Dog and horses incident. Help needed.

(57 Posts)
littlewhitebag Tue 17-Sep-13 09:53:58

My lab is 16 months old. I will start by saying her recall is NOT perfect but we are working hard on it.

This morning i took her as usual to the beach for her walk. On the beach she will meet and greet dogs politely play for a bit if welcome or come away if i call.

Today she bounded through the dunes on to the beach and there were four horses/riders and two horse trainers walking up towards us. She has never seen horses before and was unsure. She ran up to them barking and running round them (a bit like a dog rounding sheep).

Calling her didn't work so i ran up to the the group and said i was sorry, that she was a young dog who had never seen a horse before and if they could just stop for a moment i would get her and put her on her lead. I could then have treated her while being beside the horses to get her used to them. However they chose to ignore me and kept walking. They then started shouting to my dog to get away in a really aggressive way and brandishing their riding crops at her. This seemed to make my dog more excited. I think she actually thought they were trying to play with her.

The two trainers who were on foot then started yelling at her very aggressively and would not listen when i said to stop shouting and i would be able to get her. Eventually i just turned and walked off and my dog followed a few seconds later.

I really do not ever want to repeat this incident. What can i do in future given that horses are not something we come in contact with very much? I am completely aware that i need to be able to control my dog at all time and i am very careful where i walk her. The beach early in the morning is usually my failsafe place to walk as the few dogs/owners we meet are happy for my dog to play and it is great for doing recall training with her.

Froubylou - if littlewhitebag is to have her dog on the lead at pretty much all times, how is she supposed to practice the dog's recall?

anchovies Tue 17-Sep-13 12:47:59

Personally I wouldn't beat yourself up about it, just learn from the experience. Are there any horses in fields near where you live? I just took mine to "see" them a few times and then kept on a lead a few times while they walk past. Does she know the "look" command, that's useful for keeping the focus on you. Now they both just ignore horses so I don't need to worry. Just keep working on the recall (and down if you think it will work better). Does she like a squeaky ball? I always used to keep a squeaky kong tennis ball that they loved in my pocket for emergencies. Or a long line that you can quickly tread on might be useful although I always found it a bit of liability!

Whoknowswhocares Tue 17-Sep-13 12:57:16

I find it a little at odds for you to say you 'do not ever want to repeat this episode' and then say you are not prepared to keep her on a long line on the beach. The only way to ensure it doesn't happen is a long line!
I know how frustrating it is for you, but you owe it to your dog and the horses/riders to make safety the priority.
Your dog is far more likely to cause an accident which will severely injure or kill either herself or those she chases in this scenario than any which you might meet at the park, so I don't understand why you take precautions at the park but won't consider it at the beach.

littlewhitebag Tue 17-Sep-13 13:07:41

I won't consider the long line at the beach as i have been walking her there almost daily for around a year and i we have never come across horses before. I have already said that once i am on the beach i can see all the way up and down it and i will now keep her on her lead until we are both on and i can check if there are horses there.

Parking is on an expanse of grass so if i saw horses unloading i would be aware also. I didn't see any horse boxes today but i probably just wasn't looking out for them. I now have an awareness of this and will take what steps i think are necessary to keep everyone safe. I know the beach and the area around and i know what i am looking out for.

I take precautions at the park because it is usually busy and because of small children/boating pond/swans/little train going round etc. None of that at the beach. Just seagulls and endless sand.

