Dogs new to horses . . .. what are the common reactions?

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

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Augusta,- CGC, RN

Such a Good Dog!
Barked: Sat Dec 15, '12 7:18am PST 
This story on Dogster about a bully dog in San Franciso who is sentenced to be euthanized for an attack on a mounted patrol horse got me wondering . . ..

The article is slanted in favor of the dog with statements, like the dog had never seen a horse and was scared (don't buy the scared bit, he chased the horse 1.6 miles to continue the attack at the barn) and it's the horse's fault because he was skittish and threw his rider and ran (also don't buy, court findings say dog attacked officer's boot first and then clamped onto horse's leg, whereupon the horse fell, the officer was knocked out and then the horse made for the barn) . . ..

Having been in horse world I know most horses have grown up around dogs and most farm dogs learn not to bother the livestock or they are quickly out of there . ..

And I would expect many dogs to bark at a horse the first time, maybe even charge a bit, or a herding breed to try to herd, but what about a full on, jaws on flesh attack?

eta: and a follow up question . .. . the owner claims it's not fair to be expected to be able to control his dog, since his dog had never seen a horse before and they wouldn't expect to encounter a "farm animal" in an off leash area . . . . ... How does one test one's recall for the unexpected . . .. would better training have trumped the dog's response to something so novel?

Edited by author Sat Dec 15, '12 7:25am PST


More Bored- Collies
Barked: Sat Dec 15, '12 7:37am PST 
When Cobain met his first horse, I found it pretty funny.
The horse threw her head over the fence, Cobain looked up at the horse.
They touched noses briefly, sort of shrugged, and went on their way.

I could see other dogs getting excited, barking, growling even. But a full on attack? That just doesn't seem right to me.
But then again, I could see breed playing into this as well. Are there not some breeds that were bred for taking down larger prey animals? Just a thought.

I get that the appearance of the horse was unexpected. But a solid recall is a solid recall as far as I'm concerned. Had the dog been trained enough to be off-leash, he should have returned to the owner at some point without attacking.

Where's that- rabbit?
Barked: Sat Dec 15, '12 8:38am PST 
When Wiley saw his first horse, he did bark & run towards it, but the horse was bomb-proof & Wiley recalled on demand. I apologized to the rider, who then asked if I wanted Wiley to do a "meet n greet." I jumped at the chance, leashed him up & the man rode over & we did a controlled sniff & examination. Wiley did startle when the horse nickered gently at him, but after about 5 minutes he was totally fine. This was a group who rode in this park every weekend...unofficial park for both dogs & riders, so nobody wanted any issues. After that, he would just trot over, sniff the hind legs....always gave me heart palpitations...& then ignore them.

Bailey - BN, RN, CGC

Are you sure I- wwant to sleep
Barked: Sat Dec 15, '12 8:42am PST 
Both my dogs reacted differently to horses but both are use to them and around them regularly Bailey was never fazed by them and she has been going to the barn with me since she came home
Opal had a very bad reaction for whatever reason she started barking and lunging she was on leash thankfully since she literally lost her mind at the horse with alot of training she is know fine with them and regularly goes to the barn know

I love sitting- in laps
Barked: Sat Dec 15, '12 9:21am PST 
I think this is the situation that happened near the beach where I take Moose. And the guy is wrong. Yes, you would be inclined to see mounted police in that area. Not on a regular basis by any stretch, but I've seen them there a few times over the years.
Saw two officers riding a few months ago as I drove away from the beach.

The beach Moose plays on is part of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and that abutts where, I think, the area this guy was with his dog. (I'll go back and read the article).

Living in a city where horses are only seen during parades and patrols at the parks (although not regularly), it isn't something you think about training for. But, like we've all talked here before, you should have some type of emergency recall for your dog for the unexpected situations.

The guy got his dog back, I believe. But after that story appeared, man oh man do I keep my eyes peeled for police on horses. Moose would most likely pee himself if one got near him, but I can't bet on that.

