy bear for a passenger. You must gauge the weight placed on the dog appropriately.

Some vendors (Dog Works, for sure) have very small harnesses and specialty carts and wagons designed for dogs as small as a Papillon. You could also adapt childrens toys to being pulled by a very small dog.

For more mid-size dogs, there are various sized wagons and carts that can be purchased or made. Again, the amount of weight placed on the dog is key. You can't have a lot of pressure on smaller dogs, and due to the leverage effect over the set of wheels, it's very easy to place a lot of weight on a dog iadvertently.

What equipment do I need?

First, you need a healthy, sound dog.

If you're acquiring your equipment a bit at a time, the best first purchase you can make is a good harness that fits your dog properly. If you are taking part in events, you can usually borrow a cart or wagon, or switch off with someone else's dog. But you want, no, NEED your dog's harness to fit properly, without chafing, in order to maximize your dog's comfort and enjoyment.

Once you have a harness, you can look at getting your (first) cart or wagon. What you get depends on what you want to do. If you want to haul firewood around, a wagon is probably a better choice than a cart. If you want to carry your kids in parades, then a cart with a seat is probably a better starting point. Most people seem to end up with a few different vehicles to hook their dogs to, since each vehicle has a purpose.


Where can I get .... ?

Where can I get books on carting?

The Books page lists some books that deal with carting and drafting. If you run across any more, please let me know.

Where can I get plans for building a cart?

Many of the traditional "carting" breed clubs, like Newfs and Berners, have plans available. See the Clubs page for more information and contacts. Prices are very reasonable.

Some of the vendors on the Equipment Vendors page also have plans available.

Where can I get carting equipment?

Carting equipment is sometime difficult to find. The Equipment Vendors page lists any known suppliers, and the page is updated rather frequently as new vendors are found, or current vendors add more products. Some of the vendors run their own web sites that showcase their products, and these are really interesting to view.

Note that shipping some of the larger items becomes a bit of an expense itself. Carts are big, heavy objects usually, and this adds significantly to the cost. Make sure you get the correct shipping charges, plus any applicable taxes, duty and handling fees when you are pricing a mail order purchase.


Carting/Drafting Terminology

Terms for "Vehicles"

Here are the terms that I use when talking about carting. I try to use terms that are "commonly accepted", but just for clarification...

A two-wheeled vehicle. These may be used to haul freight, while some styles are designed to carry passengers, much like a harness racing sulky. Since the dog bears the weight of the cargo (be it freight or passengers), care must be taken to properly balance the load.
A four-wheeled vehicle. These may carry freight or passengers, and have a greater capacity than a cart, usually. The big advantage to a wagon is that the weight is supported entirely by the vehicle. No weight is pressing down on the dog. It is relatively easy to make a dog-drawn wagon from a child's wagon.
A no-wheeled device which is dragged by the dog. These are useful when crossing rough terrain. Some are made of wood, while others are made of aluminum.

Terms for Harness Types

There are several different styles of harness. These include parade harness, Siwash harness and draft harness. Use of one style over another is often a matter of personal preference - sometimes it's your preference, and sometimes it's your dog's preference. Listen to your dog! She will let you know if a certain type of harness makes her happy to work. A dog that doesn't like a particular harness will not work well, and often a change in harness will make the dog a happy carter again. Note that there are many successful dogs working in all styles of harness, including "home-brewed" designs. The most important part of the harness is that it fits well, whatever the style.

A parade harness consists of a padded strap that goes across the withers and circles the dog's chest, and a second padded strap that wraps around the front of the dog across the forechest. The straps could be leather or nylon webbing, and they are often buckled together. Some find this style of harness may constrict the free motion of the dog's shoulders or legs.

A Siwash harness looks more like a sled dog harness, with a series of straps crossing the dogs back, between two straps that extend past the rear of the dog, parallel to the ground. The dog's head comes out through a padded chest strap that follows down the breastbone and back through the front legs. A belly band provides the connection point for the cart shafts. Dogs have free range of shoulder and leg motion in this type of harness, and most can generate lots of pulling power as a result.

A Draft harness resembles the draft rigs normally seen on horses. A large padded collar provides the main pull, allowing the dog free should and leg motion while allowing the dog to lean into the collar with shoulders and breastbone to increase pulling force as needed. A belly strap provides the shaft connection point, while the traces run back from the collar to the cart. This style of harness is typically made of leather.

What are the carting commands?

Starting and Stopping

Many people often use different commands when their dog is in harness rather than simply on a leash. Many people also teach their dogs several commands for "start to pull".


Many people use the commands Gee for "Turn Right" and Haw for "Turn Left". Others simply use Right and Left. Those who drive their dogs can train them to respond to pressure from the reins only.


Training Considerations

Getting a dog used to a harness

Getting a dog to pull in a harness

Getting a dog used to shafts

Pulling a cart or wagon


Backing Up


Draft Tests

What is a "Draft Test"?

Who runs Draft Tests?

What does a Draft Test involve?

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