This weekend I had the opportunity to watch another Newfoundland Dog test, this time it was for Draft Dog. In addition to water work, Newfoundlands are also excellent at draft work. Drafting involves different exercises with the dog hooked up to a cart.
Think back to the days when merchants hauled their goods in carts and wagons. Most of us probably picture horses or donkeys but large working dogs were also used, especially in Newfoundland, Canada and England. Their size, temperament, strength, and dependability made them perfect for milk wagons, vegetable carts, delivery and mail wagons and teams were used for large sledges.
This test was especially fun to watch because Winn’s mother was one of the entrants. It was her first draft test and she and her handler had been working very hard to prepare. Her cart was fashioned out of a milk crate weighted with milk jugs filled with sand. What a brilliant idea that really incorporated the origins of the working Newfoundland Dog!
Similar to the Water Test, the Draft Test is made up of 5 exercises:
- Basic Control
- Harnessing and hitching
- Freight load
- Freight haul
Basic Control is the first exercise because it is crucial that the handler has control over the dog throughout the test. All of the dogs entered did so well on this, I assume because the whole test involves cooperation between the dog and handler. This is the foundation for what they had been doing together. They had to walk side by side, do a left turn, an about turn (u-turn), a right turn and a halt, all with the dog off leash and remaining close to the handler’s left leg. Next was a sit stay and recall and finally all the dogs were in the ring together for a one minute down stay. Arleen is a big, beautiful brown girl who listened and responded so well to her handler but she did let her personality shine through right before the down stay when she decided to roll over and kick her legs up for a back scratch in the grass. She quickly recovered and then she stayed in place for the expected time.
For harnessing and hitching the handler puts the harness on the dog, then the dog backs up so that the cart can be attached to the harness. The judges are looking for cooperation, proper fit and correct and safe attachment.
Now they are ready to start the course! The course includes circular patterns, a right and a left 90 degree turn, 2 narrow areas, a removable object that requires the dog to stop and wait for the handler to clear the path, and changes in pace. This video shows Arleen going through the tall, narrow obstacle and stopping for the removable obstacle.
The dogs must also do a 3 minute down stay with their handlers out of sight. They did this as a group after everyone had completed the maneuvering exercises. The people in the yellow vests are the stewards/volunteers not the handlers.
The final part of the test is the freight load which must be secured in the cart and then a 1 mile walk over natural terrain with the load. The load is about 25 lbs.
Arleen had 1 very small error on the first day but on the second day she achieved her Draft Dog title! It was so wonderful to watch these handlers and dogs work together and have fun.
While Winn is the one that shows the most drive to work, we won’t start training for this until she has finished growing and is at least 2 years old. For now, we are enjoying our Rally Class and obedience training. We will also be doing exercises this winter on land in preparation for water training to hopefully participate in a Water Test next summer.