Training & History of Dog Cart Pulling

Dog carting can be a lot of fun for both owner and dog. It can also be a wonderful way to give a dog exercise!

Any breed can be part of the act if the cart and load are sized appropriately to the height and capabilities of the dog.

Dog Pulling Cart History & Uses

Giant Schnoodles pull Joy de la Ren of San Diego around in a cart. She was offering photo ops to tourists for a fee when we met her.

There’s a very long history of dogs hauling things for people. 

They not only lugged things around such as milk or firewood, but also large gunsused in battles! 

Native Americans used dogs to haul equipment on a travois.

Nowadays, dogs often pull people behind them in some type of wagon; if not as part of a tourist business, then at dog shows or in parades.

In addition, those with sled dogs who want to keep their dogs in shape when there is no snow, may have their dogs do what is called “dryland mushing” with specially designed wheeled devices.

Building Your Own Dog Cart

If you’re interested in building your own dog cart, see our dog cart plans page for videos and instructions.

Before you build a cart, be sure to view important information about homemade carting gear.

Dog Cart Training Basics

Some Considerations to Keep in Mind

Dogs are usually not physically mature enough to pull any kind of load until they are about 18 months old.

Few dogs are used to something following along behind them, especially something that bumps or makes noises.

If you rush the process of your dog getting used to a wagon, you may regret it when you get into an intense situation where there are lots of dogs and people, or worse yet, vehicular traffic.

In other words, an out-of-control dog can cause havoc and injury, both physical and psychological.

Our research suggests that there is much to do to prepare any age dog for carting, over a period of weeks*, for no more than five minutes per session about twice a day.

*A lot depends on the dog’s disposition and maturity. Some dogs take to drafting much faster than others. See the Training Info column at right for suggested steps.

How to Train Your Dog to Cart Pull

  1. Teach basic commands first (sit, stay, down).
  2. Then add commands specific to dog carting (left, right, stop/whoa, ahead).
  3. Introduce the  harness.
  4. Have the dog pull a PVC travois or the metal shafts from the wagon.
  5. To get the dog used to the cart itself, first have a person pull it with the dog walking alongside on a leash.
  6. Later put the dog in the shafts and hook him/her up to pull a few steps.
  7. When the dog appears comfortable, take him/her to areas with more distractions.
  8. After the dog exhibits NO adverse reactions to the wagon or busy places, add supplies, preferably in a calm environment first.
  9. Finally, do the same with a person in the driver’s seat!

About Homemade Carting Gear

One of the big considerations for any homebuilt wheeled device where the dog is towing heavy loads or humans is to make sure you have good brakes!

Another is that the shafts do not interfere with the dog’s forward mobility or poke him/her on turns.

Finally, you will want to make sure to use an appropriate harnessfor the contraption being pulled. A tracking harness has a snug fit and a central anchor point along the dog’s back, which is good for carts that attach via a single pole like a sulky.

There are also special pulling harnesses with up to four attachment points that may work well if you are running more than one dog, or have two side shafts.