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"Don't treat horses like dogs"

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    "Don't treat horses like dogs"

    I don't really understand this sentiment--maybe it's because I train a competition dog. I expect him to obey every one of my commands as soon as I give them. He does not mouth, he does not jump, and if he is off leash, he does not move his shoulder even six inches away from my left leg.

    I had been told over and over when I got a horse that training him wasn't going to be anything like training a dog and I've actually found the two to be pretty much the same as far as groundwork goes: You do what I ask, when I ask it, inappropriate behaviors are punished and appropriate ones rewarded. I have zero tolerance for dangerous behaviors in a horse just like I have zero tolerance when my dog lunges at the end of the leash, tries to run away from me, or jumps up on strangers (or anyone, for that matter).

    So far my horse knows a bunch of tricks, no longer tries to run me over on the lunge line (though the fact that I have stopped fearing his behavior probably doesn't hurt this), and generally is well behaved on the ground, though this was true before I got him.

    I've actually had one person ask me at my barn, "Did you teach him all that yourself?" while asking him to back up, half pass, spin around his feet, etc, from the ground.

    I won't pretend to know anything about teaching horses to be ridden, I'll be paying someone else to do that.

    My point is that having my first horse and teaching him to do stuff really doesn't seem any different than training I have done with dogs. The motivators are different, as are the animal's responses, but is there something about horses/dogs that most people do that I'm not? Tolerance for bullshit perhaps?

    What are your insights?

    #2
    Most people with horses don't have competition dogs.

    They have house pets with moderate to bad manners, that sleep in bed with them. If they treated their 800+lb horse like the 8 lb Chihuahua in their purse, they'd be dead.
    Visit my Spoonflower shop

    Comment


      #3
      Horses can and will quickly revert to instictive fight or flight behavior when frightened by something we find totally unthreatening.
      Because of their great size, they can and often do injure any human in their way.

      Dogs don't quickly revert to hunt and kill behavior and go after anybody close when somebody walks by with an umbrella or a door slams.

      Dogs can get carried away playing or roughhousing and you get a nip, horse gets to playing on a lunge line and you get your teeth kicked into your sinus cavity.

      Horses are simply bigger and react as prey animals fleeing anything unusual while dogs are smaller then we are and react as predators seeking unusual things to investigate for possible food sources. You can train and desensitize the horse but it's always possible something weird will scare them.

      Its a basic difference that can and does get people hurt when they assume horse will act like a big dog and never hurt them, even accidentally when frightened.

      Otherwise, the basic training techniques for both are similar but it's not safe to forget which one you are standing next to.
      When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

      The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

      Comment

        Original Poster

        #4
        Originally posted by findeight View Post
        Horses can and will quickly revert to instictive fight or flight behavior when frightened by something we find totally unthreatening.
        Because of their great size, they can and often do injure any human in their way.

        Dogs don't quickly revert to hunt and kill behavior and go after anybody close when somebody walks by with an umbrella or a door slams.

        Dogs can get carried away playing or roughhousing and you get a nip, horse gets to playing on a lunge line and you get your teeth kicked into your sinus cavity.

        Horses are simply bigger and react as prey animals fleeing anything unusual while dogs are smaller then we are and react as predators seeking unusual things to investigate for possible food sources. You can train and desensitize the horse but it's always possible something weird will scare them.

        Its a basic difference that can get and does people hurt when they assume horse will act like a big dog and never hurt them, even accidentally when frightened.
        That's it, then. I know my dog won't hurt me by playing too rough or overreacting to basic things (which some dogs actually DO do...by doing things such as barking or jumping or lunging at the end of the leash, NOT rearing or bolting. I'll agree this behavior is rarer than it is in horses but some dogs are ridiculously, ludicrously skittish at weird things). My dog used to lunge at the end of the leash if he saw another dog go by. He wouldn't hurt me seriously if he continued to do this, though he did damage my rotator cuff, but it's annoying. I still don't let him do it, because it's bad manners.

        Comment


          #5
          I always find people with well behaved dogs always have well behaved horses, think of barn dogs. They still trust the dogs more then the horses as far as letting their guard down.
          When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

          The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

          Comment

            Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by findeight View Post
            I always find people with well behaved dogs always have well behaved horses, think of barn dogs. They still trust the dogs more then the horses as far as letting their guard down.
            Every dog I've ever had was reactive in one way or the other so I might have a leg up there :P

            Sidenote, the first time my dog saw a horse, he pissed himself. I don't take him around horses anymore...

