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Subject: rec.pets.dogs: Working Dogs FAQ
This article was archived around: 21 May 2006 04:22:05 GMT
Last-modified: 20 Nov 1997
There are many FAQ's available for this group. For a complete
listing of these, get the "Complete List of RPD FAQs". This article
is posted bimonthly in rec.pets.dogs, and is available via anonymous ftp
to rtfm.mit.edu under pub/usenet/news.answers/dogs-faq/faq-list, via
the Web at http://www.k9web.com/dog-faqs/lists/faq-list.html, or
via email by sending your message to email@example.com with
in the body of the message.
This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below.
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
alteration provided that this copyright notice is not removed.
It may NOT reside at another website (use links, please) other
than the URL listed above without the permission of the Author(s).
This article may not be sold for profit nor incorporated in other
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Cindy Tittle Moore, firstname.lastname@example.org
Table of Contents
* Working Trials
+ American Working Trials
+ French Ring
* Search and Rescue Dogs
+ Where to get started
+ Tracking and Trailing
+ Area search
+ Disaster search
+ Cadaver search
+ Related testing
* Sled Dogs
+ Types of sled dogs
+ Mushing terms
+ Mushing equipment
+ Skijoring equipment
+ Weight pulling equipment
+ Other equipment
+ Training the musher
+ Training dogs to pull
+ Training lead dogs
+ Training for weight pulling
+ Training for skijoring
+ Health, diet, and care -- Sled Dog Specifics (briefly)
+ Final remarks
* Herding Dogs
* Narcotics and Evidence Dogs
* Patrol Dogs
* Water Rescue Dogs
* Drafting Dogs
This section overviews a number of sports that are related to what is
loosely termed "protection work". These all involve multiple
components of obedience, tracking, and patrol work, however, not just
"protection" training. And as a matter of fact, the different sports
described below focus on different elements. AWT rarely emphasize
bitework, while Schutzhund has a heavy emphasis on it even though the
two sports both have the three components of obedience, tracking and
patrol dog work.
Some pointers to online information:
* American Working Trials, kept by Mark and Kim Donnell,
* French Ring Homepage, kept by Neal Wallis, email@example.com.
* Schutzhund Homepage, kept by Linda, firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Schutzhund Homepage, kept by Ed Frawley, email@example.com.
American Working Trials
(See also the Schutzhund FAQ, still under construction.)
Schutzhund dogs are generally considered working dogs, as many of them
are subsequently used as patrol dogs and guard dogs. However, there
are many people who participate in Schutzhund as a sport, enjoying the
training and titling in of itself.
Schutzhund is a German word meaning "protection dog". It refers to a
sport that focuses on developing and evaluating those traits in dogs
that make them more useful and happier companions to their owners. In
Germany, a Schutzhund degree is required before breeding a German
A dog that is unreliable around people will have a difficult time
passing a Schutzhund test. In order to enter for a Schutzhund I title,
the dog must have passed a the Begleithund test, which is a
combination of a CD and Canine Good Citizen test.
Schutzhund is a dog training and breeding regimen developed originally
in the 20's by the Deutsches Shaeferhund Verein (German Shepherd Dog
Club), or SV, in order to maintain the working ability of the breed.
While the term Schutzhund means literally "protection dog", the
training involves work equally in tracking, obedience and protection.
In order to get a Schutzhund degree a dog must pass all three phases
of the work. Also, a working title (at least a SchH I) is required for
breed survey purposes, and in order to register an approved litter.
The first Schutzhund trial was held in Germany in 1901 to emphasize
the correct working temperament and ability in the German Shepherd
breed. SV, the parent club of the breed, developed the Schutzhund test
as a way of maintaining reliable dogs with traits suitable for
Many countries and working dog organizations have also adopted
Schutzhund as a sport and test of working performance. International
rules have been established by the Verein fuer Deutsche Hundesport
(VDH). The first SchH trial in the U.S. was held in California in
1970. In 1987 the U.S.A. alone sanctioned nearly 300 trials with a
total entry of 1,800 dog/handler teams.
Many breeds now participate in addition to GSDs. While there may be
individual dogs of a particular breed that may be suitable for the
work, the following are most consistently able to perform: GSDs,
Belgian Malinois, Doberman Pinscher, Bouvier des Flandres, Rottweiler,
Tervuren, Boxer, Giant Schnauzer, etc. Generally, these are larger
working breeds with strong prey and defense drives, and temperaments
suitable for the tasks of the training.
A Note about Protection Work
The results of this type of training depends heavily on the
temperament of the dog and the quality of the trainer. There are
enough bad trainers out there that you have to be very careful who you
choose. The best avenues for finding a good trainer are through a
responsible and dedicated club. Most of these tests include
temperament tests as any good protection dog is stable and trustworthy
around people. The common image of a ferocious, barely controlled dog
has no place in these events and tests.
Protection work in itself does not make a dog mean. In order to do
protection work you must have a temperamentally stable dog. An
inappropriately aggressive dog is actually not a good candidate for
this work. You need a dog with confidence and good nerves. A nervous
or shy dog is a poor candidate because it can't take the stress of the
training. A protection dog needs both prey and defensive drives. An
unbalanced dog is very difficult to train because protection work is
the blending of both these drives to produce a calm, reliable dog that
understands the work.
A dog must be brought along slowly to build confidence and
understanding. A dog should not be hurt or frightened in order to
elicit aggression. If neither prey work or defensive postures elicits
a response, the dog either doesn't have the proper drives or it is not
mature enough to handle the work.
Some owners inappropriately encourage aggression in their dogs outside
of protection training. This is wrong. They sometimes do not keep the
control over the dog, often delighting in the macho behavior of their
Protection training will not change the dog's basic temperament. It
does give you a good view of the dog's total temperament under stress.
An edgy dog will always be edgy. A stable dog will always be stable.
There are three major degrees awarded - SchH I, SchH II, and SchH III
-- in order of increasing difficulty. SchH I (IPO I) is the apprentice
test. A SchH III dog must demonstrate a high level of performance,
ability and courage.
The traits that make for a good Schutzhund candidate mostly are innate
characteristics that must be bred for. Even among dogs bred out of
Schutzhund bitches and dogs, a minority have the ability to reach even
SchH I, and a small percentage will have the necessary drive,
intelligence and hardness to achieve a Sch III title. In addition to
breeding, early development is important. The young pup should not be
subjected to strong corrections or experience being dominated by
another dog, and all training and play should end on a positive note,
with the pup "winning."
