Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Rehabilitation of Storm.........Dogs on the Trails......

Part 1

When it came to dogs on the trails, I wasn't really worried about Storm. When they are outside with us both Delilah and Sugar are chained right outside the barn where Storm lives. He has never shown any concern going between the two of them to get to the horse trailer or turnout. Even if there is barking or other puppy play, Storm's been pretty much unaffected. Still I didn't know what to expect with strange dogs.

It didn't take long working the horse on the trails for Storm's comfort level with dogs to be tested. We were coming around the corner at the north end of the park when a dog came flying around that same corner right into us.

The dog's reaction was much more dramatic than the horse's when he realized he'd run right into something and that something was absolutely huge. In a split instant the dog was gone back the direction he'd come. A startled whimper could be heard as the dog beat feet away from us. The horse barely seemed to notice the dog's arrival or hasty departure. He just kept looking around in his shortened stride.

Farther down the trail we came across little yappy dogs. There were two of them on leash with their owners. One was frightened of the horse and barking defensively. The other was curious about the horse and barking excitedly. If Storm was interested at all, it wasn't shown in any outward manner, he just kept moving along.

The owners of these dogs were apologizing all over themselves for their dogs' behavior. I think more worried about their dogs being hurt by a horse than the dogs causing a problem for the horse and rider. That seems to be the mind set of most dog owners. They don't realize that dogs can scare horses enough to seriously injure horse and/or riders and I guess they've not thought the reason a horse might kick a dog in the first place could be because of what the dog did first.

Whatever the reason was for the dog owners concern, I assured them the dogs would not have a problem with my horse as long as the dogs were under control. Even when a dog goes after one of my horses, I tend to teach the horse to turn and "chase" the dog by walking towards it. Usually once a dog realizes the horse is coming after them, they retreat and the problem is over. With these two barking dogs we just kept our distance and moved on by them and went back to the deer trails.

There is a German lady who walks the park regularly with her golden retriever and sometimes her son. Because I see her on a regular basis she is one of those "characters at the park" http://risingrainbow.blogspot.com/search/label/Characters%20at%20the%20Park I have grown to know. This woman through her heavy accent has told me of her fear of horses. Her dog, however, has no fear and is actually quite curious about any of my horses.

Over the months I've been riding at the park, the woman has gotten more comfortable getting within touching distance of my horses although she jumps back pretty quickly if one of them moves. Startled and worried about getting hurt, remnants of her childhood growing up on a farm in Germany.

For some reason, she has taken a particular liking to Storm so even in the woods she comes right up to him for a pet. Her dog is right there with her wagging his tail and looking for the opportunity to satisfy her curiosity about the red horse. The first time she came that close on the trails, Storm dropped his head down to get a closer look at this dog he already knew and the dog licked him in the face. Other than popping his head up and out of licking range Storm didn't seem the least bit concerned even though I could still feel plenty of tension in his body reflecting his lack of comfort for the trails.

Even the loose dogs we've come across have not seemed to bother Storm. He's pretty sure that whatever is out in those woods that might get him is not related to the dogs. When we come upon them he barely pays them any mind, he's so caught up in studying his surroundings for something known only to him. I don't know if that's a good thing or not.

Maybe the day will come when he's over that searching that occupies his brain and then he'll decide he should be worried about the dogs. In the meantime, I'll just keep evaluating those dogs one by one to see if I need to be proactive to prevent my horse from a negative canine experience. The last thing I want is for a strange dog to catch Storm off guard and scare him half to death.

For now, I'm just going to be grateful that we have had not issues with dogs AND we seem to be making some kind of progress. I'm beginning to think that Storm might just get as comfortable on the trails as his dad. If that's the case, he'll turn into a pretty darn good trail horse.

To be continued.................

A Little on Progress........ A Little on Theory.........

