How to Train Your Dog to Behave Around Horses

How to Train Your Dog to Behave Around Horses
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-4 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

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 ‚Äúfight‚ÄĚ, ¬†a horse can easily injure or kill a dog by stepping on, kicking or even biting it.

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Defining Tasks

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.

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Getting Started

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.

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The Slow Introduction Method

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1

Contain and provide distance

Put your horse in a corral or enclosure and your dog on a leash. Let them see each other from a distance.

2

Keep it natural

Be calm, do not point out the horse, ignore the presence of the horse. Repeat several times over a few days.

3

Get closer

Take your dog over to the horse when feeding the horse. Keep the dog on a leash. Let the horse and dog be closer to one another, and get used to each others presence.

4

Make routine

Make the dog part of your daily routine of caring for the horse or horses. Keep the dog on a leash until he acts calm and being around the horses becomes part of a daily routine.

5

Allow contact

Let the dog come in contact with the horse, sniffing noses. Be calm and reward your dog if he stays calm. Remove him if he becomes overexcited. Try again later.

6

Allow off leash

When your dog is calm around the horse, and the horse is calm around the dog, try allowing off-leash contact in a controlled environment. If excitement occurs, return to leash, if your dog remains calm off leash, reward him.

The Off Leash Control Method

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1

Teach basic commands

Teach basic obedience on leash, like sit, down, come, stay.

2

Teach off leash commands

Teach your dog basic off-leash control, like sit/stay, down/stay and leave it, as well as off-leash recall or come.

3

Contain the horse

Put your horse in a round pen, corral or enclosure with safe fencing.

4

Leash and introduce dog

Bring your dog to the pen on a leash. Ignore excited behavior and reward calm behavior around the horse.

5

Perform commands around horse

Give your dog commands such a leave it or sit/stay if he approaches the horse too closely.

6

Remove leash

Once your dog has learned to be calm around the horse on leash, and gives the horse appropriate space, remove the leash.

7

Introduce dog off leash

While off leash, introduce your dog to the horse again in a safe enclosure. If the dog approaches the horse too aggressively, command leave it or sit/stay and return to leash work.

8

Reward calm off leash behavior

When the dog is calm or obeys off-leash commands, reward your dog.

The Model Behavior Method

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1

Obtain positive models

Find a horse that is calm around dogs and another dog that is calm around horses or ignores horses.

2

Introduce dogs

Introduce your dog to the calm dog.

3

Introduce horse

Bring the dogs around the horse while your inexperienced dog is on leash.

4

Allow modelling

Allow the experienced, calm dog to model appropriate behavior in the presence of the horse. Walk your dog, the calm model dog, and the horse together like a pack. Repeat several times over a period of days.

5

Remove leash

Once you're inexperienced dog has learned to be calm around the horse on leash and experienced the other dog's calm behavior, try taking your dog off leash with the horse in a safe enclosure.

6

Provide alternate behavior

Give your dog a distraction, a game with a ball, or give obedience commands for him to focus on while off-leash in the presence of the horse. Let the other, calm, dog, participate if available. If the dog crowds the horse or gets excited, recall him and put him back on leash.

7

Reward calm

If your dog is cam, ignores the horse, or is quiet and gentle with the horse, reward.

8

Practice and remove model

Repeat as often as necessary until calm gentle behavior is established, remove the model dog and introduce other horses.

By Laurie Haggart

Published: 10/11/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Mimo

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Mix

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Four Years

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Question

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My dog gets crazy during walks and he barks impulsively at people he didn't know or visitors to our house and nips them. When a new pet comes to our house, he became friendly just for a second and start playing crazily. He's really crazy. My question: How do I train my dog to be calm?

Aug. 17, 2022

Mimo's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, How you train him depends a lot on whether is simply excited and reactive, or aggressive/fearful or the new people and dogs? If he is aggressive toward others, I recommend hiring a professional trainer with access to other dogs and several trainers on staff - so pup can practice training around all the different trainers, as if they were strangers. At home, so work on calmness in general, I would practice commands that build his self-control. Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Drop It ‚Äď Exchange method: https://wagwalking.com/training/drop-it Watch Me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zeZrOPzO-c Working method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Aug. 18, 2022

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Blitz

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German Shepherd

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7 Years

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Question

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Blitz has a history of running the fence line where horses are and occasionally slipping through the fence and chasing horses. He has nipped my horses heels and gotten kicked once before, but that didn't effect his drive to chase. I am going to be getting a new horse I want the transition to go smoothly. How can I train him to not chase my horse?

Jan. 28, 2022

Blitz's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sarah, Check out James Penrith from TaketheLeadDogTraining. He has a Youtube channel. He works with dogs that chase and sometimes will kill livestock. Day 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgNbWCK9lFc Day 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpf5Bn-MNko&t=14s Day 3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj3nMvvHhwQ Day 4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxrGQ-AZylY Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Jan. 31, 2022


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