The IPO (International Pruefungsordnung) rules, under the auspices of
the FCI (Federation Internationale Cynologique), are similar to the
Schutzhund rules and the trials are run in the same manner, with the
exception that no evaluation of the fighting instincts, courage or
hardness of an IPO entrant is performed during the protection phase of
A summary of the available degrees:
Degree Min Age
B Begleithunde 12 months
FH Faehrtenhundpruefung 16 months
(Advanced Tracking Dog Test)
AD Ausdauerpruefung 16 months
SchH A Schutzhund Examination A 18 months
SchH I Schutzhund Examination I 18 months
SchH II Schutzhund Examination II 19 months
SchH III Schutzhund Examination III 20 months
_Schutzhund: Theory and Training Methods_ by Susan Barwig and Stewart
Hilliard. 1991 Howell Books ISBN 0-87605-731-8
_Training the Competitive Working Dog_ by Tom Rose and Gary Patterson
1985 Giblaut Publishing Company 3333 S. Bannock, Suite 950,
The Rose book is getting obsolete, particularly the obedience
section (Tom now uses much more motivational techniques) but here
is still a lot of good theory and practical exercises.
_Schutzhund Obedience: Training in Drive with Gottfried Dildei_ by
Shiela Booth. 1992, Podium Publications.
Highly recommended by many.
Search and Rescue Dogs
SAR comprises a large variety of abilities, some of which are covered
separately below. SAR varies by locale and purpose: searching for
victims in rubble (avalanches or collapsed buildings) is different
from searching wilderness/forest areas for a missing person. SAR is
often linked with local law enforcement, as SAR dogs can trail escaped
convicts or suspects from a crime scene.
There are many good online sources of information on SAR dogs now. I'd
start with the FAQ list for the SAR-DOGS mailing list at
http://www.drizzle.com/~danc/FAQ/sarfaq.htm. There are also a number
of SAR Dog web sites listed in
Where to get started
It is best to affiliate with a reputable SAR organization. You may
even wish to join the reserves unit with your local law enforcement --
this entitles you to insurance protection, for example. Be picky about
finding a professional organization to join: there are many wannabe
clubs out there that would really just get in the way of an actual SAR
effort, and there is variability even with law-enforcement groups.
There are some national groups and many states have their own
organizations (e.g., California's CARDA -- CAlifornia Rescue Dog
Association, WOOF -- Wilderness Finders, Inc., SSD -- Sierra Search
Dogs). An additional benefit is being able to learn from people who've
been at this for a long time: no book or self-training will ever give
you the valuable insights you can gain this way. These types of
organization will have their own certification and testing processes.
For example, WOOF requires dogs and handlers to be dual certified --
wilderness AND disaster SAR.
A professional organization should have law enforcement liasons (or
even be part of the police force) as any search, even for a missing
person, has the potential for turning into a hunt for a felon. Some
organizations are put together from law enforcement reserve officers,
sometimes active duty officers. Others simply work closely with local
law enforcement. Some states have statewide SAR organizations, others
operate on a per county basis. However SAR is set up in a state,
cooperation for the protection of everyone is essential.
Any dog can detect scent. Some are individually better at it than
others. Some breeds (especially the hounds) have been bred so that as
a class, they contain many more talented individuals. A dog's
conformation, structure and temperament will all affect its talent at
tracking or trailing. But the breed doesn't really matter, except for
serious and professional tracking. You can have fun with tracking on
your own. All you have to do is train your dog to follow its nose.
Some extremely practical information, whether or not you're serious
about SAR, to get started with can be found in:
Button, Lue. _Practical Scent Dog Training_. Alpine Publications, Inc.
214 19th St. SE, Loveland, CO 80537. 1990. ISBN: 0-931866-47-2.
A step-by-step practical training guide for air scent, evidence
search, disaster search and the AKC tracking test. Starts with
young puppies. Well illustrated and methods extensively tested at
Los Alamos' Mountain Canine Corps.
Tracking and Trailing
There are two major ways to follow the trail of a person, although
they're really on two ends of a continuum. _Tracking_ is the process
where the dog follows the person's exact path. _Trailing_ is the
process where the dog follows the person's scent, which may or may not
approximate the path the person took because of factors affecting the
dispersal of scent such as wind and temperature. Contrary to popular
opinion, water does not disrupt a tracking or trailing dog, the dog
will simply cast around for your trail on the other side, if the water
has carried surface scent away (if the water is still, the scent
remains on the surface of the water). In addition, trained dogs can
locate corpses in the water, so the theory that water does not hold
scent does not, well, hold water. Dogs can even trail people in cars,
from the scent that blows out of the window or through the vents of
Some common terminology: A Track Solid dog follows a track, and
usually the newest. A Track Sure dog will follow the track associated
with the scent he started with, and will not follow a track laid by a
different person as long as the second track was laid at a different
time. A Track Clean Dog will follow the correct trail even if it
crosses other trails laid at the same time. For example, for disaster
work (e.g., finding victims in rubble), dogs lead their handlers
towards any human scent from the rubble; this is "tracking solid." A
Bloodhound, given a scent article, will "track clean," finding that
same individual regardless of whatever crosses the track.
To start trailing a specific individual, the dog needs an
uncontaminated scent article. Best items are underwear, T-shirts, or
something that the person has directly handled. The scent article is
just as much evidence as the "smoking gun" is, unfortunately, many
people (including law enforcement folks) are still unaware of how to
use scent as evidence and often handle, and thus contaminate,
potential scent articles. Dogs can still get around this by doing the
"missing member" search: the dog takes note of which scent on the
article is not immediately present and searches for that person.
Traditionally, people think of SAR dogs hunting through forest or
wilderness for lost hikers or children. While this is still quite
true, SAR dogs also find escaped prisoners, lost [mentally impaired]
patients, lost children in the city or the suburbs, suspects fleeing a
crime scene. As a result, urban SAR is rapidly growing.
Bloodhounds are by far the best for performing difficult and long
trails. They are large (100-120 lbs), capable of covering great
distance, and their facial structure (loose skin) allows them to cup
and catch even the faintest scent. Their stubborn and patient
temperament allows them to stick with trails that are miles long.
Bloodhounds were originally bred for large prey, and have been used to
track people since about the 16th century. For smaller game, other
hounds were developed, with shorter legs and smaller size. These type
of hounds cannot cover trails as old or as long as the Bloodhound.
Labradors and German Shepherds are often used in tracking. They do not
do as well with older or longer trails, but are more than capable of
following trails within their limitations. Also because they can work
off leash better than the Bloodhound can, they can work more rapidly
if there is a need for haste.
Quite often no scent article is available. Dogs trained in area search
can be employed instead. These dogs air scent (that is, test the air
rather than follow a specific scent) and search for any human scent.
This is most often used in wilderness search for missing hikers or
campers. Patrol dogs will also use the technique to find anyone hiding
in a building or other confined area. Disaster search dogs (below)
also employ air scenting in their work.
Some SAR dogs are trained to search through rubble for people. In this
scenario, the dog is not finding a specific person, as is the case
with tracking and trailing. The dog is looking for any human scent.
Avalanches, collapsed buildings, airplane and train crashes are all
examples of sites where these kind of dogs are employed. Most often,
German Shepherds, Labradors, Belgian Sheepdogs, Malinois, and similar
sized breeds are used for this kind of work: these dogs work well off
leash (which Bloodhounds do not) and are suitably agile for scrambling
around in the debris (which Bloodhounds are not).
