July 12th, 2016
As I wrote about in last week’s post, Bailey and the family took a 3,400 km road trip to Peterborough, Ontario and back again. Our mission was to attend a two day beginner carting seminar offered by the South Eastern Ontario Region – Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada. We awoke to warm temperatures and sunshine – not a rain cloud in the sky. The three of us headed out of Peterborough to Newfhill Kennels on the outskirts of Lakefield. The van passed through scenic farm country and Bailey craned her neck from the back bench to see where today’s excursion would end up at.
The first day of the seminar began with 17 month old Bailey dragging Adam along the ground to get to another dog. It was a grand entrance. Bailey exited the van fine and soon looked for a good spot to drop her business. My offer to scoop her poop was refused – really big mistake on his part. While Adam’s attention was focused on picking up it up, he failed to notice that the leash had become wrapped behind his legs as Bailey sniffed a new scent in the air. Once she caught sight of another dog participant being brought over to the holding tent, Bailey was determined to go. Adam’s back was to the canine newcomer so he was oblivious to the temptation that Bailey was facing. She took off at top speed as Adam was tying off the poop bag. Before I could utter a warning, Adam had been spun around 270 degrees to become a Newfoundland dog anchoring device. He executed a pirouette with the poop bag at full extension in his right hand while the left hand foolishly held onto the leash. Bailey did not get very far once Adam hit the ground. The grass softened the blow.
Thankfully, no one said too much about it or drew attention to Adam’s red scratches. Bailey was taken to her kennel that had been set-up under the holding tent. She reluctantly entered when it became apparent the other dog was not coming to play with her. I am sure Bailey felt imprisoned as she was the first one to be kenneled. Other dogs began to arrive and soon the all of kennels were filled. The class was comprised of 6 Newfoundland dogs, a Bouvier and a Standard Poodle. Adam spent the time nursing his wounded pride and I sat snickering beside Bailey.
I wondered if even a trainer extraordinaire such as Allan Maniate was up for the challenge of training Bailey. He was. Allan taught the group to harness and hitch up their dogs. The harnesses were made out of sheep skin. The harness straps are connected to a wiffle-tree which is a pivoting device that translates the pull of the dog from two points (left-side and right-side) to a single point in the centre of the dog. Each harness was adjusted to fit the individual dogs. We learned that an ill-fitting harness can do much harm to a dog. Bailey seemed unfazed about putting on the harness. She wears a harness in the van and associates it with going for rides to the dog park or trails. Next, Adam connected a rope with a water jug on its end to the wiffle-tree. Each pair moved in a circular fashion around the ring. Allan helped them master the commands needed to steer the dogs in the right direction. Commands like “Whoa”, “Stand”, “Giddy-up”, “Slowdown”, “Haw” (turn left) and “Gee” (turn right). These are drafting terms which all drafting animals must learn. Bailey tried a few times to leave the ring at the entry point in the hopes of visiting me or going to her kennel for a rest. Adam had to work hard at getting her attention back on task and I had to put more distance between Bailey and me. I was amazed to watch our Bailey being transformed into a real working dog.
But, it was not all work. Allan gave the dogs and partners frequent breaks which allowed us to meet the other club members and their dogs. Others dropped by throughout the weekend to visit and watch the proceedings. Each break enabled participants to hone their harnessing skills. Course participants learned to leave their harness gear set-up after the dogs were unhitched, unharnessed and returned to their shaded kennels for water. By the end of the first day, Bailey and Adam were pulling a cart. It was a proud moment even if I was not the one in the seminar. We returned to our hotel with a very tired pooch who could barely keep her eyes open for dinner. Bailey was mentally and physically tired. The second day concluded when everyone had actually pulled a cart with a person riding in it. Allan offered suggestions to us throughout the weekend which we are now using back in Labrador. A harness kit was ordered because we are hoping to return for the intermediate carting course in September. The 3,400 km journey from Labrador West to participate was worth the long drive and hot temperatures.