            Comment


              #7
              It's amazing that horses are not trained like dogs.. Once you've been through intermediate classes in dog obedience school, you know how to train for the basics.. Just going through basic obedience isn't enough, but going through intermediate classes with 3 different dogs with a great trainer can make you pretty competent to teach horses some obedience. No tricks, but lots of obedience. They do learn "heel" pretty quickly. And "come" is even easier when they are out in the pasture and come running. Ditto "stay" in their stalls when the door is open.

              Comment


                #8
                I've met people, guys mostly, who train dogs with intimidation and think it'll work on a horse

                Comment

                  Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by OnDeck View Post
                  I've met people, guys mostly, who train dogs with intimidation and think it'll work on a horse
                  The secret is, this technique doesn't work on the dogs either

                  It's amazing to me when I see people exposed to correction and think they should "dominate" or "intimidate" their dog into listening to them. No, you are aiming to be a fair and balanced leader, not a tyrant. Reward good behaviors and do this for 99% of what you want, and then correct for the ones you don't. If this was a child, I'd be putting it in timeout or taking TV away. Since dogs and horses don't reason you use direct consequence instead, and the punishment has to fit the crime.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    As already said you are a dog trainer, not just a dog owner. People like my in laws are the kinds of people these comments are directed at. They are convinced I don't like dogs even though I love dogs. I try to explain to them that I really do love dogs, I just don't like when they do running back flips off my face when I'm seated (or my crotch when I'm standing). They don't get it, nor do the people who think their pushy, spoiled biting horse just "needs to express himself" because their parrelli horseanality classified him as a left brained extrovert.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I don't know where the statistic of 'most people' with dogs have moderate to bad manners comes from.
                      Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                      Comment

                        Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
                        I don't know where the statistic of 'most people' with dogs have moderate to bad manners comes from.
                        You haven't visited your local dog park lately, have you?

                        Comment


                          #13
                          In my experience, dog training and horse training are quite different.

                          Dogs respond well to reward and punishment. They're pack animals, and predators, as we are. So I think it's easier for us to find common ground with them.

                          Horses I find do not respond well at all to punishment. It doesn't seem to make for a willing equine worker. Unlike, say, a sheepdog who can "take a correction" and still be enthusiastic about his work.

                          Horses seem to respond really well to negative reinforcement, aka release of pressure. IOW, the method used by the Dorrance brothers/Ray Hunt/Buck Brannaman etc. In the old days, we trained dogs mostly with negative reinforcement too but I didn't find it much fun - choke collars, shock collars, etc. You can use far subtler methods with a herd animal.

                          Some horses do well with positive reinforcement, as in clicker training, but others not so much. My younger QH is in the latter group. He hates it. And so does his human partner after just a few minutes. I don't know if it's because grazing animals don't possess the same intuitive understanding of food rewards for behavior since they don't hunt, or if it's just a personality quirk of my horse's. But he gets overwrought very quickly during a clicker session. Even with professional clicker-trainers. My dogs OTOH do beautifully with positive reinforcement. Food rewards, praise, or in the case of my border collies, access to sheep.
                          I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I treat the two very similarly for similar reasons. I have competition dogs as well and am very strict about safe behavior and obedience. I have recently started working with an unruly horse with no manners and expecting the same obedience from him has done him a great deal of good. I have "soft" dogs so don't tend to punish, ever. The horse is more able to take a correction than the dog. With both, I will re-direct to more acceptable behavior and reward the good. Both horse and dogs do very well with this approach.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              If you go at this from the standpoint of "my horse/dog/cat is an animal, and I will work with them based on the kind of animal they are", than yes, working with them quite similar. But not necessarily because what you are doing is the same. It's because you are getting to the core of good animal training: to get the animal to the point where they respect you, and then trust you, therefore obey you, and even enjoy working with you. In that order.

                              If you have success working with one type of animal, it isn't inconceivable that you've had success with another. You understand the principle concepts of getting an animal's respect and attention. Once you have that, you can pretty much teach them anything you can imagine. So in this sense, the sentiment you expressed not really getting isn't harmful.

                              I think it gets harmful for the rest of the horse owners, who don't have the understanding you seem to have. It might be cute when 25 lb Fido jumps up on you, or thinks evading your grasp is a fun game. It is a lot more excusable (and really, it's not, but you get what I'm saying...) It's not so cute when 1,200 lb Dobbin thinks a game of catch-me is fun, or decides to run you over. Both animals are capable of harming humans, but horses, just based on their size, are inherently more dangerous. Hence the saying.
                              Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now was once among the many things that you only hoped for.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                I'm in the reverse situation right now, I have a young dog (nearly 4 months) and DH keeps reminding me "she isn't a horse!"

