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Bernese Mountain Dog Carting: History & How to Train Them

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on July 8, 2024 by Dogster Team

Bernese Mountain dog doing carting

Bernese Mountain Dog Carting: History & How to Train Them

The Bernese Mountain Dog originated in Bern, Switzerland. It was bred as a farm dog and assisted the farmers in various activities. Chief among them was pulling the cart while carrying goods like milk and cheese to the market.

Today, modern means of transport have rendered the working breed’s essential role obsolete. However, the carting heritage is not all lost. Cart pulling, now formally referred to as drafting, has become a popular sport that attracts many spectators.

In this article, we delve a little into the history of Bernese Mountain Dog carting and tell you how you can become a part of it. Read on to learn more.

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A Brief History of Bernese Mountain Dog Carting

Before the 1900s, the Bernese Mountain Dog played a significant role in guarding and driving cattle to and from the herding mountains. However, its role slightly changed after the 1900s as farmers in Switzerland abandoned herding and started keeping cattle on their farms.

As a result, the Bernese Mountain Dogs became draught dogs. Their primary role was to pull carts, carrying goods to the market for the butchers, cheese makers, bakers, and milkmaids. Occasionally, you could also pass by a pair of dogs harnessed to a carriage carrying children.

Although pulling carriages is no longer part of their daily lives, carting has transformed into a fun and valuable sport. The first draft competition was held in 1991 in New England. The sport has gained popularity, with many regional clubs coming up nationwide.

Bernese mountain dog carting with its puppies
Image Credit: Lyntree, Shutterstock

How Does It Work?

The Bernese Mountain Dog is no longer a farm dog. But it is yet to lose its instinct for cart pulling. The activity can be a lot of fun for you and your dog and provide an opportunity to bond. However, there are a few boxes you need to tick before you can put on the harness and command your pup to pull.

Here are a few steps you should follow if you want to participate in draft tests.

1. Harness Acclimatization

It may take some time before your dog gets used to a drafting harness. That could be anywhere from a few minutes to days, depending on how your dog reacts to the feeling.

Let them wear it long enough to forget it’s even there. Once you can put it on and take it off without your furry friend rolling on its back, you’re good to go.

Ensure the harness is the right size for your dog. It should also include added length so you can adjust as the pup grows.

2. Obedience Training

Training your Bernese Mountain Dog carting command will be easy if it knows some obedience commands like sit, stand, and stay. All you have to do is add a few more. You can try “let’s go when you want it to pull.

3. Cart or Wagon

You have a choice between a cart and a wagon. The former is compact and straightforward for your dog to control. But it won’t be suitable if you’re carrying a heavy load.

On the other hand, a wagon is heavier and more challenging to maneuver but will carry a heavier load. What you pick will depend on your specific needs.

bernese mountain dog with cart on its back
Image Credit: Joy Brown, Shutterstock

Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America Draft Tests

The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America draft tests are a group of exercises aimed at exhibiting the instincts and abilities of the Bernese Mountain Dog. They are divided into three different parts:

1. Basic Control

This first part of the test is meant to prove that your pup is obedience-trained. You must pass it to be eligible for the rest of the draft test. Your dog should demonstrate the ability to heel through the course, change speed, stop, and respond to your recall.

2. Maneuvering

The test takes place in a 100-foot x 100-foot ring. You and the dog should successfully maneuver as a team while overcoming various obstacles throughout the course. These include passing the cart through narrow areas without knocking things over and ignoring visual and auditory distractions.

3. Group Stay and Freight Haul

In group stay, the challenge is for the dog to remain lying down for three minutes with a loaded cart while you are out of sight. The freight haul requires your dog to pull the loaded cart along a half-mile path that usually has uphill and downhill slopes.

Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America Draft Titles

You can earn eight different certifications from the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America by participating in a Bernese Mountain Dog drafting test. They are:

  • Novice Draft Dog (NDD): Exercises done on-leash and include a three-minute group stay and a half-mile freight haul (20 pounds)
  • Draft Dog (DD): Exercises are done off-leash and include a three-minute group stay and a half-mile freight haul where the dog pulls its weight
  • Brace Novice Draft Dog (BNDD): Similar to novice draft dog but done by a team of two dogs who pull 40 pounds
  • Brace Draft Dog (BDD): Similar to the draft dog but done by a team of two dogs pulling their combined weight

You can earn four additional titles after passing all the certifications above five times under the supervision of seven judges. They are:

  • Advanced Novice Draft Dog
  • Master Draft Dog
  • Advanced Brace Novice Draft Dog
  • Master Brace Draft Dog
bernese mountain dog with cart attached
Image Credit: Anke van Wyk, Shutterstock

Advantages of Bernese Mountain Dog Carting

Carting offers many benefits for you and your dog. For one, you can make the dog assist in household chores like in the old days.

With that, you can accomplish a lot through carting, especially if you live in the country. The dog can help carry groceries home, take the garbage out, or haul firewood back to your home.

Are you running out of ideas for fun activities with your pup? There couldn’t be a more natural and enjoyable past-time activity. It is exciting, and most Bernese Mountain Dogs will wag their tails with pleasure in anticipation.

But carting is not just fun for you and your Bernese Mountain Dog. It also provides an opportunity for you two to bond. Moreover, the exercise will be great for your heart and lungs.

Finally, nothing beats the thrill of competition. Participating in draft tests is challenging, which makes the achievement even more satisfying. Think of how proud you would be if your dog earned a draft title.

Disadvantages of Bernese Mountain Dog Carting

One issue that can cause concern in carting is cost. The equipment is not exactly cheap. Buying the cart alone could set you back a few thousand dollars. And that does not include the cost of purchasing other items such as a harness.

However, the threat of injury or death is the most significant cause for worry. The dog can easily frighten or get out of control while pulling a heavy load. That could injure or kill them if you’re not quick to arrest the situation.

First, ensure the weight the dog is pulling is within its limits and evenly distributed in the cart. Also, double-check the harness to ascertain that it is the right size for your dog.

Additionally, always watch your dog for any signs of distress. For instance, how is its attitude or posture? Is it struggling to accomplish your command? Is the weather unbearable? You must be ready to act swiftly and solve any problem.

two bernese mountain dogs with carts
Image Credit: Joy Brown, Shutterstock

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FAQ About Bernese Mountain Dog Carting

Do All Bernese Mountain Dogs Love Carting?

Bernese dogs were bred as working dogs and often pulled carts while carrying goods to the market. Although many love cart pulling naturally, not all will instinctively love the idea the first time. Therefore, proper training and patience are necessary for a happy working dog.

How Much Weight Can My Bernese Mountain Dog Pull?

Most dog breeds can only pull a load less than thrice their weight. However, a Bernese Mountain Dog is one of the most muscular breeds. As such, it can pull up to 1000 pounds or ten times its body weight.

How Can I Train a Bernese Mountain Dog to Cart?

Start slow and ensure your pup is comfortable and happy in all stages of the training. Progress gradually and offer praises, treats, and food for encouragement. Remember—don’t hit or scold the dog when it’s wrong.

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The Bernese Mountain Dog was bred as a worker and loves carting naturally. Training them can provide an excellent opportunity for fun, bonding, and exercising. You can also participate in drafting tests nationwide and earn awards and certifications.

Your dog may not qualify for a draft test until it’s at least two years old. But that should not stop you from training them early. Remember to introduce it to them gradually while offering treats, food, and praises.

Most importantly, ensure you observe safety throughout. Drafting is dangerous; your dog could get injured or killed if something goes wrong or it gets frightened. So, keep an eye on your pup at all times.

Featured Image Credit: Anke van Wyk, Shutterstock

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