Working Dogs Near Horses

By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard

Some dogs never pay much attention to horses but some like to chase them. Still others are downright afraid of them!

Working a dog next to a horse can be a formidable training challenge if the dog is not started correctly. Even if you don't plan on working your dog off horseback, you should get him used to being around a horse. Many walking/shooting dog events, including the AKC hunt tests and National Shoot-to-Retrieve Association trials, will have horses present and your Judges will most likely be on horseback. So it is wise to get your dog accustomed to a horse well in advance of entering such an event.

The technique for teaching a dog to remain staunch while a horse is approaching is the same one we use for "Whoa" breaking. This technique is based on teaching the dog to remain on a place board (To review this technique and how to introduce it, see our Sept./Oct. '96 Pointing Dog Journal article "Indirect 'Whoa' Breaking" or watch our video tape "Whoa" for Pointing Dogs). Dogs that have learned "Whoa" using a place board see the board, as a familiar "place of safety" that helps them remain staunch around distractions.

The Approaching Horse

Some dogs are intimidated by the looming presence of a horse. For these dogs it is best to have them become accustomed to staying on a place board while being approached by a rider on horseback. Introduce this concept away from birds, so you can work out any problems without affecting the dog's interest in birds.

At first, walk the horse towards the dog. Gradually increase the level of distraction by adding some excitement. Get him used to staying on the board even when someone on horseback trots up to him and dismounts.

Next, review the lessons with the dog on "Whoa" but not on a place board. These lessons will help him later to remain on point when being approached by a rider on horseback.

Chasing a Horse

Some dogs just can't resist chasing another animal that appears to be running away, in this case the horse. To teach him not to chase, leave the dog on a place board. Then, lunge a horse right in front of him. If he has any desire to chase a horse, this technique will usually bring it out. The excitement of the horse being run around and the sound of the lunging whip being popped is more than most dogs can bear without making the mistake of getting off the board.

If he steps off the board, use your e-collar to correct him. Then send him back onto the board. Allow him to settle, before lunging the horse again. Start by walking the horse and then gradually increase the excitement until you can gallop the horse past the dog.

After he can remain on the place board while a horse is being lunged, he is ready to learn to "heel" with the horse, a skill your dog needs if you work your dogs from horseback.

In coming Pointing Dog Journal articles we will cover how to teach your dog to "Heel" to a horse, and our method of teaching a horse to "Ground Tie"

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Marysville, CA 95901
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