Dogs can be trained to find cadavers, new or old. Some dogs are
employed on archeological digs to help locate old graves. Other dogs
are used by law enforcement to find recently dead people, or to
collect all the bones found in an area. Others find drowning victims.
This is a rapidly expanding field, with new methods of training
currently being developed.
Many SAR organizations will put together mock disaster sites and
evaluate dogs sent over the sites. There are no standards or anything
like that except within a particular organization.
For tracking and trailing, AKC and ABC (American Bloodhound Club) have
a series of titles in tracking (TD, TDX) and trailing (MT, MTX). ABC
is negotiating with the AKC to add the trailing titles to its standard
American Rescue Dog Association. _Search and Rescue Dogs_. Howell Book
House, 1991. ISBN 0-87605-733-4.
ARDA outlines their philosophy and methods for SAR. This book is
excellent for an understanding of the depths of committment and
work to be a SAR volunteer. It is a compilation of notes made over
a thirty year period; consequently some of the information is out
of date. There are two main deficiencies in this book. The first is
a bias toward the German Shepherd Dog, such that they actually
refuse to use any other breed; the second is a seemingly cavalier
disregard for the consequences of deliberately searching for
cadavers with SAR dogs, when such dogs should always search for
live scent (particularly for disaster work).
Bryson, Sandy. _Search Dog Training_. Third printing. Boxwood Press,
183 Ocean View Blvd., Pacific Grove, CA 93950. 1991 (c 1984). ISBN:
A well organized, comprehensive discussion of search dog training.
Includes practical tips, discussion of search and rescue and the
law and many other topics.
Davis, L. Wilson. _Go Find! Training Your Dog to Track_. Ninth
printing, 1984. Howell Book House, Inc., New York. c1974. ISBN:
Blurb: "Major L. Wilson Davis is America's recognized authority on
Tracking -- named in September 1973 to the Obedience Advisory
Committee of the AKC as its official consultant on Tracking and
scent training for dogs. This official status follows upon decades
of recognized achievement in these phases of Obedience training.
Following distinguished service with the K-9 Corps during WWII, he
has been active in the Governmnent's program of using trained
tracking dogs for the recovery of detonated missile parts in
missile experimentation. Major Davis was an AKC licensed judge for
all classes of Obedience. He is presently training director of the
famous Oriole Dog Training Club of Baltimore. He organized and
headed the Baltimor City K-9 Corps, one of the finest in the
country, and is often asked to lecture and advise police
departments on the use of tracking dogs in law enforcement. Major
Davis is a recipient of the Quaker Oats Distinguished Service Award
for his dedicated contributions to dog training."
Pearsall, Milo D. and Hugo Verbruggen, MD. _Scent: Training to Track,
Search, and Rescue_. Alpine Publications, Inc., Colorado. 1982. ISBN:
Blurb: "The authors first look at the scientific qualities of scent
-- what and how dogs smell and how environmental factors affect the
track. Then they use this background as a basis for training.
Topics include the science of scent, kindergarden puppy tracking,
tracking equipment, tracking tests, training to search, search and
track, search and find, search and rescue, trail companion, scent
and the law enforcement agency, first aid on the trail and much
Tolhurst, William D. with Lena F. Reed. _Manhunters! Hounds of the Big
T_. Hound Dog Press, 10705 Woodland Avenue, Puyallup, WA 98373. 1984.
ISBN: 0-9617723-0-1 (hardcover).
Tolhurst is a Search and Rescue volunteer in upstate New York. This
book recounts his experiences using Bloodhounds in trailing. Many
fascinating stories. Tolhurst includes a section on training a dog
to locate dead bodies.
My thanks to Stephen Lee for this section.
Prior to the formation of sled dog racing as a formal sport, sled dogs
were bred and used by native peoples of the polar regions of the world
in their everyday lives for survival in harsh climates. Two dogs
commonly employed in sledding are Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian
Huskies. These two breeds had quite different origins and uses.
Alaskan Malamutes originated with a group of Eskimo people known as
the Mahlemiut. The dogs of that time were very large freighting dogs,
capable of pulling heavy weight. The Mahlemiut people inhabited the
region in the upper part of the Anvik River in Alaska, and were spread
out over a large area. The Mahlemiut people used these dogs for
hauling food back to the villages. The gold rush in 1896 created a
high demand for these dogs. On the other hand, Siberian Huskies
originated with the Chuckchi people of northeastern Siberia. These
people had a Stone Age culture and used their dogs for a variety of
things, like herding reindeer and pulling loads. These dogs were
smaller and faster than their Mahlemiut counterparts. These dogs were
exported to Alaska at around the time of the gold rush. Thus the gold
rush played a very important role in the development of our modern day
sled dog breeds.
Sled dog racing began as a formal sport with the first All-Alaska
Sweepstakes race in 1908. Prior to this, Alaska's mushers had little
opportunity for recreation and they used their teams primarily for
work and transportation. Rules for the races were established, and
they provided a good diversion to the difficult living conditions. In
the 1920's, airplanes were gradually replacing sled dog teams for
transportation, freight hauling, and mail delivery. In 1925, sled dogs
proved that they were invaluable during the "Great Race of Mercy to
Nome." In Nome, an outbreak of diphtheria threatened to become a fatal
epidemic. A 20lb package of antitoxin serum needed to be relayed from
Nenana to Nome. Twenty drivers and more than 100 dogs were recruited
for the run. Planes were ruled out due to extreme cold (40 below and
colder) and if the plane crashed, the serum would be lost. Serum was
transported from Anchorage to Nenana by train. The drive was a
success, the serum was delivered and lives were saved. The drive
covered some 674 miles in less than five and a half days. This, along
with the simple commemoration of the uses of the Iditarod trail, is
the origin of the Iditarod sled dog race.
Types of sled dogs
Naturally, most northern breeds were used as sled dogs. Alaskan
Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, Eskimo Dogs, Greenlands, Samoyeds,
Norrbottenspets, and Hokkaidokens are all sled dogs. However, lots of
different breeds of dogs have been and are used to drive sleds and
People use Irish Setters, Dalmations, Golden Retrievers, etc., to
enjoy mushing sports. In fact, most modern day speed and endurance
mushers use mixed breeds (often Siberian crossed with Greyhound). So,
if you do not have a "sled dog," but still want to enjoy the sport,
fear not, for most any type of dog can be used. Mushing is fun, both
to take part in and simply to watch.
Contrary to common belief, the word "mush" is not used to drive sled
dogs. Mush comes from the French word "marche" which is from the verb
"marcher" which means to walk. Undoubtedly, the French used this
during gold rush days. The word "mush" is felt to be too "soft" a
sound to be used as a command. Below is a short list of common
commands and terms associated with dog driving sports.
