You’re doing drafting work with your dog, and let’s say you need to navigate a tough turn that your Kuvasz can’t manage in one pass.
You’ll need to back and fill with precision,
and the space is too tight for your dog to stand at heel position.
By using a series of hand signals and targeting, this complex maneuver can be accomplished by combining different angles with precise back-and-forth moves.
Navigating a Tough Turn
Before the turn, halt your dog and move ahead or to the side, leaving space for the dog to maneuver. A simple backup is part of any draft dog’s toolkit, so let’s assume your dog can do that. Beyond that, we’ll use a few simple techniques.
1. Practice the backup and the recall to front (for pulling the cart toward you) in short, controlled increments, halting on command. Vary the distances, backward and forward, until your dog moves precisely and stops on a dime.
2. You need a halt command. Halts need to be precise, so anticipate the time required for the dog to check its momentum, especially with a loaded cart. Halt implies an automatic stay.
3. Use hand signals and body language to shift the dog left and right while in motion—and when halted, in order to achieve different angles.
4. Get your dog to target your center when told, not just watch hands. Often you can adjust the dog simply by moving your body a bit.
This relies on tight teamwork, and your dog needs to watch you, which Kuvasz aren’t naturally inclined to do. However, your dog doesn’t need to watch your face; you’re directing with hands and body.
“Attila,” IABCA Int. Ch./GCh. Double Ring Barbarian, CD, CGC, NDD, MDD, TT, VPA. Steve and Attila recently earned the Master Draft Dog title—a Kuvasz first!
The Narrows Exercise
Consider how this helps with the formal Narrows exercise, in which you, your dog, and the cart must pass between two parallel fences (or equivalent) placed closely together, without touching either barrier.
Approach the narrows in heel position, and aim yourself at the right front post; now your dog should be centered. Here’s where we change the game: Almost all handlers I’ve seen prefer to back through the narrows, with the dog following closely. However, the dog is so close that it’s hard to see and correct an error in time, and you risk “looming,” which is not allowed.
Instead, I halt and leave my dog, walk through the narrows, then call my dog to front, positioning myself enough beyond the narrows so that when the dog arrives, dog and cart will be in the clear. This way, you’ll see if the dog starts veering and can signal a course correction with your body or hand signals.
My Attila is a tough-minded, independent Kuvasz, but he earned a Master Draft Dog title with style and flair, thanks to simple techniques like these. Your Kuvasz can do it too—happy carting!
For more about carting with your dog, see my article in the April 2013 AKC Gazette about how Kuvasz movement, traditional work, and general temperament affect draft performance, including speed, proofing, and motivation.