Has anyone trained a dog to carting?

Has anyone trained a dog to carting before?

As urban dwellers, a horse or pony isn’t an option for our family but well-trained dogs are allowed in pretty much every neighborhood I know of. I like the idea of training a dog to carting but am not sure what all is involved and was wondering if someone else had tips to share.

In regular situations, I envision the dog pulling a cart when we go out to apple-picking to collect more apples or ferry the 1 year old.

In a more serious situation, the dog already being trained to carting would add capacity to the supplies we could bring. Of course, the dog also adds to the supplies we need for an evacuation! So perhaps it’s a wash from the capacity perspective.

For clarity, we do not yet have a dog and will be adopting the dog from a rescue. I had rescue dogs growing up but we never trained the family dogs beyond the basic obedience classes to be good dog citizens. In other words, a dog will be joining our family whether it is trained to carting or not.


  • Comments (12)

    • 4

      Some dog breeds are bred for pulling carts or sleds. These include huskies, rottweilers, saint bernards, bernese mountain dogs, and a few more of the larger breeds. Although a little pug pulling a cart would be cute 😉

      This is an excellent idea Lindsey! Not only will these dogs be good every day pets and companions, but also be guard dogs and potential cart pullers during a disaster. 

      The dogs that were bred for pulling are easy to train because it is in their genes. It is important though to consult a vet to make sure they are physically strong enough to do such a task and don’t have any issues that might get exacerbated by putting stress on their body. You also shouldn’t try cart training until they are over 2 years old because before that, their body is still growing and strengthening.

      Even if you don’t intend to have your dog be a SHTF cart/sled puller, if you do have one of the breeds that are meant for pulling, it is an incredibly smart idea to incorporate this type of activity into their exercise. If a dog is able to do what they were bred for (cattle dogs get sheep hearding practice, pugs get companionship, terriers get digging time, and sled dogs get pulling time) they really get fulfilled and it is a wonderful way to drain their energy which makes them less prone to naughty things like chewing up the couch or barking as a way to release pent up energy.

      Source- my wife is a professional dog behaviorist and trainer.

      • 4

        “If a dog is able to do what they were bred for” I can’t agree more with this statement. I have a girlfriend who’s husband bought an Australian cattle dog but they are an older couple who live in the city and although very active it’s more yardwork/gardening or working in the shop, and not so much running or even walking just to walk. He isn’t a bad dog (I personally think he’s a great dog) but she’s convinced he’s a bad seed because he has tons of energy and nips occasionally. I’ve tried to explain that behavior has been bred into him for hundreds of generations, nor have I not met a cattle dog that wasn’t prone to nipping (not biting) especially as a young dog. 

      • 2

        Thanks for the tips! I’ll keep an eye on the breeds available at the rescues near me.

    • 4

      I can help a little with this.  Although I’ve only trained one dog to pull a little wagon, I spent 40 years driving horses and restoring antique carriages, and 16 of those years as a professional harness maker.

      Just introduce all aspects of the harness slowly, making sure the dog is comfortable and unafraid of each piece, and at every stage before adding more distractions or weight.  Introduce pulling very light things first, like a piece of carpet, building up slowly to actual work.  Dogs can get just as scared of the novelty of harness as horses and runaways are possible, and like with horses, may ruin the dog to pulling forever.

      A very serious consideration is comfort for the dog.  If using a two wheeled cart, it can be very difficult to balance the weight so there’s not too much pressing down on the dog’s back, nor pressing up on its belly.  A four wheeled wagon doesn’t have such serious balance concerns. In addition, you have a very highly mobile shoulder joint that you don’t want a heavy load rubbing via the harness.  Make sure the person you’re buying your equipment from is extremely knowledgeable.

      There is pulling, and there is braking.  With horses at least, there are two methods that enable the horse to STOP a load.  One is via a tight attachment between the saddle and the shafts.  The other is via a “breeching” strap around the rump that is attached to the shafts.  When the load rolls forward into the stopped or slowed horse’s rump, the strap tightens until the load comes to a stop.

      I would expect that a pulling dog would have extremely good manners and not be too reactive to stimuli, such as fleeing cats.

      There are groups devoted to driving dogs.  And there are groups that are devoted to “pulling” dogs, which I believe is more of a competition in pulling a dead weight.  Like driving horses vs. competition pulling horses, you probably wouldn’t be interested in the latter.

      This is my giant Schnauzer Sammy, pulling a little red wagon at a horsedrawn equipment auction, to advertise my business.  I was promptly relieved of the harness and wagon by a goat lady.


      • 2

        Thanks for the tips! I hadn’t thought about braking but being able to stop is definitely an important part of pulling a cart.

    • 2

      As mentioned before some breeds were bred for such applications, and they are also great to have for early warning of dangers, and even protection. We had a German Shepherd when I was young that would herd us away from the ditch in our front yard and even grab us by the back of the diaper to pull us back, he also helped teach me how to swim at the lake. He’d jump off the cliff about 5 feet away right after me and start swimming around me until I grabbed his tail, then he’d pull me to shore. He was the best dog but had faults as well resulting in us paying top dollar for lame sheep he’d take down and proudly drag home, not to mention a deer or two.

      Although this wouldn’t necessarily be for urban area’s but more for rural living. But I do know goats are great for carting my husband rents goats when they go on long hiking trips in the Unitas. In a shtf they are able to forage for a lot of their diet which keeps the weeds down in rural area, they can be used for milk (some breeds better than others obviously), some breeds for wool, and they are quite tasty as well. 

      • 2

        That is awesome! I had no idea you could use goats for pulling carts. It seems obvious once I thought about it for a few minutes but it hadn’t occurred to me before.

    • 2

      As a husky mom, I love this idea. The only thing I can think to contribute is that in northerly places there are often dogsledding clubs that teach folks how to get involved in pulling sports (including canicross and joring) with their dogs. I discovered this a year or two after moving to Oregon, when my dog was eight or nine and it was clear that we were going to return to California before too long, and I am honestly still a little heartbroken that didn’t move to a place with snow earlier in his life, and stay there longer. If you’re anywhere near a dogsledding club, I’d definitely look into what kind of classes, workshops, and trainings they offer for beginners. 

      • 2

        Thanks for the tip. I’m not sure if we’re far enough north to have dog sledding clubs here in mid-Ohio but I’ll look around. I didn’t know dog sledding clubs existed.

      • 1

        I didn’t either! My “local” club in Oregon had an introductory pulling workshop every fall that was really geared toward dog-handler teams who had never done pulling sports before. If you’re in mid-Ohio, I wonder about a roadtrip to Michigan for an introductory workshop. You might get all you need from the overview and be able to carry on training from there. I know there is still a dogsledding culture in Minnesota, so you might find something due north of you and east of there.

      • 2

        Lindsay, I live in the Toledo area and there have been dog sledding competitions at Maumee Bay State Park east of Toledo a few years ago. I have seen trailers of sled dogs waiting to hit the road here in town, and  I dimly recall seeing press articles about dog sledding groups in Ohio. I recall one year when there was a competition scheduled but no snow, there were photos of sled dogs pulling wheeled sleds instead.

    • 1

      I do not have experience with this but considered it for my wife who has MS. She is able to walk but her range is limited.

      I have a lot of experience with a dog breed well suited to carting; a Bullmastiff. We had one when our kids were toddlers. They are docile, unflappable, pack oriented and extremely strong. They also have a temperament that accepts hard work and hardship. They are very protective but not verbally intimidating like a GSD.

      A Bullmastiff should not be walked more than 1 mile a day due to their heavy boned physique. We had a GSD when the kids were older and would take her on day-long adventures.