Hike : Get the dogs moving
Gee : Turn right
Haw : Turn left
Easy : Slow down
Musher : One that drives sled dogs
Mushing : The act of driving sled dogs
Lead dog : Dog that steers the sled dog team and
Wheel dog : Dogs closest to the sled
Sled : Wooden rig the dogs pull in the snow and
on which you stand
Snowless rigs : Also called training carts. Take the
place of the sled when there is no snow.
There are many other terms common to dog driving sports. One book that
has a very good glossary in it is _Dog Driver_, by Miki and Julie
Collins. See the references section for a complete citation.
The types of mushing equipment alone could cover many pages: only the
main points are covered here. The references listed at the end of this
section provide additional information.
There are two main types of sleds -- basket sleds and toboggan sleds.
Basket sleds (also called stanchion sleds) are popular among sprint
racers and recreational mushers. They are fast on glare ice and hard
pack trails, and are also good in high wind conditions. They are
lightweight, and the basket is set high off the runners, which can
keep gear dry. Toboggan sleds are more durable and stable than the
basket sleds, and they are capable of carrying bigger loads. They are
more rigid and generally less maneuverable than basket sleds. The bed
of the toboggan rides two inches above the snow. These sleds handle
soft snow better than their basket counterparts. Both types of sleds
are equipped with a brake, which is a vital item. The brake is very
simple, consisting of a spring loaded wood plank attached to the sled
bed at one end and a metal hook at the other. When riding the sled,
standing on the runners, one simply pushes down on the brake, driving
the hook into the snow. It is an effective method of slowing and
stopping the sled.
So, which sled? It depends on what you want to do. Basket sleds are
lighter and more suitable for racing. Racing trails are groomed and
hard packed for speed. They can be used for longer trips and camping.
However, to carry more gear and run in softer snow conditions, a
toboggan sled would be better. For the novice and/or once-in-a-while
musher, the basket sled is the best choice. They are generally cheaper
and easier to learn on.
In order to have your dog pull the sled, it must have a proper
harness. There are many, but two main types of harnesses are the
x-back and the freighting, or weight pulling harness. For speed or
recreational mushing, the x-back harness is the harness of choice. The
harness is extremely important as it properly distributes the weight
of the load across the dog's muscular-skeleto system. Of all the
components of mushing, the harness is the most important. The x-back
harness is sometimes referred to as a racing harness, but it is NOT
strictly used for racing. As long as the load is not too heavy, the
x-back is used for a wide variety of dog driving activities. The
harness should should be padded around the front and fit the dog very
well. Unfortunately, a picture is not possible, and without that, it
is a little difficult to visualize. See the references for additional
The weight pulling harness is used to haul heavier loads. Therefore,
one would expect to see freighting harnesses used in conjunction with
toboggan sleds. They are also used in competitive weight pulling. They
are similar to the x-back harness, except that they are constructed to
give the dog different freedom of movement and different distribution
of the load. The freighting harness has one very important feature
that the x-back harness does not. At the rear of the harness, there is
a "spacer", usually a wooden rod that is about as long as the dog is
wide. While pulling heavy loads, the rod is well away from the back of
the dogs rear legs. For recreational mushers, this wooden rod can be
somewhat irritating for the dog as it will hit the back of the dogs
legs when not loaded. Consider what you are going to do with the
dog(s) before purchasing or making a harness.
The line that runs from the sled to the dogs is called a _gang line_.
They are simple to construct yourself once you understand their
function and geometry. The gang line consists of three components. The
first is the _tow line_, which is typically 3/8 inch polyethelene
rope. It connects to the sled and runs up _between_ the dogs which are
hitched side by side on either side of the towline. To this, the _tug
lines_ are attached. These lines are typically 1/4 inch poly rope and
are "braided" into the tow line. The tug lines attach to the harnesses
(which are on the dogs!). The final component is the _neck line_. The
neck line is also 1/4 inch poly rope and is braided into the tow line.
The end of the neck line attaches to the dog's collar. The dog does
NOT pull from this under ANY circumstances. The function of the neck
line is to keep the dogs close to the tow line, thereby maximizing
their pull strength. When out on the trail, you always want to have a
spare gang line, as the dogs may break theirs, or a tangle may become
so severe that the line must be cut to free the dogs!
The next component of mushing equipment is the snow hook. The snow
hook is essentially an "emergency brake" for the sled. When you stop
the sled, and must get off to untangle dogs or rest or something, you
can set the snow hook in the snow and it will hold the dogs (and
therefore the sled) in place. They are remarkably effective. They are
simple: a large, heavy, metal hook, weighing a couple of pounds and
about 12 inches in length. These can be purchased from a variety of
places. It is very important to attach the hook to the rear of the
gangline, not the sled. A strong team of dogs can very easily tear a
sled to pieces if the sled is between the hook and the dogs.
The last pieces of equipment to mention are the sled bag and dog
booties. The sled bag can be used to carry an injured dog or gear. In
an ISDRA sanctioned sled dog race, sled bags are a required piece of
equipment. They can be made or purchased. Dog booties are used to
protect the dogs feet from injury, particularly on long journeys. They
are typically used when mushing on rough ice, when mushing along
roadways where chemicals from de-icing can be present, or when driving
the dogs on a snowless rig on a hard surface. Booties can be made or
How about the cost? Well, it varies, of course. The numbers below are
Sled : $300.00 - 500.00
Harness : $15.00 - 18.00
Ganglines : $10.00
Sled Bags : $25.00
Snow Hook : $10.00
Booties : $1.00 (per paw)
The references section includes the names, addresses, and phone
numbers of some outfitters that sell this type of equipment.
Skijoring really only requires six simple components. A skier (you!),
a dog (or dogs!), an x-back harness, a tow line, padded belt, and
cross country skis. You MUST know how to cross country ski VERY well
to do this. The harness has been discussed previously, there is no
need to discuss the skis, and the tow line is just that -- a line that
connects you to the dog(s). This leaves the padded belt. These can be
purchased or made. The idea is that you put the belt on, attach the
tow line to it, attach the dogs to it, and go! Some people prefer to
use a handle to hang on to rather than attach the dogs to them. The
handle can then be dropped if the dogs pull you into trouble! Others
feel that it is best to use a belt and execute a controlled fall in
case of trouble rather than risk having the dogs injure themselves in
a tangle when a handle is dropped.
Carol Kaynor adds that the use of a shock cord (aka bungee cord) is
recommended in the skijoring line. It is an important enhancement over
a regular towline and is easier on both the dog's back and the skier's
back. Also recommended is a quick-release system of some sort between
the belt and the line, for safety's sake. In Fairbanks, a "quick point
of detachment" is actually written into the race rules for skijoring.
Weight pulling equipment
The name of the game here is truly the harness. As discussed above,
the weight pulling harness is completely different from the x-back
harness, and THEY ARE NOT INTERCHANGEABLE! The weight pulling harness
has side lines that connect to a spreader bar at the hock, instead of
continuing up to the hips. This is important, because a single dog
weighing 60 lbs may pull 2000 lbs!
