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Harness Question

March 7th, 2006, 03:57 PM
Hi. I have a 6 mos old GSD cross with a maremma and he's huge...or at least everyone I meet thinks he is. He's definitely not small and he's extremely strong. I was thinking of training him to pull a cart (or a sled, in winter). When is it safe to start them pulling and does anyone know how to train them to know directions like in that movie "Iron Will"? You know so you could say "Gee" and he would go left and "Hie" and he would go right or something like that?
I think he'd be great at pulling because of his immense strength and it could get him some extra exercise at the same time. Any help would be great.

March 8th, 2006, 07:05 AM
You will need a carting harness - there's a few on ebay or you can try sledding outfitters who often have many different types of harnesses (skijoring, sledding, carting, tracking)!

Here's an example:

Directional training is pretty easy - I taught my dog to target for that.
You you can also teach them directions by saying "haw" or "gee" when you are about to turn. For instance, if you need to turn left up your driveway say "haw" - eventually your dog will come to understand what it means.

Basic terms he'd need to know:
"Ready...Hike": get ready and go
"Easy": slow down (and stop pulling)
"Gee": turn right
"Haw": turn left
Your dog will probably need different commands for sharp turns or just slight direction changes.

Aside from the obedience and training of new commands, you also need to teach your dog how to pull. I'm sure I didn't do it right but once Dodger was comfortable with the harness, I simply attached a log to the line, and encouraged him to pull (I had him on his leash). At first I walked either ahead or to the side but I was using commands like "hike" or "go" to keep him moving. Then, I slowly made the transition to walking behind him and saying "hike" (and had a double ended leash to hold onto)...

At 6 months, you can certainly train all the commands and teach him how to "hike" in a harness (with you in behind, holding the double ended leash but no weight to it)... But it is best to wait until he is about 18 months before having him pull an empty cart.

Good luck!!

March 8th, 2006, 02:18 PM
Why should you wait til they're 18mos old? I was just curious because don't the sled dogs up north start on a pulling team by 6 mos of age? Can it harm their development in some way or is just a hgher risk of injury due to muscles and bones still growing? My pup is immensely strong and when he gets overly excited about meeting another dog it can take all my strength and then some to hold him back until I've placed him into a down or sit position. I'm still trying to find an obedience class around because Toby could definitely benefit from some more obedience lessons. I actually hooked him onto an empty toboggan the other day and it didn't faze him in the least. He just carried on like there was nothing new happening. I had him on leash and walked him like normal that time just to see what he would do.
I'm definitely gonna try some of those direction lessons with him. Thanks so much for the advice.

March 8th, 2006, 03:25 PM
You are most welcome...

Yes, I would wait because of he'll still bel growing! It could definately cause him to be sore later on in life and probably shorten his pulling "career". Up north, there isn't as much information available about what is best for dog's long-term and those who are truly dependent on sled dogs probably don't want to "waste" time waiting until the right age. Since it would just be a sport/hobby for your dog, I certainly wouldn't want to risk causing any stress on his bones...

It probably wouldn't cause any serious damage to have him pull a light-weight cart around 12 months. But you have a lot of training still to do and I would perfect that before thinking about your dog actually pulling something.

As a pup, I had my dog carry an empty backpack. At around 10-12 months I started to weigh it down and now I have it on him regularly, usually with about 5-10lbs of gear in it - I found that it helped prepare him for pulling! We haven't done carting/sledding yet but we do Skijor - I didn't start having him pull until he was 16 months old (my dog is 60lbs).

March 8th, 2006, 03:31 PM
I forget to attach a few links about building your own PVC cart!:p

March 8th, 2006, 04:09 PM are probably correct about up north. My dog is already about 60-65 lbs at 6 months of age and stands about 24-25 inches at the shoulder. He's very big I am told. He's a shepherd x maremma. Everyone that sees him says he's gonna be a monster when he's fully grown but I think he'll be just the perfect size however big he gets. He's a sweetie.
But I definitely agree that getting him to obey the commands first would be the best idea. Once the weather turns a bit warmer that'll be a lot easier since I have 2 young kids that are usually with me when we are outside.
I'm thinking Toby could do really well at pulling a toboggan next winter!! The kids will love it!