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Horses and Dogs
First Posted: July 13, 2010
Sep 25, 2012

Dogs and Horses

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The size difference between dogs and horses is usually that the horse is very much larger than the dog. Nevertheless, most horses are much more frightened of dogs than the reverse. This creates unique problems - for dogs and horses, and for the person who has to control them both.

When introducing dogs and horses, unlike other animal training areas, it helps very little to start the interaction out when both animals are young. Young horses are at least as skittish as older ones, and are often accompanied by a mare. Neither is naturally fond of nor curious about puppies. To a horse, nearly everything but their owners and a few other horses are threats - at least until they're mature. But when mixing dogs and horses it can be very useful to introduce your young puppy to older horses at a very early age, as this will help to avoid the barking problem.

Dogs and horses can interact successfully. Whether the dog owner is a regular visitor to stables or riding schools, or whether the dog lives on the premises both can get along well.

In the early stages of dog and horse interaction, always keep puppies and dogs restrained around horses until they've learned what to do and what to avoid. A lead, for at least the first several weeks of training, is a must. And ensure that the horse is not in a position to rear or run where the dog can be injured.

Training dog and horses to interact involves a series of separate, but easily learned behaviours.

To start your dogs and horses training, first, the dog has to learn to respect a boundary, a dog can easily slip through a paddock with metal bars, or a series of stalls, or other enclosures. Begin by using a leash and collar and make the boundary training part of a more general walk where you train the dog to follow you. Be sure your dog follows you, not leads you.

When mixing dogs and horses, the dog, will sense of smell the horse and be naturally curious about the horse, as it approaches the boundary. Allow the dog to approach - but not move beyond - the boundary. If it tries to breach the boundary, tug on the leash and give a sharp 'No!' or 'Stop'. ('Stay' is a different behaviour, requiring a different - and unique - command.)

When dogs and horses first meet your dog will have a tendency to bark, this needs to be suppressed. Barking frequency varies with breed and individual temperament, but horses aren't discriminating. When seemingly threatened, they react - and a horse's reaction to barking is not usually something pleasant.

Dogs and horses are both pack animals and will usually follow the lead of the alpha (leader), unless, they're trying to be the alpha. This drive for dominance, coupled sometimes with fear or simply the desire to warn of a threat, can lead to barking.

During your dog and horse training you need to reinforce your 'top dog' status, by a sharp jerk sideways on the leash, accompanied by a sharp verbal 'No bark!'. Jerk sideways, not back, in order to get the dog's attention without risking injury to the throat. Dogs have very strong neck muscles, but throats can still be too easily bruised by excessive force.

If the dog insists on barking, remove him from the area and try again another day. Don't give up too easily, though. You don't want to train the dog that every time he barks 'Danger', you obey by fleeing.

As with any dog training regiment, patience and consistency are the keys to success. Be firm, but not abusive, and execute the same unique command and physical movement regularly for each associated behaviour taught. Teaching dogs and horses to be comfortable with each others company you need to be sure that your commands to your dog do not frighten your horse.

Copyright 2007

For More Information:

Training Dogs to Get Along With Horses
Horses and Dogs That Have Worked Together Through History

Horses and Dogs