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  1. Sounds like a good deal. Some neighbors have these aggressive little part Chihuahua part Pug things and they get loose every once in a while and come around to attack my dogs through the fence. When I go outside to chase them off, they charge me with their teeth bared. I kick out at them and start chasing them, and they run away. They can't get to my horses in the paddock because of the chain-link fence, but they could get to them in the pasture, so I've been a bit worried about that. I think if they did attack my horses, I'd drop kick them across the highway back to their house.

  2. Sounds like he has the potential to be a rockin' trail buddy.

  3. It is so good that Storm wasn't bothered by the dogs. I had my big fall with Scout because we were surrounded by five large dogs. We have met dogs before and although he gets nervous, nothing serious has happened. I've even gone riding with my dog Sandy many times and she runs here and there, in and out of the trees. She goes into the corrals with the horses all the time too, sometimes chasing at them.

    I think things would have been okay if he hadn't lost his footing when he reared up. He just couldn't recover himself and we fell over backwards. Frankly, I am really dreading meeting dogs on the trails with him again. And I'm worried that my apprehension will be passed on to him. Any suggestions?

  4. Nice that the lady has taken to Storm, and Well I think Goldens are the best for comforting my nerves , why not be theraputic to a horse.

  5. Can't say I'm a big fan of dogs at all anymore; the pasture is completely surrounding by snarling, growling, barking canines. Does not matter which direction I walk in or how many times I'm out there; they rush at the fence making a ferocious racket every single time (makes for a lousy ride too, I can tell you :oP
    Like you, I have also encouraged our horses to "chase" dogs away that trespass in their pasture; I kinda think it sums up the old adage "Turnabout is far play" rather nicely *grin*.

  6. Not a lot of dog owners know or even stop to think, that their little precious could possibly be the cause of a major wreck. But it happens...

    One of the places I rode growing up- the neighbor had a small dog that would run out, get under the horses and start jumping up to bite them in the belly. Think that caused a few wrecks, if not at least a lot of swearing?

  7. NuzzMuzz you could always teach your horses to chase them off. They take to it pretty easily. Only problem with that is sometimes they decide it's fun and they'll chase even your dogs and cats too.

    Dom, yes, I do think he has great potential and will one day turn into a great trail horse.

    Fantastyk Voyager, I have had to work through this kind of fear particularly with Reflection. I probably should do a post on how we are getting through this.

    It has been in stages. Building my comfort level at a rate that doesn't push me into that adrenaline rush that might trigger my horse. The gauge I use is if the horse is reacting to me, then I'm trying too much and I scale "it" back to something we are both more comfortable with.

    In the situation you were in, I would certainly be working on work in a safe place around dogs I knew on the ground first and building up to in the saddle work before I ever got somewhere out and about with random dogs. Also when I moved to that out and about stage, I'd start off from the ground.

    Anytime there is fear involved, I do loads and loads of groundwork. I only move onto the saddle work when I am sure I have total comfort with controlling the situations with my horse in hand. And always in the case of dogs, I teach my horses to turn into them and "chase" them. You'd be surprised at the confidence a horse (and rider) will get from learning it can get rid of dogs in this manner.

    fernvalley, I have limited experience with goldens but then ones I have known seem to be sweet dogs, that's for sure. It sure was cute to see Storm get licked in the face like that.

    Jen, I wouldn't be very happy if I had to deal with dogs like that either. I do think it makes sense to teach the horse how to utilize the dog's instincts to run them off. That's for sure but sometimes when I am pushing dogs away I find myself wondering what I should be doing if it was a bear we came upon. Certainly chasing a bear wouldn't be good but I don't know what would either.

    CNJ, "little darlings" is absolutely right. It is usually those people I see that are so worried about their little pooch getting hurt but still letting it be obnoxious. They don't get if their dog had manners it wouldn't be at risk.

    Mostly ankle biters here, I've never seen one quite so aggressive as to try and bite at a horse's belly. That must have been a real trip. It's a wonder that dog lived.