Many mushers have a wheeled cart for training in the fall prior to
snow fall. In areas with insufficient snow, these carts are used in
competition. These can be purchased or made by a good welder. Carts
are a lot of fun, but are difficult to come by, they can be difficult
to control, and they go _very_ fast with enthusiastic dogs.
Some people use pulks in the snow and carts in the summer to work
their dogs. Carts are small "wagons" that are used to haul small loads
or children. Pulks are carts for the snow (they are like small sleds).
They are used to carry equipment. Carts and pulks can be made or
Training the musher
Dog driving is not merely riding on the back of the sled issuing
commands to steer the dogs. It is work! If you start doing it in
earnest, you will pull muscles, fall off the sled and have to pull
yourself back on the runners with one hand, run yourself ragged
chasing after the team (because you fell off of the sled), run into
trees, and so on. In addition to these things, a musher must "peddle"
the sled. This too can be tiring since it is repetitive. Peddling is
pushing the sled forward with one foot while riding the sled. This is
helpful to the dogs, particularly when tired. You may also frequently
get off to run alongside when the dogs are tired. Therefore, to
successfully drive sled dogs, the musher must train his or her body as
well. Conditioning of the musher is to a small extent a function of
the type of mushing to be done. The key is endurance and flexibility
over muscle bulk. Running, biking, cross country skiing and downhill
skiing are all good ways to build strength. You must remember that at
all times, you are alpha. If you are tired, hesitant, and uncertain,
your team will pick this up and become confused and unresponsive. This
can be particularly dangerous on longer journeys into the wilderness.
It should be clear from this that dogs in a sled dog team must be very
well bonded to the driver. Not only does it make training much easier,
but well socialized, well bonded dogs make a very good sled dog team.
The dogs are looking to you as their undisputed leader, and you and
they work together as a _team_. If you are careful to bond to each of
your dogs as individuals, and socialize them very well with each
other, other dogs, and other humans, your dogs will be willing to do
virtually anything for you.
Training dogs to pull
There are many aspects to training dogs to pull. Probably the most
fundamental is _start young_. Get a puppy used to its harness, just as
you would a collar and leash. Also let the puppy get used to pulling
things. Start out with a small 2x4 (6 inches long) and let it drag the
2x4 around behind its harness for a while. The emphasis is NOT on
weight, just on having fun dragging a VERY LIGHT weight behind it. It
is important to realize that one can injure a puppy's bones,
structure, and spirit by doing too much!
To train adult dogs, or continue the puppy training as an adult, is
relatively simple. Some dogs are natural pullers, others are not. Some
dogs take right to the harness the first time, and other dogs, even
ones from reputable breeders, may take extensive training. You just
It is vital to get the dog to lean out and keep the line between it
and you taut. Some dogs have a real problem with this, others do not.
For problem dogs, the cause usually is due to the dog not liking you
to be behind it. If you do have trouble, there are a variety of
methods you can use. As long as you make training a fun game, and you
make the dog understand what you want it to do, training will progress
quickly, even for stubborn dogs, like Siberians. Fortunately, they
LIKE to pull, so their stubbornness is not a problem here. Sometimes
getting them to STOP pulling is!
Some mushers feel that it is best to train dogs to pull lots of
weight, then speed comes naturally in a race without the weight.
Others feel that speed and endurance training is best. Still others
feel that a combination works best, similar to the combination
training for the musher. Training for speed and endurance by mushing
shorter distances (under 10 miles, sometimes even 3 or 4 miles) at top
speed and up hills is beneficial. Loping along at 3 or 4 miles an hour
for 15 or 20 miles is also beneficial. Both of these build strength
and endurance. Pulling heavy weight for short distances is also quite
good, particularly for wheel dogs (the ones hitched closest to the
sled). For this, try a plastic tub to which you can add plastic
weights (the ones from barbell sets will have the weights printed on
Whichever method you use, remember to take it easy with your dogs and
not push them to hard, and never, NEVER, lose your temper with your
dogs. Remember that this is supposed to be fun for both you and the
dogs. George Attla, a famous musher once said, "If the dogs make a
mistake while out on the trail remember that it is not the dogs that
have made the mistake. It is you." For additional training information
(with much more detail than is practical to provide here), see the
Training lead dogs
To successfully mush, one must have a good lead dog (or dogs). This
dog will take your commands for regulating speed and direction for the
entire team. Naturally, if you are driving only one dog, that will be
your lead dog.
Training lead dogs is too complex to really do it justice here. The
basics are you want the dog to learn to turn right, left, speed up,
and slow down on voice command. You also want the dog to bypass
interesting detours and distractions. In addition to the basic
commands already introduced (see section 3), the dog must also be
taught the commands below:
kissing sound : Speed up (or other appropriate sound)
on-by : Go by a fork in the trail, other dogs, or
other distractions without detour
All commands are spoken in a firm, calm, not too loud voice.
During training, you must be certain to use varied turns and trails to
be sure that the dog is really executing the commands rather than
following a well worn path. You must also anticipate the turn and
issue the command at the correct time from the _dog's_ perspective.
Finally, some people get confused when issuing the right/left
commands, particularly in the excitement of a race. Some mushers tape
the commands on the front of their sleds, on the right and left sides.
You may want to do this while beginning on the sled.
To train a dog to execute these commands with regularity is not too
difficult. To train a dog to do this during the excitement of a race
with lots of distractions is more difficult. One possible way to
approach training is to start out on foot when the dog is a puppy.
Keep the lessons varied, quick, and fun. Be certain to do the lessons
in a variety of environments, with and without distractions. When the
dog is old enough to pull weight (about one year to 18 months, get
advice from your veterinarian), you may wish to graduate to cross
country skiis. The dog will learn to execute commands in snowy
conditions, and at higher speeds. Once you have your lead dog well
trained and pulling your sled, you will find that other untrained,
young, dogs can be very easily added to your team as your lead dog
will "correct" the new dog's mistakes, usually faster and better than
This is one way in which lead dogs can be trained. Consult the
references and experienced mushers (if you can find any) for
Training for weight pulling
Here emphasis is on strength and pulling straight no matter how
difficult. Most of the mushing books in the references discuss weight
Training for skijoring
Skijoring is you on cross country skis and the dogs pulling you. YOU
MUST BE A VERY GOOD CROSS COUNTRY SKIER. This is a must. Before
attaching dogs, cross country ski all over the place, on a wide
variety of terrain. Learn to fall in a controlled way. You will
eventually need to do this when skijoring. You will need to learn to
turn quickly and ski in control at high speeds. Skiing downhill in
cross country skis is a good way to simulate skijoring speeds.
The dog(s) must be well trained as well. Train all of them as lead
dogs. They need to know and obey all of the commands very well
(especially whoa!). The references all include information about this
fast growing sport.
