Thanks to their centuries of experience as guards and cattle-herders, dogs are generally the best choice of pet to have along with horses. However, urging dogs and horses to coexist can pose some challenges, especially since dogs are natural predators and horses are often prey. If you have a pet dog that you want to train so that they’ll get used to living and working with horses, here are some tips to help you guide both animals toward a peaceful coexistence:
Study the Temperament of Both Horse and Dog
Before you get your pets acquainted with each other, you should check first if they have specific behaviors and if they’ve ever encountered each other’s species before. If your dog has a calm nature, introduce them to horses that have never encountered a dog before. You can also introduce a calm pup to quieter horses before getting them acquainted with the more excitable ones.
Use a Leash for Practice
While working to get your pets more used to each other, make sure that you have a good leash for controlling your dog. Browse online for reliable training aids like PrideBites customizable pet products, which promise safety and comfort for your pup with high-quality materials and designs.
Train your dog to control their behavior outdoors by keeping them on a leash while walking around the yard and the barn. Then, get your horse inside an enclosure or corral before walking your dog near the horse. Don’t point out their presence to each other. Instead, allow them to recognize each other on their own.
Teach Your Dog Basic Commands
Your pup needs to learn obedience commands before they can be around your horse without a leash. You can start teaching them commands like “sit”, “off”, “out”, and “lie down” at home. The most ideal time to teach these commands is when your dog is still a pup, but teaching old dogs is still doable with some patience.
It’s important to encourage interaction between your dog and the animals, humans, and objects they’re going to be living with, especially if your dog is still a puppy. This allows them to gain enough working memory to recognize and remember these familiar objects and family members.
If you have a puppy, try holding them while allowing your horse to sniff them. Once the puppy is relaxed, allow them to get used to being within the horse’s periphery. If you have an antsy pup, you can reward them if they follow your orders to stay calm. However, you should be mindful and pull the pup away if they get too close to the horse and the latter starts to get uneasy.
Make Dog/Horse Interactions Part of a Routine
Dogs are best at learning routines, and you can instill the idea that working around horses is part of a normal day. You can, for example, allow your dog to get closer when doing routine tasks like feeding your horse.
While doing all this, remember not to take your dog off a leash just yet. Your pup will need to stay on a leash until they’ve shown that they can stay calm whenever they’re around your horse.
Keep Familiarizing Your Dog Even When Off-Leash
Even if your dog is calm enough around horses to no longer necessitate a leash, you still need to be wary of aggressive encounters.
When starting off-leash interaction, make sure that you’re in a controlled environment. This means re-introducing the dog and horse to each other in an enclosure rather than out on the ranch. When your pup starts to act aggressively, reinforce basic commands and put them back on a leash for further training. Remember to use positive reinforcement and reward your pup for following commands and staying calm.
Practice Riding with Your Pup Trailing Along
Good herding dogs behave properly and can trail along with a galloping horse without acting defensively. So, practice riding your horse while having your pup tag along. It’s best to do this inside a riding arena so that both your pup and horse can avoid distractions.
To start, you can use a lead rope to guide your horse through a slow walk and have your dog follow them around. Experts generally recommend having an assistant to help you maintain control of your pets during this phase of familiarization. Then, you and your assistant can repeat the process, but with you mounted on your horse. Of course, you should also make sure to reward both pets for their hard work.
Galloping Towards a Beautiful Friendship
Getting your horse and dog accustomed to each other may take a bit of work, but it’s in both animals’ instincts to serve as reliable companions to their humans. With these tips, you can ensure friendliness between these two instinctually different animals and transform your furry pal into the best (and cutest) rancher ever.