Heidi Zouroudis is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and a qualified dog trainer at Very Important Pets in Wimbeldon. She only uses positive methods of training and helps dogs every day to learn new things. Here she shares her top tips on how to introduce your dog to your horse for the first time.
When a dog comes across any new experience or meets another animal, which they may not have come across before, they would usually be at least slightly cautious if not frightened depending on how well socialized they are.
Introducing a dog to a horse for the first time can be quite daunting for the dog. Horses are much larger than most dogs and make funny noises that the dog may not have heard before. The key with introducing a dog to anything new is to take it at a pace that the dog is comfortable with and to start at a distance which the dog can cope with. The last thing you want to do is rush things as fear can set in and once a dog has developed a fear of something it is difficult to undo that memory.
The best thing to do is to make a positive association with the horse so the dog enjoys the experience and is happy to repeat it again.
Also you do not want the dog to engage in chase behaviour as this is very exciting for the dog and will make them want to chase every horse they see in the future which is extremely dangerous for the rider and also anyone else present!
‘BAT’ or Behaviour Adjustment Training is a specialized training technique developed for helping a dog overcome a fear of something. It can also be used to introduce dogs to new things or for dogs that greet other dogs and people in an over excited way.
Using BAT techniques here are Heidi’s top tips for introducing a dog to a horse for the first time:
- Safety first! Make sure the dog is on a lead and start with the horse in a stable or behind a fence.
- Start at a distance where the dog is not even really taking any notice of the horse and gradually get closer in a casual way.
- Walk around casually while allowing the dog to have the horse in sight.
- Do not walk directly toward the horse.
- If the dog starts to bark or pull towards the horse you are too close! Move away immediately and allow the dog to calm down.
- Every time the dog looks at the horse stop moving and allow the dog to observe the horse, if the dog goes back to sniffing the floor or just hanging around then start to move around again.
- If the dog looks at the horse for more than three seconds but does not ‘react’ praise and add a treat for good measure. Continue to move around again.
- Repeat this training several times in different locations with different horses.
- If your dog does not reliably return to you on recall do not allow him off the lead near horses or other livestock.