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5 Steps to Cart Training Your Dog

Carting with your dog can be a lot of fun for both you and your dog. For those interested in learning how to begin carting with your own dog, I thought I would describe the process that worked for us and our dog Meiko.

Before I give you the steps we used, it is very important that you do what is necessary to keep you and your dog safe while carting. I don’t want to make this a safety article, but there are a number of precautions you should consider relating to your dog’s health and physical condition before letting your dog pull a person in the cart.

Step 1) Desensitize the sound and movement of the cart

This is an important step that cannot be overlooked. The last thing you want is a dog that is scared of the actual cart. Start off by walking your dog around the cart while the cart is not moving and let your dog investigate the cart by smelling it. Next, start lifting the cart and moving it around your dog while you praise your dog in a happy tone of voice. If all is going well, take your dog on a walk while someone rolls the cart along beside your dog.

Step 2) Teach Your Dog to Pull

If your dog is going to be a good cart puller, they probably enjoy pulling on the leash. As a dog trainer that is usually teaching clients how to stop their dog from pulling, it is always fun to teach a dog that it is actually okay to pull.

You will need to purchase a quality harness and use this harness at times when you walk your dog. When this harness is on, you should encourage your dog to pull you while you place resistance on the leash.  A great way to do this is to have some walk ahead of you while they encourage your dog to come to them. You keep tension on the leash and let your dog pull you to the person. This way, they become accustomed to the sensation of pulling on the harness even though they feel resistance from the person behind them.

With Meiko, we would also bike him during the conditioning phase and let him pull us on the bike at times during the bike ride. Be careful here, I found out quickly I was not the bike rider I was as a teen and needed practice with balancing the bike with an energetic German Shepherd.

Step 3) Hook Your Dog Up to The Cart

The first time you hook your dog up to the cart, I recommend you use lots of food treats to keep the dog feeling good about the whole process. If your dog seems nervous, don’t move the cart with them strapped in, just feed food rewards and end the session. Always strive to make your dog happy in and around the cart. Carts make lots of noise and touch the dog in areas that can cause spooky behavior in some dogs.

Once you hook your dog up and they seem to be feeling good about everything, you can add movement. This should be done by letting your dog pull the cart while you walk beside them.

Step 4) Add the Sensation of Weight in the Cart

Now you are ready to begin letting your dog see what it is like to pull weight that is heavier than the cart itself. The best way to do this is to walk beside your dog when they are pulling the cart while someone follows behind the cart and physically pulls back on the cart adding resistance to the forward momentum.  

Step 5) Let Your Dog Pull a Person in the Cart

It is very easy for strong large breed dogs to pull a person once forward momentum has begun. The most difficult aspect of pulling is often the initial start off. The first time you put someone in the cart, it will help to have a helper encourage the dog to move forward to get the cart moving. Two leashes are very helpful here.

One person that is sitting in the cart should have a leash attached to the collar of the dog and the person walking ahead of the cart has a leash attached. This way the person ahead can encourage the start by using their voice and begin pulling the leash toward them to encourage the dog to use the amount of forward energy it takes to get the cart rolling. Once it is rolling, dogs or at least Meiko absolutely was thrilled at the idea of being able to pull.

Stopping Your Dog

You need to develop a stop command before any other command for obvious reasons.  We used “Whoa” for stop. Use whatever you want, but be consistent. Here are the steps to train a stop command.

Once your dog is moving well and pulling the cart, give your stop command: “WHOA!” Now, immediately pull back on the collar with light pressure at first and then increase the pressure until the dog stops. Release all pressure on the leash the instant your dog stops.

Published on Jan 4, 2016

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