Friday, June 28, 2013

Josie's Job

When Dave and I get all dressed up in our finery and go to engage in medieval what-nots, Josie (our lab-pointer mix) always watches us leave with a look that I cannot help but feel is a vague sadness at being left out. I try to make her feel important by commanding her to watch the house and keep the cat under control, but we both know all she does is nap and bark at birds in the backyard. 

Well, no more. Josie is being trained for a very important job: carting! In the early days, dogs often were used as burden animals. They were cheaper and easier to keep than a horse and also could perform the duties of watchdog and hunting. 

I cut her harness from some 10oz leather I bought a few weeks ago from the Oregon Leather Company. I got a large piece from the remnant bin and it was the perfect stuff for this. Scraps of shearling fleece I had left over from re-doing a saddle padded the leather for comfort, and I used a bit of red leather to make the family crest to adorn her breastcollar. She very happily stood for all the trying on and measuring -- probably because I had a handful of treats. Everything about this project, from start to finish, has to be pleasant for Josie to make her a willing and cheerful carting partner. 

Here's the finished harness. It looks a little low because of the angle of the picture, but I assure you it's fine. 

Our family crest -- alternately called the Boar's Head or the Almighty Boar, depending on how long I've been talking -- is highlighted with just a touch of gold on the pineapple-ring halo. I am a wit.

There are steps to teaching a dog to cart. After two walks and a play session with the harness on, we went to the next step: I attached a bucket to the harness to drag behind her and make a little noise. She looked back a few times but was more curious than disturbed, and soon that bucket was bouncing and jostling along behind her and she didn't even care.  I'd told myself I'd wait a day, but she was doing so well I couldn't resist and we went to the next step: getting her used to the idea of shafts at her sides. I attached two brooms to her  through the shaft loops and her tail never stopped wagging. (You can see it's all blurry in the picture!)  It's very clear to me that Josie is going to be an excellent carting dog. Now I'd better hurry up and make the cart!

I found this site to be a useful resource for measurements and training ideas. It's a great starting point for anyone interested in medieval dogs. 


  1. Have you ever heard the saying: "You can't teach an old dog new tricks?" Josie is getting pretty old as you can see by the gray on her muzzle.

  2. She's only seven! And she is a little grizzled, yes, but she's actually had a frosted face ever since puppyhood. People always think she's much older than she is. I expect she's got a good long life to go , yet. :)