Saddle Breaking a Great Dane
If you’ve ever owned a Great Dane, you’re familiar with the typical reactions a dog of this size invites. On an average walk, you’ll hear “Is that a dog or a pony?”, “Can you ride that thing?”, “What kind of horse is that?” And then there’s my favorite: “Where’s the saddle?”
Since I have a rather twisted sense of humor sometimes, these comments tucked themselves away into the hinterlands of my brain and emerged a couple of months ago. On the last day of September, I gave my granddaughter a miniature horse for her birthday. Of course, she needed a saddle, so I bought one for her – a beautiful little Western saddle with a ten-inch seat.
After Snickers, the pony, died from a rattlesnake bite (I wrote a hub about it), the saddle somehow ended up at my house. One night as I was playing with my two Great Danes, Hamlet and Grendel, I noticed the saddle. Okay, you see where this is going.
Both dogs are super sweet and well trained. In fact, if you want to find a dog that loves kids, Great Danes are hard to beat. They're one of the best dog breeds for families. They even let the grandkids ride them. Hamlet will actually encourage the little ones to climb up on his back! The kids find it difficult to “hang on,” however. There’s really not much to keep them from sliding off. I figured with the saddle, riding the dogs would be a cinch. I thought it would be a simple matter of just placing the article on the dog’s back and drawing the belly girth.
According to veterinarians, a young, healthy dog can comfortably carry one-third of its own weight. The Danes each weigh at least 150 pounds and are in top physical condition, so that meant the “boys” could safely carry up to 50 pounds. The grandchildren in question weigh around 30 pounds each, and the saddle weighs about 20, for a total weight of about 50 pounds. Still, after deliberating the issue, I thought that was too much weight, so I decided that the dogs could just carry the saddle sans rider, kind of like a backpack. Maybe walking with the extra 20 pounds would help the dogs burn off some extra energy. I figured if Ceasar the Dog Whisperer recommended adding weight to the backs of dogs in order to achieve a better workout, it had to be a good idea. And the 20-pound saddle would certainly put no undue strain on the Danes.
In my younger, slimmer years, I trained numerous horses. In almost every case, the horses that had been properly handled had no objection at all to a saddle being placed on their back. And of course, the dogs were handled all the time, right? Piece of cake.
I placed the saddle on Hamlet’s back, and he took off like a shot! He hid in the office, curled up into a ball. Okay, I decided to go with doggie #2. I lifted the saddle onto Grendel’s back, and he just stood there for a minute, looking at me. He hardly seemed to notice it. When he started walking, however, he did not like the way the saddle felt – at all! He actually started bucking and spinning like a rank bronc in a rodeo. I had never seen a dog exhibit this particular behavior before and really didn’t even know a dog could “buck.”
Needless to say, we removed the saddle and aborted our attempts at saddle-breaking the dogs. I still don’t understand why they hated it so much. It’s a lot lighter than the kids who ride the dogs, and the dogs don’t mind their tiny human “back packs” at all. Maybe they have an aversion to leather?
I think if we ever decide to try this again, we'll remove the stirrups and stirrup leathers first. I don't think Grendel liked the way they moved as he walked. I've had the same experience with young horses before, so perhaps we'll achieve better results that way. Or maybe not...
NOTE: In the attached photo, the saddle looks much larger than it actually is because of the angle from which the pic was shot. This is a ten-inch saddle.
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