Drafting or carting with your Bernese can be one of the most rewarding things you can do with your dog. All dogs can't be conformation champions but just about anyone can participate in draft with their dog. With training and patience, you can have all kinds of fun and maybe even earn a draft title.
In the nineteenth century, it wasn’t unusual to see Bernese and other large-breed dogs in Switzerland pulling carts to deliver goods. They were truly working dogs and looked forward to having a job to do. But with the invention of motor vehicles, these dogs lost their jobs. Now, the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America and it’s regional clubs are encouraging participation in draft activities to preserve the working ability of our dogs.
Teaching your dog to pull a cart is not only fun but can also be a useful activity. First of all, it’s good exercise for both you and your dog so you both can stay in shape. Your dog can also help you with chores like hauling logs. It’s fun to participate in parades with your dog and cart or give the neighborhood children a ride. You can also participate in philanthropic activities such as food drives or use your dog and cart in therapy dog work. And, of course, you can compete for draft titles at BMDCA sanctioned draft tests that are conducted by regional clubs around the country.
First of all, draft training will be much easier if you establish control with basic obedience training. The best way to get information about carting with your dog is to join a regional club. The Grand Canyon State Bernese Mountain Dog Club has a draft education program including instructional sessions with members experienced in training and competing in draft tests. The club also conducts two titling draft tests every year. The tests are open to breeds other than Bernese as well as All American dogs.
There are a number of resources to help you become familiar with training for draft activities. Books you might want to start with are “Carting With Your Dog” by Laura Waldbaum or "Just a Walk in the Park" by Barry Solomon. The internet also has many other resources including draft training information on the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America website.
You’ll need a cart (2 wheels) or wagon (4 wheels). A cart is more maneuverable and is a popular choice for draft tests while a wagon has more stability and is good for practical hauling jobs. Your choice should be based on what you want to use it for. Carts and wagons can be purchased or you can construct your own.
There are two basic harness styles, buckle and siwash. A traditional buckle or parade harness features a band running across the chest and is easier to put on the dog. A siwash harness allows more freedom of movement and distributes the pull more evenly so is safer. Choice of harness should depend on how much weight the dog is hauling which harness your dog is more comfortable with.
BMDCA Draft Calendar
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Dr. William L. & Lesley A. Baran