Health, diet, and care -- Sled Dog Specifics (briefly)
Sled dogs are athletes. They are also remarkably healthy. It is
important to realize that because sled dogs are athletes, they require
special attention in at least two specific areas.
Probably one of the most important aspects for caring for sled dogs is
the foot. You should inspect your dog's feet regularly. The skin of
the pad should feel tough, but pliable, be resistant to abrasions and
lacerations, and be free from cracks, dryness, or scarring. Also
inspect the nails of the foot carefully. Nails can help the dog grip
ice, but if too long, they can cause serious foot injury. According to
Miki Collins in _Dog Driver_, if the nails are long enough to force
the toes upward when the dog is standing on a hard, level surface,
clip them. Nails that are too long can get caught and ripped out on
the trail, or they can cause toes to break. Both of these injuries can
be quite serious, and they are certainly painful.
The subject of diet should also be touched on here. Most mushers feed
a high stress, high energy diet during mushing season, and switch to a
"maintenance" diet during the "off" season. For example, one
experienced musher mixes Science Diet Performance dry with canned
during mushing season. This is a high fat, high protein food. Some
mushers even mix food in with lots of water hours before a race to
encourage drinking. Dogs must be very well hydrated. During the off
season, the musher in this example feeds Science Diet Maintenance
canned mixed with either Science Diet Maintenance dry or Eukanuba dry.
During the mushing season, the dogs are using all components of the
food that is fed. During the off season, there is no need for such
high energy food, and in fact, high protein foods can cause kidney
trouble later in life when not fed in moderation.
Hopefully, this brief summary has been helpful to you. Even if you do
not want to get involved in mushing yourself, try and find mushing
events in your area. It is wonderful to see the handsome dogs enjoying
doing what they were bred for.
Recommended books for mushing, weight pulling, and skijoring:
Levorsen, Bella, ed. _Mush! A Beginner's Manual of Sled Dog Training_.
Sierra Nevada Dog Drivers, Inc. Arner Publications, 1976. ISBN
Collins, Miki and Julie. _Dog Driver. A Guide for the Serious Musher_.
Alpine Publications, 1991. ISBN 0-931866-48-0.
Flanders, Noel K. _The Joy of Running Sled Dogs_. Alpine Publications,
1989. ISBN 0-931866-39-1.
Fishback, Lee and Mel. _Novice Sled Dog Training_. 13th printing,
Raymond Thomson Company, 1989.
Kaynor, Carol, and Mari Hoe-Raitto. _Skijoring: An Introduction to the
Sport_. Kaynor & Hoe-Raitto, 1988. Available by writing to P.O. Box
82516, Fairbanks, AK 99708 (does not have ISBN).
Hoe-Raitto, Mari, and Carol Kaynor. _Skijor With Your Dog_. OK
Publishing, 1991. ISBN 0-9630854-0-9.
Recommended breed books:
Demidoff, Lorna B. and Michael Jennings. _The Complete Siberian
Husky_. Howell Book House, 1978. ISBN 0-87605-314-2.
Riddle, Maxwell and Beth J. Harris. _The New Complete Alaskan
Malamute_. Howell Book House, 1990. ISBN 0-87605-008-9.
Recommended racing and history:
Sherwonit, Bill. _Iditarod, The Great Race to Nome_. Alaska Northwest
Books, 1991. ISBN 0-88240-411-3. Steger, Will and Jon Bowermaster.
_Crossing Antarctica_. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1991. ISBN
Periodicals about sled dogs and mushing
The Siberian Quarterly
4401 Zephyr Street
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033-3299
The Malamute Quarterly
4401 Zephyr Street
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033-3299
The All Season International Magazine for Dog-Driving Sports
P.O. Box 149
Ester, AK 99725
Recommended places to order equipment:
Black Ice, Konari Outfitters, Tun-Dra Outfitters and Ikon Outfitters:
all addresses are in Catalogue section of the Annotated References
Herding, along with hunting, is probably one of the oldest professions
for dogs. There are many breeds bred specifically for herding. There
are many forms of herding, as well: boundary, fetching/gathering.
There are different styles, as well. Some breeds use what is called
"eye", the tendency to stare down sheep. Dogs may be strong-eyed,
medium eyed, or loose-eyed. Border Collies are an example of a
strong-eyed breed. An Old English Sheepdog, in contrast, does not have
much eye. Dogs may use nipping or barking to move the sheep. Corgies
are well known for their ability to dart in and nip the heels of
cattle, for example. Other dogs were drovers; that is, they physically
butt up against the stock to move them. Rottweilers and Bouviers both
were used for this type of work.
Several different organizations offer herding trials and tests,
including the Australian Shepherd Club of America, the AKC, the
American Stockdog Club. For more specifics, see the Stockdog Server.
A short description, as provided by Dianne Schoenberg:
The European herding breeds can be roughly divided into two factions:
the British herding dogs (Border Collies, Bearded Collies, Old English
Sheepdog, Rough & Smooth Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs) and the
continental breeds (German Shepherd Dogs, Briards, Bouviers, Belgian
Sheepdogs). There are significant differences between temperament and
working style between the two groups.
In comparison to continental Europe, Britian is an isolated island
with a significant lack of natural predators. British sheep-ranching
operations, most particularly in Scotland, involved flocks of rather
shy, flighty sheep that often lived for generations spread thinly out
over the same, rather inhospitable hillside, only rarely being
gathered for shearing and such. The Border Collie is the breed most
superbly adapted to working in these conditions. The BC runs very wide
in order to gather large groups at one time, stays far out from the
stock and creeps up slowly in order not to spook the sheep and make
them run (which is undesireable). The BC is superbly responsive to
command (Scottish shepherds typically work with whistle commands, as
the sound carries well-enough to be heard and obeyed when the dog is
as far as a mile off(!)) and the BC has few if any protective
instincts (not necessary because of the lack of predators and the
sparse population of the districts where sheep were raised). The style
in which BCs work is generally referred to as "fetching" or
"gathering" because their primary function as herders is to "fetch"
the sheep to the shepherd.
The situation in continental Europe was far different. Rather than the
far-flung flocks that reigned in Britian, most sheep were raised in
small farm operations. In comparison to flighty British sheep, most
continental sheep are quite tame ("heavy" in herding parlance) and are
readily trained to follow a shepherd about. The sheep were typically
kept in a barn at night and taken out to unfenced fields to graze by
day. Since the fields used for sheep pasture were often side-by-side
with those used for growing crops, the shepherd needed a dog that
would patrol the "boundary" of the area, serving as a sort of living
fence. Furthermore, predators (both animal and human) were always a
threat, so all the continental herding breeds have strongly-developed
protective instincts (which is why they are the breeds most often
chosen for police and protection work). The German sheepdog trials
(HGH, pronounced "haw-gee-haw") are a demonstration of this style of
herding (variously referred to as boundary, tending or continental).
