Canines for Alternative Transportation

saffron_pullingWe’ve been working with a trainer named Deb to help Saffron become a better behaved pooch and to find ways to channel her intelligence and energy.  Saffron truly seems to love learning new things and earning our attention (and treats).  She has made great strides in learning to sit, stay, heel, and drop it on command.  So we were very interested when Deb suggested that we train Saffron as a pulling dog to take advantage of her stubbornness, her athleticism, and, well, her inclination to pull hard whenever the opportunity arises.

We got her a harness from The Working Canine and tried it out during a training session with Deb last week when there were a few inches of snow on the ground.  She took to it quite well and seemed utterly unconcerned about dragging a crate of golf balls behind her as she trotted around the training ground.  Of course, she did manage to topple it and send the balls flying so we experimented with a sled and found that she was able to pull me around but had to be coaxed getting started.  (Perhaps it was our months of training her to stop pulling when we stopped moving on our walks.  Maybe.)

Itsaffron_maggie snowed another eight inches on Monday so we took her out yesterday at our house.  The snow was too deep for good sledding so she gave up when I sat in the sled.  However, she had no problem towing a sled with a 50-lb bag of sand.  Well, no problem except for getting the sled tangled up as she followed her nose in pursuit of squirrels, rabbits, and the groundhog that lives under our back shed.  (Need to motivate your dog to pull a heavy sled?  Simply arrange for a groundhog to be located at your final destination.)  We all had a good time playing in the snow until the shivering got intense.

As much fun as it is just watching her pull stuff around, there are competition dog pulls out there where dogs compete to see how much weight they can pull a short distance.  Saffron is a lightweight (under 60 lbs) but some of the big dogs have been known to pull carts with wheels that weigh over 3000 lbs!!  Deb’s going to organize a pulling demonstration this spring and make Saffron the star, which will be a lot of fun and hopefully help her become even more socialized.

Saffron and her HarnessHowever, Will’s ultimate dream is to hook her up to a small cart or perhaps a scooter and have her pull us all around town.  I love the idea except I’m not what we’ll do with her when we reach our destination.  There was a time and place when every grocery store had a hitching post but even if that were still the case, I’m not sure Saffron would sit quietly with her feed bag like a horse might.  Still, we’re excited about the alternative transportation potential and are looking forward to being the talk of the neighborhood with our pully dog and her happy harness.

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Donna Rinckel said,

    February 16, 2010 @ 11:41 pm

    That is some harness. You dog must be very strong. Good luck training for the sled race. At least you have no shortage of the white stuff to train in. See you tomorrow night!

  2. 2

    Maggie said,

    February 21, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

    She looooves to pull. The harness is maybe a bit overkill for pulling a sled around the yard but it’s important to have good weight distribution when pulling heavy loads. We’re having fun so far!

  3. 3

    Walter Jeffries said,

    February 26, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

    Nice harness. We’ve done a lot of informal (noncompetitive) dog sledding. They dogs and we both have a lot of fun. Nothing really practical but good winter fun.

  4. 4

    Maggie said,

    February 28, 2010 @ 11:06 am

    Yeah, I don’t know that we’ll ever get into real competitions but we’re having a lot of fun – just bought some wheels to make a cart now that the snow is melting.

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