Today's post is from our guest blogger Nicole McCray, she writes pieces about life with horses. You may recall her piece earlier this year about finding a boarding stable. We thought our fans would also enjoy her piece on introducing your dog to your horse. Enjoy!
As a new or a seasoned horse owner, it is beneficial to introduce your dog to your horse to be around each other peacefully. Many horse owners that own dogs do not always consider that they may not get along initially, and it will take some time for socialization to occur.
Certain species of dogs that are more prone to herd animals may chase livestock, and other types of dogs may just be overexcited or nervous and anxious around your horse, causing them to act aggressively or run away. In the same token, your horse may be frightened, causing it to run and possibly become injured or accidentally hurt your dog in the process. Training your dog when introducing it to your horse with some time, effort and work can help to provide your pets with less fear and behave respectfully among one another. Here are some ways to properly introduce your dog to your horse and train each animal to respect, tolerate, and maybe even like others.
Begin With Long Distance
Introduction to your horse must be gradual. The best approach for introducing your dog to your horse is by starting at a distance. However, you don’t want the introduction to be abrupt or happen too quickly.
It is important to note that your dog should know and follow basic commands. Training your dog commands is crucial for introducing the dog to the horse in a controlled environment. Your dog should know commands such as sit, stay, lay down, come, and leave it. As the owner, you must be the one in control of the situation.
Secure your horse somewhere outside where it will have space. You can bring your dog out on a leash, or if you are more concerned with an anxious pup, get an unchewable dog harness to keep your dog calm and close by.
Stand with your dog far enough away so that it may not notice the horse at first so that you can keep it calm. Then, continually encourage your dog with a quiet voice, and provide it with rewards, such as treats or pats, as it continues to behave calmly.
Notice Body Language
The introduction of your dog to your horse will impact both of your animals. Therefore, it is imperative that you pay close attention to the body language of each animal and how they are reacting to the introduction as you begin.
If you notice that your dog’s hair is standing up straight, baring its teeth, growling, barking, or tucking its tail, then stop. You do not want your dog to associate this meeting with your horse in a negative manner.
Likewise, if you notice that your horse is acting fearful or anxious by trying to run, neighing loudly, or moving around a lot, then stop the introduction. Again, keeping them at a lengthy distance before gradually moving them closer together is the best way to ensure that you can maintainsafety at the forefront and notice when either animal is uncomfortable.
Gradually Bring Your Dog and Horse Closer Together
If your horse is kept in a fence, your goal would ultimately be for your dog to be in the fence next to and with the horse without any reactions. If your horse is kept with ahorse halter, the goal would be to get your dog and horse together without any restraints. Then, once you feel that your dog is comfortable with each small step of distance, you can work to move it a little bit closer to your horse.
Dogs may sniff in interest or look and watch the other animal. Still, as long as your dog is keeping calm and not reacting to anything, you can continue to reward it by petting and providing treats to encourage this good behavior. If you feel it is okay for your dog to move closer still, you can remove the harness or leash and allow the dog to get close to the fenced-in area where the horse is without going inside just yet.
Keep in mind that getting to the point of releasing your dog can take a long time. Then, when you are confident that your dog is not interested in the horse and the animals can be around each other, you can remove the barrier or fence to allow them to be introduced directly.
Keep Your Calm
The most crucial aspect of introducing your dog to your horse is ensuring you have control over the animals’ behavior. Your dog should take its cues from you, so you must keep calm and natural, and continue to engage the dog in being around the horse frequently while continuing about this peaceful, natural way.
Your dog will grow used to the horse being around and will not be so inclined to show interest or be intimidated by your horse, especially if it can see that you are not conveying any emotion or reaction to being around it.
Keep A Routine
Another important tip to consider for introducing the animals is to make it part of a daily routine. For example, your dog and horse will become well acquainted and show less interest in one another if they see each other simultaneously every day. When you have done this routine enough times and your dog has not reacted, as well as introduced the dog to the horse directly with a minor barrier or no barrier at all, as well as feel that they are both comfortable with one another, then and only then should you allow the animals to come in contact with each other. Reward your dog as long as it stays calm and does not react.
Have Distractions Ready
When the dog and horse have been introduced, be sure to always have some sort of distraction ready, just in case anything happens. For example, have your harness or leash prepared for the dog if it begins acting too excited, and keep close to the fence door if you have to remove the dog if the horse starts to move quickly.It also doesn’t hurt to have toys or food as a distraction for either animal in case of needing to change focus. Providing your dog with calm, steady commands and using those distractions can help ease a tense situation. In the same token, you might consider having afirst-aid kit ready as well in case your animals experience an injury.
Ask For Help From a Professional
Again, making the meetings between your dog and horse frequent and part of a routine will be the most helpful at having them become acquainted and comfortable around each other. However, if you run into any problems or don’t seem to be getting to the point where you feel your dog can go off-harness or off-leash, you can ask a professional for assistance.
There are plenty of horse and dog owners who have experience and familiarity with the situation. However, it can be even more helpful to locate a professional with the same breed of dog to provide you with useful tactics and techniques to help you properly introduce your dog. Then, before you know it, you will be able to take both animals out together without worry.