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Training a dog from horseback?

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  • Training a dog from horseback?

    I wasn't sure where to put this so I thought Off Course would be the best.

    Basically, I had a GSD show up about 6 weeks ago. He's been under treatment for ehrlichia (sp?) so has been on limited exercise. We're about done with that and ready for him to take up regular life on the farm.

    I was doing a lot of training during that time, and he's come a long way from when he showed up. He has a basic recall, sit, down, stay, and leave it. Compared to where he was, where he had absolutely no training and not even a real idea of how to interact with people or other dogs, it's amazing.

    So the problem is that he doesn't seem to be able to extrapolate the commands on the ground to commands from the saddle. The example was "leave it." He kind of got under my horse and was bugging her yesterday. He has a really good "leave it" response normally, but when I was giving the command from the saddle he gave no response. As soon as I dismounted, he responded. I got in the saddle, and he left off again. Also, he doesn't harass horses in the pasture or anything, but wasn't sure how to handle it when I mounted up. When I first got him we did go on a few trail rides, but he was sick and a bit lethargic then so I think didn't have the energy to do anything but follow along.

    My other dogs didn't have a problem with this so it isn't something I've ever had to teach before. I'm not sure how to teach this. Has anyone else been in this situation?

    I also do have some very well-behaved horses who are used to all kinds of things, so pretty much anything I need to do I can have a horse who can do it. I would love for Hector to be able to run loose while I ride, though, as I spend 6-8 hours in the saddle every day and I'd hate to have to kennel him (even though we have a really big dog run) for that amount of time. Right now it's just not safe until he learns to listen to me when I'm in the saddle and also to leave the horses I'm riding alone.
    exploring the relationship between horse and human

  • #2
    You might want to ask this question in the Hunting Forum, as hounds are first trained on the ground, then from horseback. And huntsmen have to control dozens of very fit, excited hounds, from horseback, with nothing much more than voice and horn.
    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
    -Rudyard Kipling

    Comment


    • #3
      Clicker training?

      Maybe someone with more experience will chime in, but I started with basic obedience (sit/down/stay/come), and right in the barnyard where he was solid with the work.

      It did take more time with the Dobie than the JRTs, maybe because he wanted to be closer to me than he could get when I was mounted. I started at the mounting block, then just walking in the barnyard. My horses will allow my dog to come close enough to get a cookie-the Dobie is tall enough for me to reach down-but then my horse begs a cookie too!

      Stay patient-good luck.

      Comment


      • #4
        Maybe try in the house standing on a chair??? I know it sounds odd, but you would be up off the ground, closer to horse height.

        Second the Hunting forum thought too.

        LBR
        I reject your reality, and substitute my own- Adam Savage

        R.I.P Ron Smith, you'll be greatly missed

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        • #5
          Get a good quality electronic training collar and learn how to use it properly. Perfect for training from horseback.

          There are a few e-collar training groups on Yahoo groups which would be a good resource for you.
          Proofreading is your friend.

          Comment


          • #6
            Maybe try having dog treats (or even kibble with you) and shape the behavior under saddle. Even if he doesn't "leave it", but just thinks about leaving it (or looks at you), throw him a bit of kibble away from the horse as a reward. Just a random thought.

            My friend and I were thinking of how to get our island dogs used to horses as they have very limited time/exposure to horses, and they will eventually be ranch dogs. Most importantly, they need to know "leave it" as my pup has a high prey drive and I can totally see her trying to nip at the horse's heels. We haven't ventured to try it yet.

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            • #7
              this is fairly normal- many dogs have trouble generalizing, for example, if you teach your dog to sit in the kitchen he may act like he's never been trained in other rooms or outside, so you kind of have to re-train them again in a different location. Once a dog has it down in several locations they usually generalize to all locations.
              So I would just continue the training, trying to vary more things- standing on a chair is a great idea; different locations; try lying down on the floor, or from behind a door, so the dog realizes your physical location doesn't matter.
              Another thought though: many dogs are not very verbal, and while we think we taught them to respond to the word "leave it" or "sit", the dog instead may be responding to the way you move/act while issuing these commands, and so if you're up there on the horse you can't give this unconscious body language signal.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Thanks for the advice, guys. I know that horses often have trouble extrapolating stuff like that, and I was sure dogs do too...I'm just used to heelers who seem to pick up on it pretty easily. Hector, not so much. :P He tries really hard, but he's a bit slow sometimes.

                Standing on a chair is a really good idea, and otherwise varying how/where I ask him. We have worked on commands in the house and on various areas of the property, but due to his illness we haven't even been able to take him other places to work on it. I was pretty surprised this morning when I took him with me to a client's house to pick something up, and his usual good behavior totally went out the window. It's been awhile since I've had to train a dog from scratch!

                Margaret, good thought on tossing the kibble away, too. I've hesitated to use treats on horseback because he still sometimes gets a bit over-excited and jumpy about food rewards, but tossing it away might help both those issues.