                                He's right, but I still think the basics are similar for both. Even though she isn't very big yet I never allow jumping up and down on or close to humans, she already knows a few commands (sit, heel), she knows how to behave around new dogs and people, etc. I admit that I don't know much about training dogs, my last dog lived twelve years and we did take an obedience course, but she was always calm. The new one is naturally a little higher energy and will require a little more diligent training. I refuse to raise a poorly mannered dog, it's not fair to her or the people around us.

                                So far though, it's very similar to a horse. Don't enable undesirable behaviors, don't try to intimidate them nor let them intimidate you, make very clear boundaries from the beginning, etc. etc. etc.

                                Your animals sound like they already have a step up on most. I may be sending you PM's for advice with the pup!

                                "Pat the horse; kick yourself" - Carl Hester

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
                                  I don't know where the statistic of 'most people' with dogs have moderate to bad manners comes from.
                                  I think experience.
                                  Most people I know who own dogs have not put a lick of training in them.

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    Every time you interact with a dog or a horse, you are training it, whether for good or bad. The OP is used to being consistent with her dogs, therefore consistency with her horses is not a problem.

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by dungrulla View Post
                                      I don't really understand this sentiment--maybe it's because I train a competition dog. I expect him to obey every one of my commands as soon as I give them. He does not mouth, he does not jump, and if he is off leash, he does not move his shoulder even six inches away from my left leg.

                                      I had been told over and over when I got a horse that training him wasn't going to be anything like training a dog and I've actually found the two to be pretty much the same as far as groundwork goes: You do what I ask, when I ask it, inappropriate behaviors are punished and appropriate ones rewarded. I have zero tolerance for dangerous behaviors in a horse just like I have zero tolerance when my dog lunges at the end of the leash, tries to run away from me, or jumps up on strangers (or anyone, for that matter).

                                      So far my horse knows a bunch of tricks, no longer tries to run me over on the lunge line (though the fact that I have stopped fearing his behavior probably doesn't hurt this), and generally is well behaved on the ground, though this was true before I got him.

                                      I've actually had one person ask me at my barn, "Did you teach him all that yourself?" while asking him to back up, half pass, spin around his feet, etc, from the ground.

                                      I won't pretend to know anything about teaching horses to be ridden, I'll be paying someone else to do that.

                                      My point is that having my first horse and teaching him to do stuff really doesn't seem any different than training I have done with dogs. The motivators are different, as are the animal's responses, but is there something about horses/dogs that most people do that I'm not? Tolerance for bullshit perhaps?

                                      What are your insights?
                                      I agree 1000% with you.....especially with a stallion....By starting the horse the way you have, you will be miles ahead than most others that start horses under saddle.

                                      If you have basic Walk-Trot-Canter skills, I would encourage you to train your own horse using the principles you described. Riding is basically Stop-Go-Turn.....brakes are non-negotiable.

                                      Look at the Training and First level "dressage" test.....Walk-Trot-Canter....Stop-Go-Turn.....
                                      Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
                                      Alfred A. Montapert

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        I think that dogs and horses think somewhat differently, but that a person who is a good trainer can figure it out without too much trouble. Dogs are more attached to and dependent on their people. Horses are not as dependent (in their minds) on people. Also, horses are prey animals and dogs are predators. But, both animals are very social pack animals who pay attention to pecking order and intricate body language--but the body language of horses is VERY different than dogs.

                                        Overall, there's a huge disparity in the consequences of poor training as well. There are many dogs out there that are spoiled and/or poorly trained. By and large those dogs range from mildly annoying to really annoying. I really can't stand it when my friend's 20 lb. dog jumps up on me and gets mud on my pants or shoves its nose in my crotch, but there aren't any serious consequences. If a horse misbehaves in the same manner, someone could end up in the hospital.

                                        There are a few serious pitfalls to treating a horse like a dog. For example, if you took a puppy and raised it with lots of human attention and limited interaction with other dogs, it would most likely turn out fine. In fact, that's a pretty normal way for many people to raise a dog. If you raised a foal in this manner, you'd end up with a monster. Orphan foals MUST be raised with other horses and have their contact with humans limited to normal daily handling/training. Even non-orphan foals tend to end up much more difficult to handle and train if they have been over-handled (or spoiled) by inexperienced handlers.

                                        Another serious pitfall would be to assume that your horse would never hurt you because it "loves" you. I would be beyond shocked if one of my dogs ever hurt me, but horses are flighty animals that are more unpredictable and also more rough on their "loved" ones. "Love" wouldn't stop a horse from breaking its owner's leg with a kick if said owner touched a ticklish spot.

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