How to Train a Puppy to Like a Horse

Medium
2-4 Weeks
Behavior

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.

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.

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.

The Slow and Careful Method

Effective
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Step
1
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.
Step
2
Put horse on a lead
Put the horse on a halter and lead and have an assistant hold the horse.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Create a Pack Method

Effective
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Step
1
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.
Step
2
Socialize safely
Let the puppy sniff the horse, keep the puppy out from under horse's feet.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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”.
Recommend training method?

The Positive Association Method

Effective
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Step
1
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.
Step
2
Approach directly
Have someone hold the horse on a lead in the pen while you approach with your puppy on a lead.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
5
Establish positive relationship
Repeat daily, introducing the horse and reinforcing your puppy for approaching the horse in a friendly calm way.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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