Five Tips For Hitting The Trail With Your Dogs

Five Tips For Hitting The Trail With Your Dogs

 

As autumn arrives with its brilliant colors, maybe you’re dreaming of trail riding with your dog. Before you hit the trail, it’s essential that your dog knows how to act around horses, is familiar with the barn, and knows basic commands. With proper preparation and training, a trail ride in the great outdoors can be enjoyable for you, your horse, and your pup!

Get back to basics

For everyone’s safety, your dog should “come,” “sit,” “stay,” and “stop” on command. You don’t know what distractions you’ll face on the trail, and these commands will keep your dog from startling your horse, getting stepped on, or chasing wildlife. Furthermore, leashing your dog while trail riding is dangerous at best, deadly at worst. Your dog must listen to you.

Your horse should also be confident on the trail and responsive to your commands, especially when there are distractions around. If your horse is skittish, she may need “bomb-proof” or desensitization training, which will help her stay calm in any situation.

Say hello!

Once you’re sure your horse and your dog will be comfortable on the trail, it’s time to introduce them. Start with your horse in her stall and your dog on his leash. As you move closer to the horse with your dog, reward your dog’s calm behavior. If your dog exhibits excitement or fear, move away until he becomes calm again.

If your horse displays nervous behavior as you approach, slow down. Refocus your horse’s attention on you with commands, then proceed when your horse is calm. It’s okay if this process takes several attempts. The animals’ safety and comfort should be your main prerogative.

Once both animals are at ease, bring your pup along for chores in the barn or while doing groundwork with your horse. Give your animals time to develop trust in and awareness of one another, and make sure your dog maintains a safe distance from your horse.

Practice makes perfect

Before you head out to the trail, practice walking your horse and dog in a familiar location, such as a riding arena or pasture. Guide your horse with a lead rope while a partner keeps your dog leashed. Practice using your commands for each animal, and reward them for their obedience and composure.

Once you feel like the animals are ready, repeat this process in the saddle. While your partner holds your dog’s leash, mount up. Take a guided walk around your pasture or property, ensuring that both animals are listening to your commands and are aware of one another.

Saddle up!

Once you’re confident at home, select a short, familiar trail for your first ride together. Your dog will tire more quickly than your horse, so keep the pace at a walk. Take care not to tire your dog on the outbound trip and watch him for signs of exhaustion. Over time, your pup’s physical endurance will increase, allowing you to take longer and more demanding trail rides.

If possible, ride on private land with the landowner’s permission. You’ll be less likely to run into other riders, horses, and unleashed dogs on private property. If that isn’t an option, select your public trails with care.

Don’t forget the essentials

 Carry first-aid emergency supplies for yourself and for your animals, as well as water for your dog. You may also want a towel for wiping off muddy paws, a hand trowel for burying waste, disposal bags, and treats.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be prepared for any adventure with your four-legged companions. Over time, your horse and your dog will bond and come to rely on one another. Prepare properly, take things slowly, and have lots of patience, and you’ll have rewarding experiences on the trail for years to come!