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Discussion Starter #1
So I'm a city slicker, and would like to go on vacation and do some hiking and horseback riding with my dog. He's never seen a horse before.

The national park where I want to go is Big South Fork over in Tennessee and Kentucky. The rules are that dogs can't be off leash (and I wouldn't want to anyway until his recall is excellent) and that even on horseback the dog has to be on a leash no longer then 6 feet.

Dorje, my ten month old GSP mix, walks beautifully on a leash. And trips like these are the whole reason I got a dog.

So here's my question - how hard will it be to show up, hop on a horse, and teach Dorje to continue walking on my left and following my lead without pulling or getting reactive? Is that something I can do in one morning, or is it something that has to be done in short sessions over weeks?

I'm hoping it would come naturally since he's walking so well already. But he's never seen a horse. And I'll be way up higher. I'm also concerned about leading the horse with one hand (western) and leading him, because obv I only have one right hand. I thought that maybe I can just attach the dog leash with a carabiner and just focus on leading the horse?

Are there any other things I'm not thinking off that I should consider?

The folks I talked to at the park said it's pretty normal for people to be on horseback with their dog on lead, but this whole thing sounds weird to me.

Appreciate the help!
 

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Given that you have 6 feet worth of leash space...the horse will likely trample your dog when they startle/start moving, and your dog is about 65% likely to totally freak out at a creature that large, too.

All around a bad idea. Leave the dog with someone you trust to go riding. Do introductions at a big distance, slowly. You won't get him to that point (nor will the strange horse likely be safe for this) by the time your vacation rolls around, almost guaranteed.

What happens if he sees a squirrel, even if he is walking nicely and the horse doesn't mind a predator walking with it? What happens if the horse accidentally steps on him? What happens if your dog bites the horse out of fear when they're introduced? What happens if the leash gets tangled in your saddle/stirrup/etc.? There's a ton of things you aren't considering.

It's normal for SOME horses and dogs to run around off leash together. The training and lives they lead are vastly different than what you've described for yourself. There is always risk, even with the training involved being extensive.
 

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I did something similar, to try to train my dogs to run alongside me while riding my bike. It worked fine until they either wanted to stop to relieve themselves, or saw something that distracted them and ran off to the side. In the lab's case, she nearly pulled me off my bike, not so good when I was in motion.

I'm dubious about it working with just a 6 foot lead. To keep from being pulled off the horse, you'll probably need to attach the leash to the saddle.

Depends on the temperament of your dog. Running with the bike only worked for me at night, when there were fewer distractions.
 

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A six foot lead isn't much when you're already four to five feet off the ground. It would be something I'd definitely want to work with both the horse AND the dog with for a long time before giving it a go 'out in the wild'.

Do you have somewhere local you can train him to be used to horses? I wouldn't try a shepherd, a herding breed by nature, around any sort of hoofed critter, without more than a little training or he might try to do what instincts tell him to do, and if the horse doesn't want to be herded.. well their hooves are the size of dinner plates.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks all!

I agree that 6 feet sounds crazy short! And I'm also concerned about tangles if it's longer. The only reason I'm considering it is that the stable said they have tons of visitors who do this. They actually suggested this when I talked to them about leaving my dog in the cabin when I go out on horseback. It never would have occurred to me otherwise.

I can absolutely take him to a local stable to learn to be around horses. I was wondering if it's necessary to take a riding lesson with him on lead. The problem is that a riding instructor is trained to teach people how to ride - not how to lead a dog with a horse! All the articles I've found on this subject seem to be more about how to teach the horse to be comfortable around the dog, with no mention of training the dog.

By the way he is a German Shorthaired Pointer, not a shepherd.
 

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I taught my shepherd to run next to my horses on a 6 foot lead ! I guess we are freaks lol

I would not use longer than a 6 foot lead, because you don't want them to wrap around the horse ! With a six foot lead you can keep th from going under them or even just under the neck. I used lots of treats and taught a command that means come to my left side. I started inside on lead and then off. Followed by outside on lead and then off. I also taught sit from a distance, which imo is the most useful command for an off lead dog.

