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Dog Training: Dog Carting - A Sport To Exercise Dogs Of Any Breed

Updated on February 1, 2012

It's All About The Breed And Finding What Works

My new passion Malamute will be to try my hand so to speak at carting! I figure at least this way, I have a much better chance of staying upright and off the ground but then again, where I'm involved, anything can happen!

On getting our little Griffin this year, I became involved by email with quite a few malamute breeders around the Northwest. I was gathering information on what we could do that would be LIKE scootering with them but perhaps not quite as dangerous for someone in their late 50's and another person in his early 60's. When you consider hooking up 200+ pounds of dog to something and saying 'let's go' or 'hike', I'm sort of at the point where I want it to be 'safer'.

I think I have come up with a pretty good alternative - at least in my mind! I think it would be far less vulnerable than being on a scooter, which is basically a giant skateboard being pulled along at 25-30 mph. The mushing principles are still the same and the commands a necessity so no effort lost there. All in all, again in my mind this looks so good! You are riding sitting down rather than standing up. There is also the added benefit of being able to ride 2 people on the cart if it is big enough and if you have enough pull in your dogs to pull 2.

Of course, there is still that niggling vision in the back of my mind of the old western movies and the runaway wagon being propelled down a mountainside at breakneck speed while the man or woman yells 'whoa' to no avail. It probably could happen to me.
My 2 malamutes - photo by audrey kirchner
My 2 malamutes - photo by audrey kirchner

Tips On Carting

  • First and foremost, train your dog beforehand - the USA K9 Video has many warnings at the beginning and all kidding aside, it is a dangerous activity if you do not know what you are doing.
  • Commands - whoa being the most important! Training the dogs before you hook them up and take off is essential and knowing that they will respond to you - priceless!
  • Dogs knowing how to turn the cart without sharp angles is essential.
  • Always have your cell phone with you.
  • I would always have a partner with me as well just in case.
  • Do not run the dogs in the heat of the day. As the video points out, if the pavement is too hot for your bare feet to stand on, it is too hot for dogs' paws to run on! Usually we run our dogs early morning or early evening when it is cooler.
  • Do not feed your dog for an hour before you exercise them or for an hour afterwards as this can cause intestinal problems for the dogs!
  • Make sure your dogs' toenails are trimmed. Running on pavement with long nails can injure dogs' feet.
  • I would recommend a helmet be worn (just in case) as having met the pavement before with my head running the scooter behind the dogs, I do not recommend any of the pulling sports where you are going over 5 miles per hour without a helmet. If you go down, it can get ugly in the snap of your fingers!
  • If you are running malamutes (or siberians), I would recommend running in an area where there are the LEAST amount of distractions, i.e. cats, loose dogs, squirrels - at least until you are 100% sure that they are trained to obey commands. Their 'prey' instinct can kick in if distracted by small animals sometimes and you may be going mach 1 before you realize it and possibly in a direction you had not anticipated!
  • Train, train, train - that is the most important part of this sport. It can be extremely enjoyable but you also want it to be a positive.

More Advice Malamute

See some of my other interesting takes on raising and adoring malamutes (links below). 

Whichever method you choose to exercise your malamute (or any high-energy dog for that matter), just be aware that they are only as smart as their owners. If we teach them correctly, they will seldom disappoint. Given the chance to do what they were made to do, they excel to a fault and are better for the experience. A bored malamute is a terrible thing - a bored dog of any breed is a terrible thing but a malamute usually finds a way to become very creative if left alone to his or her devices forever!

Above all, do what I say and DON'T do what I did at first - just go out and start in thinking I could grasp it without research and learning the basics, teaching the basics to my 4-footed counterparts! It was still worth it all but the personal wear and tear on an old lady body was just not worth it. In retrospect, had I been a little smarter in my zest to get out there and doing something with them, it would have been even better.

We are starting little Griffin out early just walking behind the scooter for now and hoping that by the time he is actually ready to harness up to achieve his full RPMs, he will be well versed in doing exactly what he should do when he is asked to do it. Most importantly, 'whoa' has to be the most important word they know; turning right and left 'gee' and 'haw' (whatever terms you decide on is fine as long as they KNOW them), and some subtle ones like 'keep on' or whatever you come up with for the idea of 'listen to me and leave that distraction alone' are helpful as well!

And once you master carting, everything is applicable to sledding - or basically any other dog sport such as skijoring, bikejoring, scootering, etc.

Happy carting!

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