We don't doodle!
Barked: Sat Dec 15, '12 9:36am PST 
My friend and I had FIVE labs off leash at a flood plain once and a girl rode up on a horse. After my initial panic, I calmly called the dogs back, one by one and leashed them. The hardest part was keeping the panic out of my voice!!!Fortunately, prior to letting them off leash, I did know they all had good recalls. They did run toward the horse, barking, BUT, they were more nervous than the horse was, thank goodness, and didn't get really close. They acted relieved when I called them back, BOL!
BUT... the major saving grace was the rider. As soon as she saw the dogs she stopped her horse and just calmly waited for us to gather the dogs. Turned out, she was someone I knew quite well and she knew my dogs had a good reputation AND were trained since she had attended MY obedience classes so she just waited. WHEW!!!!
Thor CGC

God of Thunder
Barked: Sat Dec 15, '12 9:39am PST 
I know some dogs who have reacted badly. If the horse had ran, then yes they would have chased it.

Thor personally was scared of them LOL He hid behind me for awhile, then ever so slowly walked up to them. He gave their nose a brief sniff and kiss, then ran back to me LOL
Jackson Tan

Lad about town
Barked: Sat Dec 15, '12 9:39am PST 
Jackson used to be pretty good with them until one came up from behind a fence and bit his tail. he air snaps when they come near now. But he has never chased one, he has always seemed quite wary of their size and even when they gallop along the fence line does not follow.

I thought that story was crazy, the horse was really hurt, that dog wasn't scared he was out to go cause damage.

I'm not lazy,- I'm just waiting- to play..
Barked: Sat Dec 15, '12 10:16am PST 
In the off season, there is a beach that I take Dar that gets TONS of off leash dogs and horses. There is usually about ten horses every time we go. 90% of the dogs that see the horses will bark and pull at their leashes trying to chase. For some owners that didn't get their dogs in time, the dogs DID chase (The worst part is that the rider just kept cantering and yelling at the owner, making the dog want to chase MORE...). Attacking aside, this dog did what a normal dog would do. The attacking I believe was a breed thing. Aren't terriers bred to be fearless hunters? I don't blame the mounted policeman/horse at all (like the article does), but I don't think it should be a death sentence to the dog either.

I love horses and would love to have been an avid rider, but at least in my area I feel like the riders feel pretty entitled. I understand I have the predator, but it is a little annoying when a rider gallops her horse through the water and expects all the dogs playing in the water to move out of the way. I sat down with Dar once to watch a group of horses a little bit a way so he could get used to them, see what the heck these creatures are. The group of riders decided it would be a good idea to run circles around us....UMM what? Honestly, it was an AMAZING learning opportunity for D'artagnan, but are you kidding me? How is it a good idea to tease a dog like that? even a 15lb one?

I understand the recall thing, but I think it is very rare to have one hundred percent recall. Obviously this owner and dog need more training. But while Dar's recall is about 90%, when he is super focused, he doesn't even hear me. I mean isn't why we say beagles and greyhounds and such should never be off leash? because they get so super focused a bomb could go off and it wouldn't faze them? I just think that never having seen a horse before this dog might have done the same thing even with a previous 99% recall rate. He just fell into instinct and ignored everything else.

Im just a little- guy
Barked: Sat Dec 15, '12 11:37am PST 
That was not normal at all. I think this dog could be dangerous. I grew up with horses and dogs. Our dogs left them alone. None of our horses were ever attacked by dogs in the manner this police horse was assaulted. When we rode them no dogs ever attacked them. One time one of our horses went after one of the dogs while my mom was riding him. He was an aggressive horse and the dog was just along for the ride. He would of killed that pit bull for sure.

The person who wrote that blog post knows nothing about horse behavior. Pretty much any horse regardless of it's breed is not going to sit there and take an attack calmly. The dog clamped down on the horses leg and bit underneath the animal. The horse even fell down from the dog attacking it. The author blames the breed of the horse which is BS.

If this was another breed of dog I bet people would not be posting blogs about the injustice to the dog. I know some pit bulls are put down for trivial reasons, but remember this was an aggressive attack on a police officer and an animal trained for police work.

Will we give the dog a pass if he attacked a child on a bicycle like this because it was just instincts? I think the blog post was biased and stupid.
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