Ask the Dog Guide: Weather-Tolerant Cart Dog

August 19th, 2008 by Dan

Question: I’m interested in getting a dog that, in addition to being a pet, can pull a

My problem is that here in SE Idaho we have quite cold winters (days on end of high temps in the low 20s) and warm summers (days on end of temps in the 90s). It seems that every dog breed I check into that can deal with the cold does not do well in the heat and vice versa.

Any suggestions?


A group of five small dogs pulls an elaborately decorated cart filled with children.

A group of five small dogs pulls an elaborately decorated cart filled with children.

Photo by Kevsunblush

Answer: The good news is, there are many breeds and mixed-breeds that can easily pull a cart and tolerate both hot and cold temperatures. The bad news is, without knowing how much weight you expect the dog to pull, what you’d like in terms of temperament and size, or how much time you expect the dog to spend outdoors, it’s hard for me to make a specific recommendation. I’ll suggest several breeds and let you continue the search from there.

Remember, as I discussed recently, no dog should be expected to spend all of its time outdoors, for both reasons of health and social development. Dogs need to spend time with their human family to feel that their needs as pack animals are met, which means spending time indoors. I’ll assume that you want a dog that can work pulling a cart outdoors in both summer and winter, and spend some time in a safe outdoor area, but also enjoy time indoors with you.

Now, on to breed suggestions!

Most dog breeds in the Working Group are capable both physically and mentally of participating in carting activities. You didn’t say whether you’re intending to train a dog to pull a weighted cart for weight pull competition, a cart carrying a person, or a cart carrying a load, so I’ll narrow things down to breeds that can easily do all of the above.

My favorite carting dog is the Great Pyrenees. These large dogs are loyal, confident, and delight in working at something rewarding, but become bored rapidly if they aren’t convinced a behavior will result in a reward or simply aren’t willing to work for the person training them. Great Pyrenees dogs have a thick coat that protects them from winter weather, but their leggy build and white color help them stay cool in the summer as well, so long as a cooler indoor area, shade, and perhaps a small wading pool are provided. Many Pyrenees mixes and even purebred Great Pyrenees can be found in shelters, as many people attempt to keep them as housepets with no particular job or occupation, and soon find themselves with an enormous dog that occupies itself mainly by barking at the neighbors. If you ask the right questions and take your time, you could find the perfect Pyr or Pyr mix for your needs at a local rescue. Great Pyrenees dogs can pull a significant amount of weight, and they are very dependable and consistent once a behavior has been properly taught.

Another possibility is the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a shorter coat than the similar but more common Bernese Mountain Dog, making the Swissy better-suited for hot summers. Swissies were originally bred for a variety of farm work, from herding and flock guarding to carting. They are intelligent and friendly dogs that enjoy training and work. Though cooler climates are preferable for the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, they can get along in hotter climates as long as cooling methods such as those mentioned previously are available. These dogs, like most dogs bred in part for livestock guardian work, tend to be territorial with strangers. However, when away from their own property or after a visitor has been introduced, they are quite outgoing and enjoy the company of both adults and children.

The third and final breed I would suggest is also the most common: The German Shepherd Dog. A GSD might suit you quite well, even though the breed is of the Herding, not the Working, group. German Shepherd Dogs are both strong and intelligent, and working lines hailing from Germany have been bred for powerful shoulders and haunches that can easily pull a loaded dog cart. GSDs are fairly climate-tolerant and adaptable. The only trouble with this choice is that many GSD lines have been bred for Conformation competition over many generations. This tends to decrease working ability and has made hip dysplasia a serious concern within the breed. If you choose a German Shepherd, I encourage you to bide your time, budget around $3,000, and purchase a pup from a breeder who produces structurally solid dogs from imported German lines. If possible, enlist a friend who is knowledgeable about the breed. I don’t recommend necessarily choosing a Schutzhund line, but a line with some working ability and a solid back and hip structure is a must.

If you rule out all three of my suggestions, you might also consider a Giant Schnauzer, a Bouvier des Flanders, an Akita, or even a Canaan Dog.

Good luck with your dog search. You’ll be carting up a storm in no time!

One Response to “Ask the Dog Guide: Weather-Tolerant Cart Dog”

  1. Jessica Frost Says:

    I have black Giant Schnauzers, and I can attest that they absolutely don’t appreciate the summer heat, but love the winter snow. A lighter-colored dog would deal with the heat better, and fluffy fur (in winter) that you could shave in the summer.
    If you don’t have little kids to worry about, you might want to see who’s available at your local animal shelter. Many times large, adolescent dogs are relinquished to the shelter which would do very well with consistent discipline and lots of exercise. You don’t need a specific “breed” to cart, all you need is a dog that wants to please or a dog that wants to pull!

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