Megan our employee trains horses and we had a discussion the other day how similar horses are to dogs. I don’t know anything about horses but after talking with Megan I found out I actually knew more than I thought. I have always been a little nervous around horses but I always knew to respect their back end (I don’t want to get kicked) and their big teeth because let’s face it they outweigh me too. It’s easier to push a dog around than it is a horse, at least from my perspective. So you can see why I have a great deal of respect for horses.
Megan compared horses to dogs and said they have the same body language. They both communicate with their ears, eyes, tails and bodies. In a herd of horses there is a dominate male and female just like a pack of dogs. The gelding protects the herd and the Mare leads. Horses also want to please the owner as do dogs. I often hear owners tell me their dog is alpha and 100 percent of the time they are incorrect. The dog is not alpha they are just struggling with control. If a dog is alpha it means the dog will continually try to dominate other dogs. In wolf pack the Alpha Dog is the one that is in charge and to become alpha you must fight for the position. With the dog family relationship, we want our dog to view us as alpha and you don’t have to fight your dog to establish leadership. You do have to teach and enforce rules however. By you taking a leadership role and teaching rules establishes yourself as alpha to your dog.
When it comes to multiple dog households those families come to me with dog fighting issues. More times than not dog aggression is something that has been festering up over time and now they dogs are literally causing serious injury. From my experience the owner is weak and there are no rules for the dogs. They are allowed to sleep in bed with the owner, get on the furniture, leash pull, bark and so on. You do not want your dog establishing the rules and many times that is exactly what happens. In addition if you are not willing to physically interrupt unwanted dog behavior you’re going to continue to have issues. Sometimes it’s just better to re-home a dog if dog fighting is an issue. If you own 3-4 dogs and you cannot manage them and have a safe environment it may be time to down size. Don’t be a pet hoarder but a pet lover.
My Uncle once had two ponies and they were mean. They were mean because they were kept in a pasture, were never worked and forget about trying to ride them. If I walked into their pasture I knew that they would run and charge after me. Horses can read your emotions and if you are not confident or are fearful they will know it and take advantage of you. They will charge, buck and bite, and dogs are the same way.
When doing evaluations I hear people comment how well their aggressive dog did with me. They are amazed after just a few minutes I have the dog walking on a loose leash and I am petting the beast. It’s all about my confidence with the dog and how I interact with them. Just like the horse, dogs are experts at reading our energy and moods too. Dogs sense I am confident and so they trust me. Dogs want confident leaders. Part of the training is with the dog but the other half is coaching the owner to be confident leaders. What is a dog to do if the owner is afraid of what the dog is going to do? If you the owner are not confident don’t expect your dog to be.
Dogs need ongoing exercise and psychological stimulation. When I was in Police Canine Services, we called it maintenance training. We would work with the dog in obedience, scent work and apprehension all with distractions. This taught the dog to perform even with distractions. Your common pet needs the same work as do horses. If you stop making your dog wait at doors, sit/stay, come when called and drop it on command they will go back to their wild behavior. If you want a dog with calm greeting behavior you have to work at it. Nothing is free, introducing a pet into the family takes work.
We offer day care training and board and train programs. People will ask will the dog listen to me if you train the dog. The answer is yes, if you follow our instructions, come to group class and work with your dog. If you do nothing with your dog and let him do whatever all the work we have done is for nothing.
Dogs and Horses are alike in many ways. They need exercise, rules, love and affection. They need a leader, someone who helps them learn what is appropriate and inappropriate when it comes to behavior. It really all comes down to you. Do you want a companion that you can enjoy or an animal that runs wild in the pasture? Believe both the horse and dog want the same thing. They want the stimulation and leader so they can go out in the world, enjoying sights and sounds with their owner.