Top Tips for Training Dogs and Horses to Coexist

Posted on 4th May 2022

Wherever you find horses and horsey people, you’ll find dogs, too! In fact, dogs and horses seem to go together like salt and pepper or fish and chips.

However, dogs are naturally predatory animals, and your beloved equine is a prey animal. So, how is that relationship ever going to work?

This guide explains how you can train your horse and dog to coexist as the best of four-legged friends peacefully.

What Dog Is Best?

Start by choosing a breed of dog that will get along with horses and suit your lifestyle.

For example, you don’t want to pick a herding breed, such as a Border Collie. Border Collies are undoubtedly trainable, but they are bred to herd sheep. That herding instinct is so strong that your collie will also herd the family cat, your kids, other dogs, and horses.

So, if you want to walk down the field with your dog to bring your horse in, you don’t want a pup that immediately begins herding or chasing the horses! That’s sure to upset your fellow liveries and could lead to accidents.

Trainability

Trainability is a critical factor when choosing a dog that’s going to spend much of its time around horses and other dogs.

Working breeds are a good choice, as these dogs are bred to work with human handlers and are usually willing and keen to learn.

Training Your Dog

Before you take your dog to the yard with you, you’ll need to train him so that he’s obedient to all the basic commands, including:

  • Come when called
  • Lie down and sit down
  • Leave it!

Your dog must also understand the “No!” cue. That cue word can cover a multitude of sins, keeping your dog out of mischief when around your horse.

Start by practicing those commands with your dog on a leash. Once the dog is obedient and calm around your home and on walks, you can take him to the yard.

Some yards do not allow dogs, even on a leash, and most will not permit dogs running loose anywhere on the yard. So, before you go, double-check your livery contract or ask the yard manager if it’s okay for your dog to visit the yard with you.

Introductions

It’s a good idea to introduce your dog or puppy to your horse fairly early on in proceedings. That way, the dog gets to know the horse and accepts your equine pal as a member of the family.

Start by taking your dog for a walk around the stables and yard on his leash. Let the pooch sniff around all those unfamiliar, enticing smells. Next, present your dog with your horse’s headcollar, rugs, and grooming tools.

Now it’s time to introduce your dog to your horse. If you have a puppy and a calm horse, you can lift the pup up so that the horse can sniff the furry bundle over the stable door. In the early stages, don’t allow the puppy to wander around the horse’s feet; that’s asking for an accident to happen.

If your puppy is crate trained, you might want to consider putting your pet in a Goldendoodle crate while you do your yard jobs so that your puppy can watch from a safe distance without getting into mischief.

Introducing Older Dogs

If you have an older dog, put your horse in a round pen or paddock with open fencing so that the horse is contained by can move around at will.

With your dog on his leash, slowly approach the horse. Watch your dog’s reaction closely. Does your dog appear to be afraid? Does he bark, cower, bare his teeth, or shake with excitement? If your dog behaves aggressively toward your horse, say “No!” and make your dog sit down. Then, verbally praise your pet and approach the horse again. Keep repeating the process until your dog remains calm and quiet.

If your dog is afraid of the horse, reassure him with verbal encouragement and treats. Again, repeat the approach process until the dog is calm and gets used to the horse being there.

This socialization process could take many weeks or even longer. That’s not important. What’s crucial is to ensure that your dog is calm, unafraid, and not aggressive toward the horse.

Next Steps

If all goes well, you can now introduce your dog directly to your horse.

You’ll need an experienced handler to hold the horse while you hold your dog on a tight leash. Allow the horse and dog to sniff each other. If your dog becomes anxious or aggressive, repeat the process described in the previous steps.

Teach Your Dog to Respect Your Horse

Your dog must respect your horse. That’s absolutely essential for the safety of all concerned. Your horse has binocular vision, meaning that he has a blind spot a few feet in front and behind him. So, your horse can’t see your dog if he’s in one of those areas.

If your dog doesn’t respect your horse’s space, your pup could very easily be stepped on or kicked. That’s especially the case if you have a very lively dog or a pup that tries to nip your horse’s heels to herd him.

No-Entry Areas

There are certain areas around the yard that you should teach your dog to stay clear of, including:

  • Riding arenas
  • Paddocks
  • Lunging pens
  • Stables

A dog running loose in any of those areas is asking for an accident to happen.

Teach your dog to stay away from those places in the same way that you introduced him to your horse. Keep your dog on a leash, walk up to the arena, and wait for your dog’s reaction. If your pooch starts barking or attempts to charge at the horse, firmly tell him “No!,” stop him, make him sit down, and repeat the exercise.

Final Thoughts

If you have a horse, you most likely have a dog, too. Your dog and horse can get along fine, as long as you choose a suitable dog breed and take the correct approach when training your pet how to behave around your equine pal.

If you have a very young dog or one that’s just plain unruly around horses, we recommend that you seek the help of a professional dog trainer.

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