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What Is Bernese Mountain Dog Carting? All You Need to Know!

Jordyn Alger

By Jordyn Alger

Bernese mountain dog towing a cart with 4 puppies in the cart

Throughout history, dogs have been used to assist humans. Dogs have been bred for hunting, retrieving, companionship, and more. One of the ways dogs have been put to work is through carting. This is particularly the case with Bernese Mountain dogs.

Bernese Mountain dog carting has occurred for generations. While this job has mostly been taken over by modern transportation, the Bernese Mountain dog is still more than capable of carting, which has led to the formation of Bernese Mountain dog carting as a sport. But what exactly is Bernese Mountain dog carting? To learn more, read on.

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How Does It Work?

So, what exactly is Bernese Mountain dog carting?

Carting (also known as drafting) is when a dog pulls a cart or wagon. This is a sport that any dog breed can participate in but is typically done by the working breed class—such as the Bernese Mountain dog.

If carting is an activity that you want to get you and your Bernese Mountain dog into, there are some basics that you will want to brush up on. First, carting is about having fun. If your dog doesn’t enjoy carting, it isn’t going to be something you can bond over. However, many dogs find carting to be extremely satisfying, especially muscular and athletic dogs like the Bernese Mountain dog. Starting slowly is the best way to introduce carting to your dog, so be prepared to spend a lot of time during training.

Establishing a foundation with basic commands is the first step to carting. If you cannot reliably command your dog to sit, stand, stay, and obey, you should wait to start carting until you have confidence in your ability to control your dog. If you plan to enter competitions, this sort of training will be the bare minimum requirement. You will not be able to compete without it.

You’ll need a durable harness for your Bernese Mountain dog. There are two common styles of carting harnesses: the siwash and the buckle. The siwash harness allows more freedom of movement than the buckle, which is the traditional carting harness that includes a band over your dog’s sternum. Your dog may be more comfortable with one of the other, so neither is the “better” choice.

The next matter to consider is whether or not you want a cart or a wagon. The carts are much easier to maneuver but cannot hold as much of a load. The wagons are a bit more clunky but can carry more weight. Whatever you pick should be based on your needs. Do you want to participate in competitions? Or do you simply want help carrying heavy loads when you’re on errands?

Bernese Mountain dog doing carting in the park
Photo Credit: Anke van Wyk, Shutterstock

What Are the Different Types of Bernese Mountain Dog Carting?

There are many ways for a dog to cart, depending heavily on what your dog is carrying. But if your dog is carrying humans, there are two main types of carting: sulky driving and dryland mushing.

When a dog pulls a two-wheeled cart or a sulky, that is sulky driving. The sulky is typically used to transport people to remote areas. This activity gives your dog the opportunity to exercise and learn discipline. When it comes to working breed dogs, many of them are delighted to be given such an active task. This activity can be equally fun for you and your dog.

Dogs that are 33 pounds or more can comfortably carry a sulky with an adult riding. However, the total weight of the sulky and the driver combined should never exceed a number that is triple your dog’s weight. Smaller dogs can pull a sulky if it is a multiple-dog sulky, in which many dogs rather than one bear the load together.  In this instance, the combined weight of the pulling dogs needs to be no less than a third of the weight being pulled.

Sulkies are made to put very little weight on your dog’s back. This is especially helpful, considering how sensitive the spine can be. The most common harness used with a sulky is a dorsal hitch, which gives your dog a free rein of movement compared to other harnesses.

Dryland mushing is another form of carting. This form of carting involves a dryland rig rather than a sulky, and it is attached to your dog the way a dog sledding team would be attached to the sled. The art has three or more wheels, and the driver may sit or stand.

Where Is It Used?

Carting can be used in many locations and situations, depending on your intentions. For instance, you can employ your dog to help you cart heavy objects around your property, you can have your dog pull a small cart in a parade, or you can enter competitions.

If you plan on entering a Bernese Mountain dog carting competition, here are a few certifications you can earn through the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America.:

  • Novice Draft Dog: All exercises are done on-leash, except for the recall and stay exercises.
  • Draft Dog: All exercises are done without a leash, and the owner is not in the dog’s sight. Your dog will pull its own weight (rounded down to the nearest ten) during the freight haul.
  • Brace Novice Draft Dog: Two dogs rather than one will work side-by-side. They will both be on a leash and will pull 40 pounds.
  • Brace Draft Dog: Two dogs work together off-leash to pull their combined weight rounded down to the nearest ten.

After passing the associated classes five times under seven different judges, your dog can earn the following titles:

  • Advanced Novice Draft Dog
  • Master Draft Dog
  • Advanced Brace Novice Draft Dog
  • Master Brace Draft Dog

bernese mountain dog
Photo Credit: AnnCatrin Uppfeldt, Pixabay

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Advantages of Bernese Mountain Dog Carting

There are many advantages to teaching a Bernese Mountain dog how to pull a cart. Of course, the primary advantages are that it provides an opportunity for you and your dog to bond and get great exercise.

Another common benefit is the help your dog can provide with household chores. If you’ve been doing yard work and need someone to transport yard clippings or bags of mulch, your Bernese Mountain dog will be perfect for the job.

Entertainment is another bonus of carting. Your Bernese Mountain dog can pull a cart for parades or events, such as carting small children around at a birthday party. Basically, anything you can imagine that needs to be carried, your dog can carry it (within reason).

Disadvantages of Bernese Mountain Dog Carting

There are not exactly disadvantages to carting, but rather aspects to be aware of. One of these is the price tag. Carting equipment can be expensive; depending on what kind of cart you want, you could easily be looking at several thousand dollars. That doesn’t include the harness and other items you may need to purchase.

If done improperly, carting may cause injury to your dog. Bernese Mountain dogs are strong and capable, but even they have limits. You need to be aware of the weight that you are putting on your dog before having it pull it. Likewise, you will need to verify that the harness fits properly and that the weight in the cart is distributed well to avoid unnecessary strain.

bernese mountain dog
Photo Credit: othmarsigrist, Pixabay

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How Old Should My Carting Dog Be?

Dogs can learn to cart at any age but should not pull any weight until they reach physical maturity. Bernese Mountain dogs reach physical maturity at two years of age, so don’t add any weight to the cart until its second birthday.

2. How Much Weight Should My Dog Pull?

No dog should pull triple their weight on their own. Anything under that amount should generally be safe; however, there may be specific instances when it is not. Your dog’s experience with carting, its physical condition, the weather, and age can influence whether you should give it a heavier or lighter load. The only person who can determine that is you, so take time before each carting exercise to consider how much weight your dog should pull.

3. What If My Dog Doesn’t Like Carting?

If your dog doesn’t enjoy carting, you should not force the animal to participate. Carting should be a fun activity for you and your dog; if one party is not enjoying it, it becomes an unwanted chore. There are other ways to keep your dog active if it does not enjoy carting, like playing games, jogging, and going on long hikes.

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Bernese Mountain dogs are powerful animals, and carting is an appropriate activity for them. If you want to get your dog into carting, you must be prepared to spend some money and set aside a lot of time for extensive training. Carting with your dog can be an extremely rewarding hobby, so don’t hesitate to try it out if you are curious!

Featured Image Credit: Lyntree, Shutterstock

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