GladbagsGold Tue 17-Sep-13 13:10:47

This might be a silly idea but can you ring a local stables and see if they will let your dog visit to meet a horse?

cansleepanywhere Tue 17-Sep-13 14:49:39

I'm with littlewhitebag on this. There's no way you can exercise a big dog without letting it off lead and no-one can say their dog is 100% with recall just as no-one can plan for every eventuality. Sounds like she's learnt from the mistake. At least she's realised what went wrong and how she might fix it. There are many owners who wouldn't bother.
Whenever I let my dog off I make sure it's somewhere I can see absolutely everything. I'm constantly scanning all around me so I know what's what. I've got a young dog and I don't want to be caught out. If I can't see everything i.e. when we're going up a hill then she goes back on the lead. It's a lot of stop starting but the amount of times I've walked over the crest of a hill only to find something interesting for a pup on the other side is amazing.
I'm lucky that my dog training classes are on a farm and the stable owners are happy for pups to greet the horses.
Good luck littlewhitebag :-)

Ginnytonic82 Tue 17-Sep-13 15:17:15

As others have suggested it might be a good idea to let your dog get used to horses by taking her on a walk near to some stables/farms where she would be able to see them and get used to the size and how they move. We have a lab and I think sometimes their amiable nature is their curse - they want to be friends with everyone and everything, even if the feeling isn't mutual! In the meantime just keep practicing recall and keep your eye out for horses on the beach, hopefully you can pop her quickly onto her lead when you see them.

Whogivesashit Tue 17-Sep-13 15:17:50

Littlewhitebag; have you thought about using a whistle for your recall training?

froubylou Tue 17-Sep-13 16:25:47

Did you know that under the dangerous dogs act you can now be prosecuted for having a dog out of control in a public place?

It is not acceptable to let a dog run loose who the owner can't control. That isn't opinion that is the law.

You practice recall on the end of a long line and at obedience classes.

I cannot believe that a person who knows that they can't always recall their dog is still adamant that it will be off the lead in a public place. Do you have any idea just how dangerous to human life it can be when a dog behaves that way around horses?

And we trained greyhounds when I was younger. The majority of their exercise and fittening work was road work. On the lead. It's quite acceptable to exercise any dog on the lead. You just have to walk further.

lljkk Netherlands Tue 17-Sep-13 16:33:38

Was that really "out of control"? All the dog did was bark at them & run around a bit. Dog could have been doing that on a lead just as vigorously. If horses can't cope with random barking dog then they should't be out & about either (bit of give & take, no?).

Good luck to OP, I'm sure you'll figure it out.

Patchouli Tue 17-Sep-13 16:38:34

"In future i will scan the beach for horses before letting her off so we can't be in that situation again"

That's your answer.
You do need to have a look around an area before you let your dog go. It's not much good the dog running onto the beach without you, incase of allsorts of things: dogs on leads, children etc

punter Tue 17-Sep-13 16:46:00

This happened to me in the wood with my 1 year old lab. Out of nowhere appeared a horse and rider, I was not aware it was a bridleway (not sure it is). Lab did the circling and barking bit, I could not get him at first until I produced cheese. So embarrassing, I had no idea he would react that way on his first sight of a horse. Horse and rider stood still and she was lovely and did not criticise me/dog at all so thank you to her. I now know I need to desensitise him to horses which I will do. Don't worry OP we all learn from our mistakes and I think some replies have been a bit harsh although I am obviously biased.

littlewhitebag Tue 17-Sep-13 17:00:27

whogivesashit I am doing whistle recall training with the aid of the Pippa Mattison book. We are having a lot of success with it and hopefully we will have her proofed soon. As i understand it the whole gist of the training is not allow it to fail and i think had i blown my whistle in this circumstance she would not have responded. We do long lead training with the whistle.

patchouli I will definitely be scanning the area more thoroughly before letting her off.

froubylou I have got the point about my dog being not in control around the horses. I have said in my original post that i need to be able to control her and i want to ensure this does not happen again. I am not irresponsible and i try to ensure i walk her off lead where i can control her. This scenario came upon me unexpectedly and in future i will be less complacent about allowing her to run onto the beach before i have checked what is there. I suspect we will not ever see eye to eye regarding this.