                I haven't tried much yet, since yesterday was the first day we really had those problems. I wanted to make sure I didn't make things worse, though.
                exploring the relationship between horse and human

                Comment


                • #9
                  As J Swan noted yes, for foxhunting, same sort of things- the commands 'do' extrapolate to horseback. But here is a critical ingredient- rely on other trained hounds (or in your case dogs) to help train the newbie. First on the ground and then in the saddle.

                  However, on re-reading, I note you maybe speak of other dogs in past tense and so maybe this one is solo? If that is the case- I have seen on my park patrols several folks using an 'electronic leash', a variation on the shock collar. For sure, one would want to spend weeks to months working with it on the ground, but the nice thing about it is once trained one relies on the 'warning signal' rather than the shock, which is there as emergency backup- the dogs I've seen using it have been very well behaved and very controllable and responsive up to 25 yards or so away.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    I have 3 other dogs, all of whom are really well behaved. I've just owned all of them for awhile, the newest one has been here about 3 years and was used to horses in her previous life as well, so it's been probably 6-7 years since I've had to teach this kind of thing. Hector doesn't seem to be able to pick on their behavior, though. He was really undersocialized when I got him so I'm sure that's a large part of it.

                    I'm a little hesitant to use an electric collar of any sort as I think he really doesn't understand what I'm asking yet. I'm trying to figure out a way to make it clear to him that he has to act the same way when I'm in the saddle as when I'm on the ground. He honestly doesn't seem to get it. He also is really reactive to any sort of pain or negative action towards him. I'm pretty sure he was treated harshly in his previous life as he just totally shuts down if you get aggressive with him. I'd prefer to stick to positive training methods.

                    edit: Posting this on the hunting forum is a good idea. Since I've already got it here and don't want to do duplicate threads I'll probably see what I get here and try out some suggestions, then maybe repost later in the hunting forum.
                    exploring the relationship between horse and human

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      A little more time might be all that's needed- but taking your Best Other Dog (or the whole group) would still be helpful- I expect you'll notice when Hector starts to get what the other dogs are responding to. To clarify- pack mentality is a good thing (well, it can also be a bad thing, but that is a whole nother story) and the hunting concept is, they DO pay attention to the human on the horse as Top Dog. But they learn the basics when Top Dog is on the ground walking them and working with them.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Along the lines of trying a chair--since you have a quiet horse, how about parking him by a tall mounting block, and working with the dog from there? That way the horsie distraction will be there, but you won't be leaping in and out of the saddle to reward and redirect I think you are right to stay away from the shock collar since he's not really being *bad* (be a different story if he was biting them while you rode!), and just re-explain the situation to him. good luck!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Well, I have a (2) trained GSD's. I train them (GSDs) for police work or S&R. If the dog is proofed on the ground, he should obey the same commands from the saddle. Even more so since you are so much higher ( that make you more dominant).

                          Don't flame me, I suggest electric. Down is Down. No is No. Stay command should not be needed b/c he should down b/c you release him. Easy and best command to teach. I can down my dog from as far as he can hear me and he'll wait. It is a safety measure so he does not get hit, run out, chase a cat etc.
                          Come to the dark side, we have cookies

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Altag View Post
                            Get a good quality electronic training collar and learn how to use it properly. Perfect for training from horseback.

                            There are a few e-collar training groups on Yahoo groups which would be a good resource for you.
                            I would go with this. GSD is usually VERY smart, not trained like hounds because he is not scent oriented. GSD will WANT to please you, so praise is his reward. However you do need to "reach out and touch him" which the electric collar helps with. He just needs to learn that he MUST obey, whether you are beside him, on the porch or on a horse. Diversive manuevers of going under the horse, ignoring you, DO NOT allow him to be disobedient, he will be punished.

                            I think the hound type training, whip use, might be overkill with the working dog temperment. Hounds are bred to be persisitant in the face of adversity, keep going. Whips work because the handler can reach down from the horse to get the dog who ignores horn commands. Didn't have electric collars in the old days! HAD to make the dog obey. Working dog is bred to be much more cooperative with handler, think more, so whip could just be too harsh.

                            If your GSD can be allowed to go with you all day, stays obedient, he will be ecstatic!! However he MUST be a good dog citizen, INSTANTLY do as he is told to stay safe away from home.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I trained my dog from horseback using a fanny pack filled with dog treats. Most of the commands I was training were to teach him when I said "car!" he was to move to the off side, away from the road, and teaching him to come back when he wanted to chase deer, "leave it", etc. It worked extremely well, and I probably really only worked with him for about 2 months and to this day (12 years later), he obeys. My goal was to have a dog that I could reliably trail ride with, and in the 12 years I have had him, he has never once been an issue for my horses, other horses, other animals we met on the trail, or humans. It was 2 months well spent!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Sounds like you just need to give him a little more time to generalize the training. Solidify from chair in house, tossing treats so he's looking for them away from you, then move outside, then to mounting block w/o horse, then to block w/horse but unmounted, then mounted but stand still. Etc.