Typically using a large number of sheep (something on the order of
100) that are conditioned to follow a handler around, the dog
demonstrates its ability and desire to patrol the "boundaries" of the
flock as the handler leads the flock around. A courage test, in the
dog must protect his handler and flock from a stranger wielding a
stick, is an important part of every HGH trial.
[Australia has a lot of herding dogs; what about them?]
Narcotics and Evidence Dogs
This is commonly considered a subset of SAR. Dogs can be trained to
alert (by barking, pointing, or pawing) on controlled substances such
as drugs, agricultural products (e.g., in customs or at borders), and
nearly anything else (for example, gunpowder (to detect guns), bomb
materials, arson materials). Narcotic dogs are trained to search
through buildings, cars, and luggage for their scent. They can be
trained to alert on more than one kind of drug, and can do so despite
ingenious efforts on the smuggler's part: dogs have been known to
locate drugs concealed in gasoline, rotting food, skunk oil, and many
other efforts. They can be trained to discriminate between large and
small amounts: in fact some dogs are trained to whiff passing
vehicles; if it alerts on one, that vehicle can be stopped later and
searched without directly involving the dog and its handler.
Evidence dogs are trained to search for items bearing human scent,
sometimes specific human scent. They are utilized in crime scenes to
find evidence thrown away by a suspect. Such evidence can be later
used (if handled properly) by a Bloodhound to link the scent on it to
a suspect: several such cases have been deemed admissible evidence in
Dogs that are trained to alert on contraband items are almost always
owned by law enforcement personnel, as these individuals can most
easily legally obtain small quantities of contraband to train their
dog with. In other words, average citizens do not train narcotic dogs
because of legal difficulties. The dog's training record must record
legal acquisition of contraband material used in training: if no such
record exists, or the dog does not have a training record, then its
evidence will not be accepted in court. (In other words, don't try
this at home. Similar problems exist for the cadaver dog: dead human
parts must be legally obtained.)
This is a very general term. Technically, any dog working for a police
or sheriff department is a "police" or "patrol" dog, this can include
narcotic, evidence, tracking, trailing, and attack dogs. SAR and
narcotic and evidence search have already been covered. The popular
notion of the term "police dog" refers to "attack" dogs kept by law
enforcement departments. Dogs can do more than one job; there is no
reason that a dog couldn't trail/track people, sniff out narcotics,
and locate arson material. But attack dogs are usually used only for
chasing suspects and bringing them down. Of interest in our litigous
society is the current trend of going to bark and hold, which means
that the dog barks at the subject to hold him, and only attacks if the
suspect continues to flee or if the suspect attempts to attack the dog
or a bystander. Other departments maintain that it is safer for the
dog and handler if the dog attacks directly. In either case, the
handler should be able to call the dog off an ordered attack should
the suspect surrender.
Schutzhund training shows that attack training does not exclude other
abilities, but for whatever reasons, this is not often done
(Schutzhund training itself is difficult; the Schutzhund section
describes the difficulty of finding suitable candidates for the
training). There are often liability concerns; an "attack" dog will be
viewed unfavorably by most judges and juries if it attacked someone,
even justifiably, while doing something else.
There are no national or even state-wide standards for these dogs.
However, the National Association of Protection Dogs has been formed
to try and establish a national standard for protection work, and to
educate the general public about them. They may be reached at
Many patrol dogs are Schutzhund trained. Some are well trained, others
are not. German Shepherd Dogs are commonly used, but any large breed
with energy and drive can be used: Bouvier des Flandres, Doberman
Pinschers, Malinois, Rottweilers and others have also been used as
The use of patrol dogs, in an organized fashion, began in the US in
1907 with South Orange, New Jersey, and New York Police Departments.
These were followed by departments in Glen Ridge, NJ (1910), Detroit
(1917), Berkeley, CA (1930), Pennsylvania State Police (1931), Royal
Canadian Mounted Police K-9 Section (1937), and the Connecticut State
Police (1944). Many other departments have since created programs of
their own to utilize dogs. This is the reason for the lack of uniform
standards across the country, as each department makes its own.
For a detailed reference, including history, try:
Chapman, Samuel G. _Police Dogs in America_. Bureau of Government
For information on training dogs for different types of police work
(but not attack or protection), see:
Tolhurst, Bill. _The Police Textbook for Dog Handlers_. Sharp
Printing, 3477 Lockport Road, Sanborn, NY 14132. 1991. (Paperback, 89
This book is only available from the author. $14 plus $2 shipping
and handling. Write to Bill Tolhurst, 383 Willow Street, Lockport,
NY 14094. The most comprehensive training book available. Contains
information not available from any other source. Contains updated
information covered by the original National Police Bloodhound
Training Manual (1977). Plus: how to train a land-cadaver dog, a
water-cadaver dog, an article-search dog, an accelerant (arson)
dog. Information on the Scent Transfer Machine, about
radio-controlled dogs, on crime scene dog development, on the use
of a scent sleeve. Discusses seminars, Bloodhound misconceptions,
testifying in court, commands, puppy profiles (how to select a
puppy) and more.
Eden, Bob. _K9 Officer's Manual_, _Dog Training for Law Enforcement_ .
Available from Direct Book Publishing at 1-800-776-2665.
Water Rescue Dogs
This information was kindly supplied by Carol Norton-Miller and/or
Darlene Stever .
The Newfoundland Club of America offers tests for two water titles.
The junior title is for Water Dog, while the senior title is for Water
Rescue Dog. Both tests consist of six exercises, with two judges in
attendance. The dog must pass all six exercises by both judges to
obtain the title.
In the junior test, the first exercise is Basic Control. This is held
in a fenced area, similar to an obedience class. All exercises are
done off lead, but the handler may talk to the dog and give hand
signals all they want, as long as they don't touch the dog. The
exercises are heel, which includes fast, slow, turns and stop; recall,
in which the dog must start to move on the first command, after which
the handler may call and encourage all they want, "finish" is
optional; and a three minute long down as a group exercise, with the
handler in the ring. If the dog has a CD title, they may elect to skip
The second junior exercise is a "single retrieve." The handler must
throw a boat bumper a minimum of 30 feet. The dog must retrieve the
bumper and deliver to hand. The handler may not step into the water at
any time. If the dog drops the bumper, the handler may command him to
pick the bumper back up. The next exercise is a "drop retrieve." A
steward rows through the test area at 50 feet from shore. The steward
drops an article, either a boat cushion or a life vest (usually
selected by the judges in a random drawing), on the blind side of the
boat (the side away from the shore). Once the boat clears the test
area, the handler sends the dog to retrieve the article, and deliver
it to hand. Again, the handler may not enter the water.
The next junior exercise is the "take a line." A steward introduces
himself to the dog, then goes into the water to 50 feet from shore.
The handler hands the dog a boat bumper with a 75 foot line attached.
