Training

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2 min read

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How to Train a Puppy to Like a Horse

Training

|

2 min read

|

1

Comments

How to Train a Puppy to Like a Horse
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-4 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

You just purchased the cutest little Blue Heeler puppy, put a bright blue bandana around his neck, and headed to the stable to visit your horse with puppy in tow. You hope to establish a positive relationship between your two pets, and hope they will like each other. You have a vision of your horse trotting down the road with your dog trotting smartly beside, just one happy family! 

But how do you achieve this? Before you introduce your horse and your puppy there are some things you have to consider. Your puppy is young, inexperienced, probably small, at least smaller then he’s going to be, and may be nervous about larger animals. A horse is big, really big, like... the biggest dog your puppy has ever seen! It is not uncommon for a puppy to be pretty intimidated by a horse, and to make matters more difficult, horses can be nervous and spook around a fast-moving, unpredictable puppy, making for a potentially disastrous situation.

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Defining Tasks

Puppies can be more inquisitive and more open to new experiences when they are young, around 4 to 12 weeks. At this time, introduction to horses may be more successful as you're curious pup may not have learned to be cautious yet. An older puppy over 16 weeks may begin to be nervous in new situations, and meeting a horse would qualify as a new situation. You will need to control your puppy's introduction to horses so he does not get hurt--a startled horse can accidentally step on a puppy, or a spooked puppy can zig when they should have zagged, putting themselves in danger under a horse's feet. 

Puppies should be kept on a leash and introduced to quiet horses. Often, holding the puppy gives more control of the situation, as well as protection and security for the puppy, and makes your puppy less likely to startle or annoy your horse. Providing positive first experiences with horses will make your puppy feel secure and confident around horses and as he matures he will be able to enjoy and like horses. You can even get your puppy to recognize horses as pack mates if you handle introductions and socialization correctly.

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Getting Started

Safety, safety, safety!  When introducing a puppy to horses, so that your new puppy will learn to like being around horses, you need to control the situation for your puppy's sake and your horses'.  Puppies can easily be accidentally stepped on and horses can easily be startled. When introducing animals be sure to use a mature, calm, horse that is comfortable around dogs and keep horse and puppy on leads to control interaction. You can provide your puppy with treats to create a positive association.

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The Slow and Careful Method

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Introduce through fence

Put your horse in a round pen or enclosure where he is free to move and bring your puppy on a leash up to other side of the fence. Allow your puppy to see your horse through the fence, let your puppy sniff the area and get used to the sights and sound of the horse and stable.

2

Put horse on a lead

Put the horse on a halter and lead and have an assistant hold the horse.

3

Introduce puppy

Pick up your puppy if he is small enough, or walk him over to the horse. Approach from the front and a little to the side so your horse can clearly see the puppy approaching, and to give your puppy a good perspective of the horse. Praise your puppy and give him treats to create a positive association as you approach the horse.

4

Stop if puppy is not ready

If your puppy seems afraid or aggressive as you approach, stop. Wait until he is calm before proceeding, or stop, wait, and try again another time.

5

Keep safe and reinforce

Once the puppy is calm approaching the horse, allow the puppy to touch noses and sniff the horse. Be aware of where your puppy is, and where the horse is, especially the horse’s feet--do not allow the puppy to walk underfoot. Repeat introductions over several sessions, pairing with treats, until your puppy learns that the horse is safe and he associates treats with the horse.

The Create a Pack Method

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Introduce animals

Carefully introduce your puppy to a calm, mature horse, with your puppy on a leash. Use a horse that is familiar with dogs and puppies, and not likely to spook if a puppy gets under his feet. Have an assistant hold the horse on a halter and lead.

2

Socialize safely

Let the puppy sniff the horse, keep the puppy out from under horse's feet.

3

Start walking

Start having your assistant walk the horse while you walk the puppy. Walk together but keep the animals several feet apart at first.

4

Increase proximity

As your puppy reacts calmly, praise him and gradually move the two animals closer together. Repeat going on long walks with your horse and puppy.

5

Create association

Your puppy will learn to associate walks, which he loves, with the horse and also view the horse as a member of his “pack”.

The Positive Association Method

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Reinforce horse in pen

Approach a horse in a pen from the other side of the fence, with your puppy on a leash. When your puppy approaches the fence, and is inquisitive about the horse, use a clicker and provide a treat.

2

Approach directly

Have someone hold the horse on a lead in the pen while you approach with your puppy on a lead.

3

Reinforce calm approach

As your puppy moves forward to investigate the horse, reinforce interest and approach with a clicker and treats. Let him sniff the horse, click and treat.

4

Keep animals safe

Make sure your puppy stays out from under the horse’s fee. If your puppy crowds the horse, calmly correct him, do not yell or punish your puppy, which could startle the puppy or the horse and create a negative association.

5

Establish positive relationship

Repeat daily, introducing the horse and reinforcing your puppy for approaching the horse in a friendly calm way.

By Laurie Haggart

Published: 03/28/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Trip

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Blue heeler x corgi

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8 Weeks

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Question

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I just go this puppy and have 3 horses. When I took him or be introduced he immediately wanted to chase them. Help. How do I get him to be calm around them? He has no fear and a high chase drive.

July 1, 2022

Trip's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Laurel, Check out the videos linked below for teaching calmness around cats. Horses are obviously different, but you can see in the cat videos the principles of practicing obedience, self-control, and gradually desensitizing through changing the distance between the animals and how often they can see the other animal. Mild cat issue - teaching impulse control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWF2Ohik8iM Moderate cat issue - teaching impulse control using corrections and rewards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dPIC3Jtn0E Work on impulse control in general with pup, by teaching things that increase impulse control and calmness - such as a long Place command around lots of distractions,, Come and Heel. Practicing the command until you get to the point where pup will stay on Place while you are working with the horse in the yard where they can see it, and practicing Come on a long training leash so pup feels like they are off leash but can be directed back to you when they try to run off, then rewarded when they come willingly. When you practice these commands, I recommend also back tying pup while they are on place - safely connecting a long leash attached to pup to something near the Place just in case pup were to try to get off Place before you could intervene, or having pup on a long training leash you are holding. Make sure that what the leash is attached to, the leash itself, and pup's collar or harness are secure and not likely to break or slip off. This keeps the animals safe while practicing and reinforces to pup that they can't chase. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Come - the section on using a long training leash: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Check out this trainer's channel as well. He does off-leash training and works with dogs who chase livestock. https://www.youtube.com/c/JamiePenrithDogTraining/search?query=come Below are some other commands in general you can practice to help pup develop better impulse skill/self-control - impulse control takes practice for a young puppy to gain the ability to control himself, so management and supervision are extremely important too at this age. Keep at the training and look for improvement along the way. Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the room: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 4, 2022


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