In your case I don't think its a good idea with out having done lots of practice first.

Ps- you have to teach the dog to not stop and sniff ! I can't tell you how many times I almost fell off the back of my horse (when we were bareback of course) while cantering !
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@gsd hunter, what do you think if I ask my stable if I could do a little training with him before my trip? How much practice do you think is necessary?

btw there's no way I'd canter with him by my side.

PS I bet if you posted a training video about how to train your dog to do this you'd get a ton of views.
 

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This is something that I hope to do with my dog someday, but with my own horse.

Depending on your dog, you, and the horse, it's sort of possible that you could train this in a few sessions. However, that's pretty unlikely.

I know lots of people that have horses and dogs, and a few of them have put in the effort to train their dogs for this, but most of them don't bother. Not only do you need to have your dog under control (and a 6ft lead is definitely on the short side for this, IMHO), but you still need to be ready to handle anything unexpected that happens during your ride - whether that's your dog going crazy after something, your horse spooking, sudden cross traffic (made worse if the other people on the trail are inconsiderate), etc.

Another point, even if your dog adjusts great (which almost never happens for dogs that have never encountered a horse before), the horse you're with may not. Be fair to the horse you'll be riding, and keep their experience in mind.

Also keeping the horse's experience in mind, how much/what kind of riding experience do you have? That can make a big difference to how the horse responds to anything unfamiliar in their environment.

If you decide to pursue this (which does sound like a ton of fun, by the way), keep in mind that most places that "rent out" horses will probably not allow you to bring your dog along - likely for most of the reasons I listed above. :)
 

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Idk. Personally I would feel better about it if you could train with the horse you would be riding !

I would love to make a training video, but I am unable to ride right now ! It was a very interesting process with some trial and error ;)
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Thanks all!

I agree that 6 feet sounds crazy short! And I'm also concerned about tangles if it's longer. The only reason I'm considering it is that the stable said they have tons of visitors who do this. They actually suggested this when I talked to them about leaving my dog in the cabin when I go out on horseback. It never would have occurred to me otherwise.

I can absolutely take him to a local stable to learn to be around horses. I was wondering if it's necessary to take a riding lesson with him on lead. The problem is that a riding instructor is trained to teach people how to ride - not how to lead a dog with a horse! All the articles I've found on this subject seem to be more about how to teach the horse to be comfortable around the dog, with no mention of training the dog.

By the way he is a German Shorthaired Pointer, not a shepherd.
Whoops, just saw this post, I don't know why I missed it before! How cool that the place you're planning to go suggested bringing your dog along! That also speaks well for the likelihood of the horses all being exposed and well-adjusted to having dogs along for a trail ride.

I would definitely start with as much exposure to horses with your GSP as possible, work on OB and loose leash walking while there's activity going on. If any of the horses at your local stable are okay with a dog, do try and take some lessons to get your dog used to it. (I would probably try to work with an 8ft lead.) As long as the learning process goes smoothly, I'd say it's definitely worth the try. (and if it goes not-so-well for the first trail ride on your vacation, then you at least still have the option of the cabin as a safe place for your dog to stay during the rest of the rides.)
 

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My first reaction to the initial post was NO WAY!
BUT, since the people at the place you're going suggested the idea, it might be fine. Definitely get your dog around horses for a bit before going, and practice riding and "ponying" the dog from the horse. Most horses that are used to dogs wouldn't care so long as the dog behaves, and if your dog gets familiar with horses and is trustworthy on the leash, I think it could be pretty fun for the dog.

The only worry I'd have is if the dog sees something ("Squirrel!") and tries to take off, putting you in a pretty tense situation, especially if the dog gets excited and starts barking and possibly spooks your horse. That could be a recipe for disaster. But if you think the dog will behave, I guess why not?

Personally, I'd rather go horseback without the dog, then maybe take the dog for a regular hike another time, but that's because I'd rather relax while riding and just enjoy it without worrying about the dog.

