Disclaimer: I am not a professional dog trainer. The following post is merely a collection of things that worked for me. They may not work for you. Your best course of action is to find a professional in your area.
See Part 1
So now you have a perfectly behaving dog who is the envy of all your friends, right?
Fun story, we took Harley and Guinness to Pensacola, FL on vacation last spring. Guinness is a good looking dog and Harley is the stereotypical friendly golden retriever so we had lots of attention. They would also sit quietly at our feet while we ate and we had a lot of people comment on that. “Harley and Guinness are the types of dogs that make you want to have a dog.” But they didn’t get there by magic.
Before we can actually take even a well behaved dog to the barn, we have to ask a few questions.
- Is your dog allowed at the barn?This is soooooo important! I have been very fortunate to be at some great barns that have allowed me to bring my dogs. This is actually incredibly rare so I’m not sure how I got so lucky. Some barns will allow you to bring dogs as long as they are on leash but most have a no dog policy. Please respect these!
- Will your dog be able to handle being at the barn?Not every dog is going to do well around horses. Or maybe they’ll do well around the horses but not around the other people at the barn. Or even other dogs at the barn. That’s okay! As pet owners, we want to do our best to keep our dogs happy and not put them in stressful situations.A side note: if you’re looking for a way to give a timid dog more confidence, I highly recommend taking some agility classes. I’ve seen it do wonders.
- Can you devote the attention to training your dog at the barn?Arguably the most important point to training a barn dog. You need to be able to devote a 100% of your attention to your dog at all times until your it becomes reliable. This is not easy to do when you’re also trying to work on you and/or your horse. But it is essential. This is why I often have a helper with me when first training a dog at the barn.
If you said no to any of these questions, stop and reconsider. Not every dog has to be a barn dog after all. But if you answered yes and still want to turn your dog into the world’s best behaved barn dog, the next step is to start training at the barn. And really, it’s just a simple wash and repeat exactly what you did at home.
The first step is to train your dog from the ground at the barn. Don’t try to jump on your horse and expect the dog to be have! Although, if you worked on getting your dog to follow commands from a distance, you will find this comes more quickly.
At the barn, it is important to set limits for your dog. Make it very clear where they are allowed to go and what is expected of them. For me and my two hooligans, they are allowed to be in the arena but they must lay down quietly by the mounting block. When I am grooming Gus and tacking up, Guinness waits for me quietly in the aisle but Harley has to sit on the bench.
This is her “safe spot.” It’s also something I am turning into a command so that when I say “go sit on the bench” she will go sit on the bench! It takes time, reputation and lots of cookies. Very worth it though!
One thing you will run in to if you bring your dog to the barn, especially if you have a people loving dog like I do, are other people undermining your training. Harley in particular will take any opportunity (read, cute kid who wants to pet her) to break from her training and pretend she knows nothing. I will usually scold and reset her in whatever we were working on. Sometimes the person Harley has just greeted will go “It’s no problem, I love dogs!” And I’m glad that they’re not bothered by her, but the truth is, it’s a problem for me! But it’s just something we will keep working through.
So what do we have left? Why the fun part, the riding with your dog! Stay tuned for Part 3, Under Saddle.