Whoknowswhocares Tue 17-Sep-13 17:53:58

Do you have a contingency plan for the scenario where the beach is clear when you arrive and the horses turn up 5 minutes later, once your dog is offlead?

littlewhitebag Tue 17-Sep-13 19:14:50

whoknowswhocares It is hard if you don't know the beach but there are only two places horses could come on and one of those is very far away from where i walk. The second is easily visible if you are actually on the beach. To ride horses on the beach they would have to be transported. They could not be ridden there from a stable.

Today i obviously did not see the horse boxes, probably because there is a lot of large lorries parked around due to a big sporting activity which is happening near by in a few weeks.

toboldlygo Tue 17-Sep-13 19:58:19

Not two weeks ago I read a post on a horse forum from a very upset lady whose horse had been chased by a dog on the beach. The horse kicked out at the dog as it circled and barked at them. Unfortunately it caught the dog square in the head, it fitted briefly and then died. Horse rider and dog owner both absolutely devastated.

As above the Dangerous Dogs Act can be brought to play in situations like this:

Your dog is considered dangerously out of control if it:

injures someone
makes someone worried that it might injure them

A court could also decide that your dog is dangerously out of control if:

it injures someone’s animal
the owner of the animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop your dog attacking their animal

"There's no way you can exercise a big dog without letting it off lead"

Of course you can - you seek out fenced-in spaces (possibly paying for the privilege), use a long line, take up a dog sport like canicross or bikejor, walk in places where it's suitable to use a long line or flexi lead.

34DD Wed 18-Sep-13 09:45:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

littlewhitebag Wed 18-Sep-13 15:59:07

34DD I take my hat off to you having 7 big dogs in the city. How far do you need to lead walk them to tire them out in relation to letting them off? I agree that lead walking is much better for teaching them manners and obedience. I do lead walk my dog too. I also control when the off lead portion of a walk is finished and i always do part of the walk on lead no matter where i am.

Thank you to all who helped me with this yesterday. I took my dog to the beach this morning. I kept her on the lead initially as there was a man with one of those wheelie parachute things. She was going to run back to him when i let her off but i recalled her and she came back pretty immediately. Apart from him there was not another soul on the beach so it was a good walk. My DD is taking her on a lead walk through the park this afternoon as she is not confident with letting her off.

34DD Wed 18-Sep-13 19:45:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hibou7688 Wed 18-Sep-13 20:45:47

My dog is unpredictable around horses and would never have her off the lead near them. I know sometimes things come round the corner and catch you by surprise but tbh.. After having accidents in the past (not horse related.. But she has caught cats too that sit in the field - greyhounds..hmm. When we first got her and were walking in northumberland we went over a hill and she spotted sheep.. didn't do amy damage, the sheep headbutted her!!

She is always on her lead unless we can see far enough to know there is nothing that's gonna cause a problem. Other dogs are fine and her recall is fine.. But livestock is always gonna be a no no. Because of their instincts some dogs can't have it trained out of them.

But the horse owners should probably have stood still to help the situation!!

Booboostoo Thu 19-Sep-13 07:10:07

It sounds like you are struggling with the recall problem on your own. Are you getting any help from a trainer and/or going to classes which often include learning in real life environments?

Things to do to improve recall:
- keep your best food rewards only for recall, e.g. cheese,, chicken, etc.
- play the recall game often in an enclosed space
- long line at every other place (not a retractable lead but the long line exercise). Every single time your dog does not respond immediately to the recall command you are setting your training back. The long line exercise will eliminate mistakes whether they are horse related or anything else and will make it more likely that you will have a good recall in the end.

The riders will probably have walked as it was the safest thing to do. Standing still winds some horses up and makes them more likely to kick out or stomp on the dog with their front feet, both very very dangerous for the dog.

wingardiumoffthesofa Thu 19-Sep-13 11:46:20

This 100% thing that always gets quoted on the doghouse is hugely unhelpful to someone with a real life problem I think. It's a bit like saying you can only let your kids travel to school on their own if you are 100% sure they will be safe.

