Can Dogs Live with Horses?

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Maybe you've seen the ideal picture on t.v. - a person riding on horseback through a beautiful meadow with their happy-go-lucky dog trotting alongside, as cute as can be. Or maybe you've seen a cute picture on the internet of a dog and horse cuddled up in a hay-filled stable snoozing the day away.

Is this really possible? Can dogs and horses really get along that well? Well, sometimes they can. In fact, people have been using dogs to help run horse farms for centuries, and often times, dogs and horses can be companion animals for each other. 

But how do you introduce your dog and horse to each other in an appropriate way? What signs should you look for to determine if your animals are really getting along?

We've got you covered! We've laid out the perfect horse-and-dog guide below to help you figure out the easiest and best way to get your two animals working and living together. 

Signs Your Dog and Horse Aren't Getting Along

Because of the nature of dogs and horses, it's more than likely they're going to get along just fine. They're both companion animals who prefer company, and as long as they're well-behaved and respectful, there shouldn't be any issues. 

However, there are special cases where dogs and horses don't get along and either need to be kept apart. Here are some signals your dog might be giving you to let you know they're not comfortable with their horse buddy.

First, they might be anxious, nervous, or scared. They typically will show you this by cowering, whimpering, putting their tail between their legs, and trying to escape whatever situation you have them in. It's also possible your dog might get aggressive if the horse scares them too much. They may start to nip, bite, growl, bark, or charge the horse out of fear. 

You might notice their eyes are very wide or their pupils will be dilated. If their ears are dropped back, their hair on his back is standing up, and they can't seem to stop pacing or panting, it's probably a pretty obvious sign that they're not comfortable being around the horse.

Body Language

Here are some body cues your dog might be giving you to let you know they're nervous around your horses:
  • Growling
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Back hair on edge
  • Biting
  • Pupils dilated

Other Signs

If you're still not sure how your dog is feeling about being around your horse, look for signs like this:
  • Skittish Behavior
  • Nipping
  • Unwarranted Aggression
  • Anxiety or Panic

Dogs and Horses Through History

It seems that dogs and horses have worked together seamlessly throughout history. Think about old-time, and even modern-day, cattle ranches. Dogs and horses work together in harmony to herd the animals.

Think about foxhunts on the English moors - two, distinct, four-legged animals working hard together in the spirit of the hunt. In fact, people have even historically picked out dogs to keep horses company as opposed to getting another horse. Like dogs, horses like constant companionship, so the two species mesh pretty well, for the most part.

The Science Behind Dog and Horse Friendships

When it comes down to it, both dogs and horses are companion-driven animals. Both are social - dogs are pack animals and horses are herd animals, so it's natural that they're inclined to seek out company. It's likely that both species are happier, healthier, and better off when they have a companion. 

For this reason, the two species work well together. Horses aren't driven by a strong prey drive, and dogs, usually, wouldn't count horses as prey, either. As long as you train your dog to understand not to nip or chase your horse, a dog can be the ideal companion. Dogs typically are happy to live in the barn with the horse, protect and secure them, and stay in the trailer or tack stall with them for warmth and company.

How to Train your Dog and Horse to Get Along

When it comes to training your animals to get along, it should be relatively easy. It might require a dash of patience and some extra love, but it's likely you can get these two animals to live together in harmony. First, when you introduce the two animals, do so slowly. If neither have ever been around each other before, they're going to need some time to get used to the other. Keep your dog on a leash for the introduction - you don't want an out-of-control pooch running up to your horse because of curiosity and spooking them. Start out far away, and progressively get closer. 

Do you notice changes in your dog's behavior? Is your dog reacting okay as you get nearer to the horse? When you, the dog, and the horse are all finally face to face, let them sniff each other slowly. Don't spend too much time here, but don't rush them either. Let them get used to each other's smells without giving off any threatening behavior. 

Finally, reward both the dog and the horse generously and repeat this process until they're both comfortable with each other.

How to React if Your Dog and Horse Aren't Getting Along

  • Be patient!
  • Keep them together on neutral grounds.
  • Show equal amounts of attention to your animals.
  • Reward your animals for behaving around each other.
  • Don't leave your animals alone.
  • Don't pressure your animals.
  • Limit their time together.
  • Introduce them slowly.

We Want to Hear How Your Dog and Horse Get Along?