                                Our current pyr is much MUCH more reactive and sensitive than our previous ones, and it took us awhile to realize that we had to move in the smallest possible increments with him in order for the training to "go fast." The moment he doesn't respond or breaks, I know I've skipped ahead too far for him. For instance, sit-stay, he had to learn first with me walking 1/4 of a circle around him to the right, then 1/4 circle to the left. Then 1/2 circle to the right, then 1/2 circle to the left, making sure each increment was solid. I'd think he'd be doing great, and I might "get away" with a full circle around him, but sure enough the next time I tried, he'd break.

                                By sticking with small increments, you keep the reinforcement level high. Some individuals really need that. This dog, as a puppy, would actually get up and walk away in the midst of clicker training, something I'd never seen before! Walk away from the treats??! But I finally realized that I was moving too fast by withholding reinforcement in hopes of improved response. He has a very low frustration level, and he was so stressed by not knowing how to get his click, he would actually leave! When I lowered my criteria to the tiniest steps, maybe even down to just glance at me, suddenly I had a dog that was on board with the program.

                                Give him a chance with high rates of reinforcement and small increments before you go to the shock collar. If he's anything like this dog, a shock collar would traumatize him. Give the small increments a chance, and I'll bet he'll really surprise you.

                                I'd use a citronella spray collar myself, in any case. I've done that with another much more confident dog that had some dog-dog aggression issues, but it was the final failsafe, not used as anything but that.
                                Ring the bells that still can ring
                                Forget your perfect offering
                                There is a crack in everything
                                That's how the light gets in.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  If I may add to this. I like to use a "bad dog" sound as well as a "good dog sound". I use clickerless clicker training, using my mouth and tongue to make the clicking sound that clickers make to indicate the "good dog" sound and I also have an aaaahhhtt (kind of like the beginning sound of a sneeze) as my warning "bad dog sound".
                                  When I see a dog thinking about doing something wrong (nose too close to the garbage bin for example), I aaaahhht them and as soon as they turn away, I click them. This can be done from across the room, from even across a yard if the dog is trained enough.
                                  The sharper NO is when the dog is actually in the process of being bad. I have found it's better to get them before their actually doing bad, as it's harder to stop them once they get going with incompletely trained dogs.
                                  That being said, there are e-collars that buzz rather than shock and even those that make sound. The buzzer ones feel like a cell phone on vibrate going off, no pain, but enough to get your attention.

                                  Someone said that there could be something about your body language that the dog reads on ground. This can also be true, as dogs are an excellent read of people. On horseback, he may not be able to read you properly. This is when having good voice command over a dog is helpful, lol.
                                  Basic obedience with the dog on the ground with the horse can be effective.

                                  More importantly, the dog has to learn to respect and accept the horse and you on the back of the horse. I am with Pennywell Bay on this. I cannot afford a dog that is not 100% reliable, especially with my chosen breed. If the dog can hear you, the dog must obey.

                                  Good luck with your endeavors, and I am sure that the dog will turn out well for you. GSDs are amazing dogs when they have that bond with their owners.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I've seen some dogs that were trained from start to finish with ecollars and have never been impressed with the results. I have, however, seen dogs that were started with clickers/rewards and finished with ecollars that were extremely reliable and worked enthusiastically in high drive. Ecollars are excellent tools for use during the late proofing phases of training to improve reliability, particularly for off-leash work.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      We used to train border collies to work cattle and for cattle trials.
                                      We trained completely on the ground, but eventually were working part of the time from horseback.

                                      The difference with what you want is that you don't have a goal for your dog when you are horseback, like we had the stock to work.

                                      Why not try to teach a "place" and then teach a send off to any "place" you determine and so eventually that will translate to sending the dog away from you horseback also, like getting it out from underfoot?

                                      Before we trained border collies the standard way, with a shepherd's whistle, I used to get a pocket full of gravel and use it to get my aussie puppie's attention from far away or horseback.
                                      Worked for us.

                                      When training, always remember to train static and moving exercises and be clear the more you are asking.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I second or third the use of the ecollar. That said, you must be properly trained in its use. I would suggest a lesson with a reliable professional. There are various ways that it can be used, not just for "trash breaking" ( overriding poor impulse control with electricity) the uses can be quite subtle and effective. Another venue for info are field trialers. they train super high drive dogs (upland bird dogs of various types) while in the saddle. And its mostly one dog or two vs. the pack trained dogs. K9 units, bird dogs and search and rescue dogs are all examples of dogs who sometimes are trained with ecollars, and whose drive and will to perform a task are not overwhelmed/ impeded by its use. Im sure you could do it without an ecollar, but hes an adult dog with habits and ways that are ingrained, as opposed to your dogs who have recieved proper molding and training from the beginning. Good luck!

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