I have always heard that horse training and dog training are very different, but I’m actually finding some very significant similarities.

We recently added a Basset Hound puppy to our family, and training him has become a big priority. I read about the breed prior to getting him, and read the phrase “hard to train” on more then one website. I also read “friendly and loyal pet, good with kids”, and we decided to trade hard to train for friendly and loyal.

How can you say No to that face!

Of course after getting him, my vet said the few she had seen were aggressive, and then my friend who owns a kennel service echoed the aggressive behaviour.

O Dear.

But anyone who knows me, knows I am not daunted by a challenge, especially an animal behaviour challenge and knowing about potential problems is half the battle.

Our puppy (Napoleon, being short and French) came to us at about 3 months of age. He came from a large, vegan family who fed him people food (not sometimes, but as his food), and let him eat, chew, destroy, anything and everything, as well as get on the furniture.

Needless to say, a 3 month old pup needs proper nutrition, so he went on proper puppy food, and boy was he Hungry. He still rushes his food, but more on that later.

So lots of issues to work on. I honestly had no idea where to start. He’d steal my daughters toys, constantly get on the furniture, and I actually walked in and found him standing on the kitchen table eating off a plate.

When I’d yell at him, he would get aggressive and start barking at me. No good. Clearly I needed help. My vets words echoed “aggressive”.

Where to turn? Well, being a horse whisperer, I turned to the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan of course! I had watched his shows on TV and was always impressed with his training.

So every problem I was having I read a blog post from him (as I hope you all do with me!). Certain things began to become very clear for me.

Hed talk about “owning” things like your sofa, the children’s toys, kitchen table etc. The need for exercise (a happy pup is a tired pup), and giving them things to do. Sit, stay, fetch, come. And always rewarding good behaviour and not bad behaviour. Using dominance when he tries to get dominant.

I started to do these things, and it clicked for me. It really is not so different from horse training.

The big connection I found is attention. If you have your dogs attention, you have his obedience. This is exactly true for a horse. If you have your horses attention, you have his obedience.

Ok, how do you get their attention? You keep them busy. That’s the same as well. For a dog maybe you play fetch, sit, stay, etc. For a horse, you get them to back up, change directions on the circle, disengage the hind quarters, use obstacles.

When their behaviour becomes dominant or aggressive, you use exercises to turn the tables. You make them submit in some way. But that comes back to attention. You refocus their attention on you.

When they get wound up, they clearly need more exercise. A puppy locked in the house is not much different then a horse in a stable who gets no turn out. A tired puppy/horse is a good puppy/horse.

The only difference is how they get rewarded for good behaviour. But I am even finding that very similar. Initially I had to use treats to get my puppy’s attention. And then reward the good behaviour. A horse works better on rest, affection pr being left alone, all depending on his personality. But really its comfort. The horse is rewarded by comfort, what ever that means to him. I’m finding now, 2 months later, a good pet and rub is enough for my dog. He no longer needs the treats.

What I have now is a dog that is just as well trained as my horse. He’s calm, happy and obedient. There have been no signs of any aggression in weeks. He will sit quietly in the other room while I make his dinner and stay there until I give him the signal.

He still literally inhales his food, so I used an old horse trick, and put his toys in his food bowl, so he has to eat around them! Slowed him down marginally.

Whenever I sense he is going to misbehave, I recognise his attention is elsewhere, and get it back. Same thing I would do with a horse.

Sooooo the next time you hear that dog training and horse training are different, think twice. They really aren’t so different.