Winn and I recently entered a Newfoundland Draft Test put on by our local Newfoundland Club.
We’ve been training for a few months. We started shortly after her 2nd birthday in March, which is the recommended age to start draft training. With all of the Rally classes we’ve had, she adapted to maneuvering with the cart really well and we entered the Draft Test at the Newfoundland National Specialty in April. We didn’t pass but I came away with a better idea of what a test is like and some things for us to work on before we tried it again.
I put the cart away while we focused on water training for the next few months and then pulled it out again about 6 weeks ago.
Training this fall was challenging. The weather was pretty terrible with lots of rain but surprise, surprise the dogs were happy as can be pulling their carts around on the cool fall weekend days! It was great to practice with a group, we had a maneuvering course set up, a beautiful forest preserve to use for the freight haul, and it was really helpful to have several dogs together to practice the three minute out of site stay.
As an added bonus, there was a tiny dog on site that was more than happy to fulfill the role of “intriguing distraction”, which was almost more that Winn could take until we plopped him in her cart and she took him for a ride.
The weather for the test was cold and sunny and the site for the test was really beautiful. It was a perfect setting, the dogs were frisky with the cool temps and there were lots of people on hand to help out and cheer on all of us that were entered.
Of seven entries, there was one team that passed. There are so many details to accomplish, it really is a beautiful sight when a team makes it successfully through a test.
What kind of things make you fail? Winn and I failed because she got a little too far away from me, she must stay within a four foot radius, and I had to grab her to keep her from getting off course which is an automatic fail and dismissal (you must be hands free for each of the exercises). Another team failed because the dog refused to back up. There are two back-ups required and she just wasn’t in the mood for the first one. One team failed because there was a problem with the cart. There is a full inspection of the harnessing and cart once the dog is hitched. All of these things happened at the very beginning of the test.
A couple of teams failed on the maneuvering course, either bumping too many times or not completing the obstacles correctly. One team failed on the freight haul, which is the very end of the test because her handler told her to turn right instead of left and she sandwiched her handler on the bridge. We all got a good laugh at that one, it’s pretty much always handler error. The dogs take our cues, whether it’s from stress, sloppy hand signals or forgetting our right and left.
We will keep practicing and hopefully pass a test sometime in the near future. Winn has such great instincts and the best part is that we have fun working together and that’s what it’s all about!
If you’d like to read the requirements for passing the Draft Dog test click here. There have been changes to the basic obedience since this was written but the overall test remains the same.