When I first heard of dog carting I was immediately intrigued and set out to find a tiny cart for my boy Waldo. Since he was not enamored with competitive obedience, I wanted to create an activity with him that was special and would help him to shine. He is pretty laid back so I thought that this would be perfect as my girls are a bit too hyper to stay calm enough to be tethered to a cart.
I was able to locate a couple in Canada who made carts for their Pomeranians and Yorkies and within a month I had a lovely little wooden chariot.
I introduced Waldo to the cart slowly and methodically. My intent was for him to have a totally positive experience with it from the very beginning.
When it came in the mail, I got all excited and talked in a sing song happy voice dancing around and making a joyful party out of opening the box as the griff gang all watched my antics with curious anticipation.. As I slowly pulled the cart into view, I treated and reved them up until they were all very excited. I placed it on the floor and put treats all around it and in it and let them get their goodies while all the time praising with great enthusiasm for each sniff and exploration of the cart and harness.
For the first week I repeated this process of bringing the cart out and making a party out of just seeing it and getting their treats. I then started the same routine with the harness.
Eventually I had Waldo stick his nose ever so slightly through the opening of the harness to get his treat. The next day he put his whole head through the opening while I was praising him as if he had just done the most wonderful thing in the world and then put it away. It was important that he get so comfortable that it didn't bother him to hear the cart noises nor feel the shafts knock gently into him. Once he was hooked up inside the shafts it takes a bit of time to release him and if he panicked it might ruin his attitude with the cart forever.
The next couple of months were filled with having Waldo walk next to the cart while I pulled it along gently letting the shafts touch him on one side and then the other. Finally I put him between the shafts without hooking him up with me on my knees pulling the cart and letting him get used to being between the shafts and the slight jolting and bumping that occurred.
The party atmosphere with treats was maintained and he only spent a few minutes a day experiencing his "special cart time". The day came when I finally took him outside and let him pull his cart around. He learned to turn and back up and was progressing so well that I took him to the hospital for his carting debut. One of my griffs, BJ,had great fun jumping in and out of the cart entertaining all of the staff and patients. We were a hit!
I then saw a notice for an "All Breed Carting Event" sponsored by the Rottweiler Association at a local dog show. With more than a little trepidation we practiced our carting moves and decided to enter. On the day of the show the event coordinators took one look at Waldo and said he was the smallest carting dog they had ever encountered. Unfortunately there was a weight pull requirement of 40 pounds as a part of the carting course and he was unable to participate in the titling event. They allowed us to enter the carting fun match instead and waived the weight requirement. There was a sizable crowd gathered to see this tiny dog go through the obstacles.
As we began the rally like series of stations, I looked down and it was as if a light bulb had gone off in Waldo's head. He perked up his tail and looked up at me as if to say "Oh, you want me to do our training stuff (albeit with this thing dragging behind me), I can do this!" and off he went like a little trooper. He breezed through the course as if he had done it a hundred times. We got a score of 87 out of a possible 90! The judge wrote "good working little dog, great attitude" on his score sheet.
Pictures of our participation in the fun match were included in the Rottie Newsletter and in the National Bulldog Magazine. My hope is that someday the carting associations will allow for a variance in the weight pull requirements in their events. Waldo may one day get his carting title if toy dogs are allowed to compete right along side the larger dogs.. Meanwhile we will continue to bring smiles to all who see this little one prance along pulling his chariot.
My 3 Brussels Griffons are all competing in traditional obedience and rally as well as making regular therapy visits to the hospital where I work as a nurse. I taught them little routines to make the patients smile and branched out into a dance called "The Hokey Pokey" that would be therapeutic for the patients who were able to do the movements right along with the griffs. I have started agility training with one of my girls and I am always looking for activities that will allow me to forge a stronger bond with my griffs and encourage them to learn new things.
My latest endeavor is teaching the whole gang to do a dance routine that includes Waldo with his cart. It is sort of a drill team set to music and highlighting the girls doing spins and twirls and circles around myself and Waldo.
@2004 All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from author Beth Flores-McCarthy. First published in Brussels Griffon 2000-2004 (Camino Books Inc.)