It is not uncommon for animal lovers to have pets from more than one species, but what happens when one of your pet species is a predator and the other is a prey animal? Does mayhem necessarily have to follow? Hopefully not! Many horse owners also own dogs, and they get along famously, but this does not necessarily occur without some work, training and assimilating the two companion animals from species with very different natural instincts. Remember herding dogs have a tendency to want to herd livestock and large dogs, especially from hunting breeds, may also be prone to chase livestock. Other dogs are just plain excited about being around a new animal and may jump at the horse or, if fearful, may bite out of fear. If you do not teach your dog that these behaviors are not compatible with being around your horse, you could be in for a wreck. There is a danger to the horse if it becomes frightened and the flight instinct kicks in--the horse could become injured in its panic to escape, slip and hurt itself or run through a fence, person, or other obstacle. Also, your dog can become hurt if a horse, being annoyed or harried by a dog decides to “fight”, a horse can easily injure or kill a dog by stepping on, kicking or even biting it.
Because horses are prey animals who tend to react by fight or flight to the presence of a predator, which technically your dog is, you will need to teach your dog to behave in a respectful, calm way around horses in order to avoid a confrontation in which your dog or the horse could be injured or worse. Ideally, a dog that is going to be around horses is introduced when young, but this is not always possible. If a horse owner adopts or acquires an older dog that has no experience with horses, some precautions and training will need to take place so that the dog learns to behave appropriately around his equine family members. If the dog has a history of aggression or chasing bikes, people or other livestock, teaching the dog to behave around a horse can be particularly challenging. Dogs need to not chase, jump at, or nip horses and should stay a respectful distance from the horse's feet. In order to not put themselves or the horse at risk, dogs need to learn to be calm, gentle and not make sudden movements around horses.
Before you introduce your dog and horse and start teaching appropriate behavior around horses, you should be aware of the temperament of both the horse and the dog, and whether either of them has been exposed to the other species before. If you have an excitable dog and your horse has never seen a dog before, you might want to introduce the horse to a calm dog first so the horse has a positive experience around dogs before introducing an excitable dog, and vice versa. If your dog is calm, but the horse not so much, get your dog used to quiet horses that accept his presence before introducing him to a more high-spirited equine friend. Your dog should know basic obedience commands and have good on and off leash control prior to exposing him to a horse or horses. A leash, to control your dog, and a round pen or corral with safe fencing such as rail, not barbed wire, is ideal for introducing your dog to how to behave around horses.