For the record, I have horses, and I don't think I've ever led a dog from any of them. Two of mine wouldn't care, but my youngest horse would probably try to stomp one of the dogs on purpose. He gets irritated if they're loose where i'm riding and they get in our way. Pins his ears and acts like he wants to chase/stomp them. He WILL chase them if he's loose in the pasture and they go in. He's a bit of a rascal.

Anyway, I'd test the dog and your coordination of dealing with riding one animal and leading another out before heading out on a trail ride in a strange place on a strange horse.
 

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I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier, but I did go through a period of training outside where I did hook his leash to the horn of the saddle just in case. I always had the leash in my hand, but the handle was over the horn so I wasn't jerked if he tried to stop while we were cantering.
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depends on the dog and the horse.

the most horseback riders I've seen had their dogs run around without leash.
I don't know it is safe to keep the dog on leash and so basically tie together horse and dog together.
if the horse gets scared and jumps a bit, the dog could get strangled. horses are huge and powerful animals.
 

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oh my god. I'm calling this stable tomorrow and figure out what their process is.

So far this thread has me convinced it's a terrible idea. I mean when they first suggested it I was like "omg, that's my dream" but as I imagine the times my dog has behaved unexpectedly since I got him and the times a horse has behaved unexpectedly in my lifetime, I can imagine a ****load of things that can go wrong.
 

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oh my god. I'm calling this stable tomorrow and figure out what their process is.

So far this thread has me convinced it's a terrible idea. I mean when they first suggested it I was like "omg, that's my dream" but as I imagine the times my dog has behaved unexpectedly since I got him and the times a horse has behaved unexpectedly in my lifetime, I can imagine a ****load of things that can go wrong.
LOL! Yeah, it's something that deserves one of those "How you imagined it would be...." and "How it really is..." memes. The idea of it working out perfectly seems so grand, but the reality of trying to lead a dog that has never been around horses off of a horse that you've never ridden before? Yeah. I'd think dog, horse, and human would all need to be very well trained and practiced in pulling that off in order for it to go well.
 

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I would never do it, I'd be too scared my dog would get trampled. Even if the horse is well trained, horses spook sometimes. All horses. My dogs go on rides with me all the time, but never on a leash. If I had to leash them I simply wouldn't take them.
 

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Honestly, I don't think people give the dog enough credit ! They are incredibly good at body language. If the horse is halfway trained they can read if it's getting scared and worse comes to worse you can always drop the leash.
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The idea of having a dog on-lease while riding is not a strange concept to me at all. Back in highschool & college when I had time for a horse, my (then) dog's favorite thing was to come trail-riding with us. When she was a pup with mixed-recall she stayed on leash. Once she was more reliable, she was off-leash. However she was with me at the barn from a very young age, so was comfortable around horses and was even friends with my horse (they loved each other, and when let loose to play they would play "tag" with each other -- it was adorable).

What makes me nervous in this situation is a. your dog doesn't know horses b. you don't know the horse and c. it doesn't sound like you're *that* confident of a rider. In my mind this could be a recipe for an accident. If you had 2 of the 3, I'd say go for it. Even if the horse is dog-savvy, if you're feeling at all nervous, the horse will pick-up on it and *could* then start acting nervously / reactive.

Under the assumption that the horses are all dog-savvy and and that you are a confident & relaxed rider: you can always bring the dog with you to the first ride and see how it goes. It really depends on the personality of your dog.

What you don't want to have, is your dog have negative experiences early on that ruin what could in the long-term be a very realistic goal/activity. Pushing the situation too quickly could be harmful in the long run.
 

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I had my own horse so I just started with her on leash and walking alongside leading the horse. Susie had already been taught to "wait" when she got ahead so when I started riding with her, she was off-leash most of the time but I could put a leash on her while I was riding on the roads. I just held the leash though and would never attach it to the horse, better to drop the leash if you had to.

A dog that has never been around horses is more likely to be scared to walk alongside them or get excited and jump up at them. It is not something you can just climb on a horse and take your dog on leash with it unless your dog is quiet and obedient and not scared of the horse.
 
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