Can dogs and horses have a safe relationship?

Posted by Betty. October 24th 2014.

Animal behaviour is often determined by the amount of training it receives. If a dog doesn’t know how to behave when it’s around horses, and vice versa, you can train these species to become accustomed to each other.

Horse and dog

Safety is paramount

If your dog has never seen a horse at all, remember to keep it on a lead for that initial introduction. If you don’t, the horse may well become skittish and rear, thereby inadvertently kicking your dog.

Alternatively, your dog may become anxious and start to growl and even try to nip the horse.

If you’re walking your dog on a footpath and there are horses nearby, your dog may try and chase the horses. Dogs and horses can mingle but both animals need to learn how to curb their natural instincts in each other’s presence.

A dog’s natural instinct is to chase a horse

If you live in a rural area, you should always keep your pet on a lead, when taking it for a walk. When your dog sees a horse for the first time it may be nervous. Before humans started to use dogs as working animals or pets, dogs were hunters and predators. Therefore, they may well want to chase the horse, either out of playfulness or aggression.

Acclimatise your dog to horses

If you want to avoid this potentially dangerous situation, as well as keeping your pet on a lead, you could try rewarding it with treats if it remains by your side.

If there are any stables in your region, see if you can take your dog to this environment to introduce it to the horses in the relative safety of an enclosed area.

A well-trained pet that responds to your commands is far less likely to have problems with a horse than one who is wild and doesn’t do as it is told.

Horses can bolt when they are anxious

Horses gallop when they feel that they are in danger. If a horse has a rider on its back, and a dog gives chase; then the horse might bolt and damage itself and its rider. If you are taking your dog for a walk, in an area used by riders, wear high visibility clothing and always allow the rider and horse plenty of space when passing each other. This will allow the rider to calm the horse and keep it on a short rein so that they have greater control and can anticipate a dangerous situation. If riders and dog walkers communicate there is less chance of a potentially lethal accident.

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