The dog must swim out to the steward, who is calling the dog by name,
and must swim close enough to the steward so that he is able to grab
the line. The exercise is completed once the steward has the line in
hand. The dog is usually taught to swim around the handler to make it
easier to grab the line. The next exercise is "tow a boat." The dog
and handler enter the water to wading depth. The dog is handed a boat
bumper which is attached to a 14 foot row boat, with no one in it. The
dog must tow the boat for a distance of 50 feet parallel to the shore.
If the dog "grounds" the boat, he must tow it back out to wading
depth, with the handler using voice commands only. If the dog drops
the boat bumper, the handler may give voice commands only to get him
to pick it back up.
The last exercise is "swim with handler." The dog and handler enter
the water together and must start swimming within thirty feet of
shore. They swim together for 20 feet, and the dog must not interfere
with the handler in any way. At 20 feet, the judge will blow a
whistle, at which point the dog and handler turn towards shore, again
with the dog usually swimming around the handler. The handler then
takes hold of the dog, usually to the rear feathering or hair on the
dogs sides or back, and the dog must tow the handler to wading depth.
The handler's feet must be out of the water to show that they are
indeed being towed.
In the senior exercises, the major difference is that the stewards may
not call the dog by name, only by calling "dog," "help," etc. The
first senior exercise is a "directed retrieve." A steward rows through
the test area at 50 feet from shore. At a designated spot, he drops
one article, either a boat cushion or a life vest, and at a second
designated spot he drops the other article. The judge will direct the
handler to send the dog for one article, which the dog must deliver to
hand. Then the handler will send the dog for the second article. This
is similar to the "directed retrieve" in AKC Utility Obedience, except
you are using only two articles, and the dog must be sent out for both
The next exercise is a "drop retrieve." The dog and handler are placed
on a platform on the back of a row boat, which is rowed out 75 feet
from shore. The handler will toss an oar into the water, and direct
the dog to jump from the boat and retrieve the oar. The dog must
deliver the oar back to the boat, at which point the handler may
either help the dog back into the boat, or may enter the water and
swim to shore with the dog.
The next senior exercise is an "underwater retrieve." The dog and
handler enter the water to chest deep on the dog. A non-floating
object is dropped into the water 3 feet in front of the dog. The dog
may either go underwater to retrieve the object at that point, or may
"paw" the object closer to shore and then retrieve it. Again, the dog
must deliver the article to hand. The next exercise is "directed
rescue." Three stewards enter the water and swim out to 75 feet from
shore. The judge will determine which steward is the "drowner." The
handler gives the dog a line with a life ring attached. The dog must
swim out to the designated "drowner," close enough so the steward can
grab the life ring (again we usually teach the dog to swim around the
steward). The dog must then tow the steward back to wading depth, with
the steward's feet out of the water to show that they are being towed.
Next is the "take a line, tow a boat" exercise. A steward and the
rower are in the row boat 75 feet from shore. The steward calls the
dog, again not using the dog's name. The handler gives the dog a boat
bumper with a rope attached. The dog must swim out close enough to the
boat so the steward can grap the rope. The dog must then tow the boat
back to shore, close enough to ground the boat.
The last exercise is the "rescue off boat." The handler and dog are
again placed on a platform on the back of the row boat, which is then
rowed out 75 feet from shore. The handler "falls" into the water, then
calls the dog to "rescue" him. The dog must jump off the boat, swim to
the handler, then tow the handler to wading depth.
Dogs have long been used as drafting and carting dogs. There are many
variations of this activity, which is also in some cases a sport (such
as weight pulling). I've outlined a few below [This could use
expansion/description of other activities appropriate for this
Newfoundland Club of America "Draft Dog"
This information was kindly supplied by Carol Norton-Miller and/or
Darlene Stever . Again, the Newfoundland Club of America has a test to
award the title "Draft Dog" to Newfoundlands. All exercises are done
off lead, but the handler may give verbal commands, encouragement, or
hand signals all they want, as long as they don't touch the dog. All
exercises are judged by two judges, and the dog must pass all
exercises by both judges to be awarded a Draft Dog title.
The first part of the test is "Basic Control," which consists of heel
off lead (including fast, slow, turns and stop), a recall (the dog
must start to move on the first command, after which the handler may
call and encourage the dog all they want), and a three minute long
down, with the handler in the ring.
The second exercise is "Harnessing and Hitching." In a designated
area, the handler leaves the dog on a stay command, walks at least 20
feet to pick up his harness (usually being held by a steward), returns
to the dog, and using only voice commands or hand signals, places the
harness on the dog. This is the only time during the test when the
handler may touch the dog, and then only to the extent necessary to
safely put the harness on the dog. Then, using voice commands and hand
signals only, the handler takes to dog to an area near where his
"vehicle" is waiting. He must command the dog to back up, at least
four feet, preferably backing the dog into the traces of the vehicle
(although this is not necessary to pass). The handler then hitches the
dog to the vehicle, and moves the dog forward a few steps. At this
point the judges will inspect the harness and vehicle for safety. The
next exercise is "Basic Control." At the judges command, the handler
will move the dog forward, slow, and halt. The next exercise is an
obstacle course, which must include 90 degree turns, 360 degree turns,
a "fixed narrows" (the judges measure all vehicles being used in the
test, and this obstacle is 1 foot wider than the widest vehicle), a
"movable narrows" (the judges measure each vehicle, and the narrows
are reset to 1 foot wider than the vehicle being tested), a back up of
at least three feet, and a movable obstacle, where the handler must
put the dog on a stay, move the obstacle, move the dog past the
obstacle, put the dog on a stay, and replace the obstacle. At this
point, the dogs and handlers are usually given a short break while the
judges check equipment and weight for the 1 mile cross country freight
haul! The weight pulled depends on the type of vehicle, with a travois
pulling 5-15 pounds, a two-wheeled vehicle pulling 25-75 pounds, etc.
Most competitors use a two-wheeled vehicle, and usually use 25 pound
weight. The judges must watch the handler load the weight into the
vehicle, and the weight must be secured for safety, as the cross
country course includes uphill and downhill maneuvers. The final test
is the 1 mile cross country freight haul. Again, the dog is off lead,
using only voice commands and/or hand signals for control. The course
includes uphill areas, downhill areas, and various footing, usually
including dirt, grass, blacktop, gravel, sand, etc. At the conclusion
of the 1 mile freight haul, the judges must observe each handler
unhitching the dog, in a safe manner. One other "exercise" that is
included in the test is an "intriguing distraction." This may occur
anywhere during either the obstacle course or the cross country
freight haul. It may be almost anything, within certain safety
restrictions. This has included such things as kids and other dogs
playing, a rabbit on a leash, and even a radio-controlled car!
The Draft Dog title and the Water Rescue Dog title are included in the
requirements for an NCA Versatility Newf title. The dog must also
obtain an AKC Championship and a minimum of an AKC CD title. At this
point, they are awarded an NCA Versatility Newf title.
Working Dogs FAQ
Cindy Tittle Moore, firstname.lastname@example.org