Life isn't full of 100% certainties, it's full of probabilities and risk assessments. Sometimes something will go wrong and you get caught out but you learn from it.

I also don't think a long line is the universal solution that is always suggested. Yes of course it's great for giving the dog freedom whilst on a lead and it's great for training largely unchallenging recall. But it can't replicate how an offlead dog will react if it sees a squirrel or disappears down a fox run or suddenly decides ducks are smelling particularly wonderful and jumps in a river. And if you have missed that puppy window of opportunity to train an unquestioned recall command because you have a rescue dog as so many of us do, then that dog will have ideas of its own. I don't believe you will learn all that dog's triggers if its permanently tethered to you. So should that mean the dog is only ever going to be on a lead? I don't think that's very fair on the dog or what the rescue centres have in mind when you take them home.

I've had my rescue dog 2 years now. He is off lead most of the time but I have learned that I cannot rely on his recall round food or livestock as much as I would like and so we adapt our walks accordingly. It has been a long process of learning and trial and error which has included lengthy periods (months) on a long lead, but also some considered risk taking.

It's a doghouse catch 22 that has always wound me up - you can't be anything close to 100% sure if your dog is permanently on a lead, yet you can't let it off unless you are 100% sure! Very unhelpful

The OP sounds extremely sensible and responsible to me

Booboostoo Thu 19-Sep-13 13:08:30

wingar it doesn't seem like you understand what long line training is and while saying that something you are familiar with doesn't work is a valid perspective, saying that something you don't know how to apply doesn't work is a bizarre claim!

A long line is not a long lead. A long line is a very light weight, long line attached to the dog's collar and allowed to trail behind without being held onto by the owner. It should be so light weight that the dog forgets it is there (obviously only suitable for training in areas where the line won't get tangled up and pull up the dog!). The dog is let loose, i.e. off its normal lead and with long line trailing. When you recall the dog either she comes back, in which case you reward and release, or she does not, in which case the handler now steps on the long line preventing the dog from making any more progress with running away, then walks on the line all the way to the dog, gently takes the dog by the collar, reverses all the way back to the original point where the dog was first recalled, rewards and releases. The long line allows the handler to stop the dog even when she thinks she is completely free, teaching the dog that she does not have an option about recall, i.e. she either recalls or is caught and recalled by the handler.

It is exactly the tool which you should use if you can't guarantee your dog won't chance a squirrel or a duck or jump in a river.

It does take a few months for a long lining training regime to work and you may well have to go back to it in the future but training dogs can be quite challenging and sometimes there is no way round the hard slog (said as someone who has spent ages long lining a JRT with a strong chase drive).

redcaryellowcar Thu 19-Sep-13 13:25:01

I think it depends how well you know your horse, the last one I used to regularly ride, pre ds would have and did happily stand whilst yappy dogs got reclaimed by owners and I imagine easier for owner to fetch the dog. if trainers with horses I imagine perhaps horses younger and therefore not as predictable, might be worth looking for local horse owner to help with dog / horse familirisation (sp) you could pop a mini advert in local tack shop? if not happening perhaps begin taking dog for walks on the lead on more popular bridleways where she gets to see a lot of horses?

wingardiumoffthesofa Thu 19-Sep-13 13:27:51

Hi booboo, yes I do understand the long line thing, I was shown it in great detail by a behaviourist. I've always used a very light nylon line as you describe. I let it trail on the ground always so effectively my dog is 'loose' as you describe. However, I do generally have it looped round a finger the other end as firstly my dog can dart and I am not quick enough or mobile enough to ensure I tread on the lead reliably - particularly in the wet or mud - and secondly I was very uncomfortable with the horrible jarring on the neck that the foot technique seems to lead to (imo and ime at least).

I think the biggest thing my dog learned on the long line was the length of it! He became very adept at not exceeding it. He was mainly on it over the winter months and light though it was, once it was wet and muddy, he still knew it was there

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