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Do Dogs and Horses Get Along? Tips for introducing them.

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When I visit my friend Mary’s house, I can’t help but notice the three large dogs that always seem to be nearby. She is a big animal lover and tells me she dreams of owning a horse one day. I asked her why not get one now, and she explained that she was worried her dogs wouldn’t get along with the horse.

Dogs and horses generally get along fine if properly introduced and socialized. However, there are natural differences between the two species, which can cause tension at times. For example, horses are prey animals and are acutely aware of their surroundings and potential threats. On the other hand, dogs are predators and can be assertive and take charge of their environment.

But a lot also depends on the dog and the horse. Some dogs are afraid of horses, others might try to chase them, and others will just ignore them. Horses can be just as varied in their reactions – some will be afraid of dogs, some may try to kick or stomp them, and others will just ignore them.

But with a little patience and training on both sides, most dogs and horses can learn to tolerate each other without any problems. In fact, many people have found that their pets actually enjoy spending time together.

picture of a horse and dog

Can Dogs and Horses Get Along? (The Short Answer)

Many ranchers and horse owners keep horses and dogs together on their farms. Naturally, before getting a dog or a horse, it is essential to consider whether the two animals will get along. The last thing you want is your horse getting spooked by your dog or your dog feeling threatened or insecure due to a large horse.

Before getting a dog or a horse, it is important to think about if the two animals will be able to cohabitate peacefully. You don’t want your horse chased every time you turn your back or mount it. And, of course, you don’t want your horse spooking every time it sees your dogs.

In most cases, dogs and horses get along and may even bond with each other. However, at least in the beginning, it is very important to supervise the interaction. Even a normally quiet dog could suddenly attack a horse if it feels threatened by it. 

The dog’s barking or growling could also spook the horse, causing it to panic and flee. A large horse can easily injure or kick a dog and hurt it grievously. Therefore, it is important to introduce the two animals slowly. Allow them time to get familiar and bond with each other. Praise and treat them when they get along.

I was always nervous when my friend would bring his Chihuahua to the training center. I was scared it would get stepped on by one of the horses. My friend told me that this dog had been raised around horses and knew how to get out of their way.

I wasn’t convinced until I saw the dog maneuver through three horses’ legs as they were headed to the track. Since then, the dog has become a barn fixture and visits about three times per week. The horses seem to enjoy the little guy, too.

Below is a YouTube video that offers advice on how to get dogs used to horses.

Can Dogs and Horses Get Along? (The Detailed Answer)

In most cases, you shouldn’t have any problems keeping dogs and horses at your home. Naturally, you should always keep an eye on both animals. It is also very important to introduce the animals gradually. (I discuss this in detail further down).

Here are some factors to consider when it comes to bringing a horse and a dog together.

They Have a Predator-Prey Relationship

We can’t ignore the fact that dogs have evolved from wolves – animals that are predatory by nature and known to take down horses. Despite centuries of evolution, dogs have retained some of their predatory instincts. And some dog breeds are inherently more predatory than others. 

Dogs also are extremely territorial. A loyal dog will always want to protect its territory and owners and may perceive a horse to be a threat. This can be exacerbated by the fact that they are not introduced gradually. 

Likewise, horses have always been ‘prey’ animals and are often hunted by larger animals like wolves, cougars, tigers, and lions. Their prey instincts mean that they are always on the lookout for predators.

A stimulus that humans may not notice (baring of teeth or growl from the dog) won’t go unnoticed by a horse. Even a small stimulus can be a huge trigger for a horse that will use its natural flightiness to outrun the predator.

Picture of a small dog following a horse.

They Have Different Personalities and Temperaments

Dogs and horses are very different and have varying personalities. A horse’s temperament could be of three types: social, aloof, or fearful. 

Similarly, a dog could be assertive/aggressive, neutral, or passive. A dog’s personality depends on its breed, genetics, and also the environment it is raised.

Until you know for sure what type of personality your horse and dog have, it is best not to leave them alone together.

Their Sizes are Different

Horses can be extremely intimidating, even to a large-breed dog. The large size can seem threatening to a dog, and a dog that feels threatened is likely to react by either freezing, fleeing, or fighting. 

Anxious dogs show their stress in the form of raised hackles, growls, barking, and baring teeth. This behavior, in turn, could spook the horse.

Both Animals Can be Unpredictable

Even a sweet-natured dog could suddenly turn aggressive. It might bark or growl, which could spook the horse. This may trigger a flight mode in the horse, causing it to run untethered and injure itself or people around it.

Similarly, a calm horse might suddenly get spooked due to an unseen trigger and may kick or dart or neigh loudly. This can make the dog anxious or stressed.

Picture of a dog and horse playing.

How To Introduce a Dog and Horse?

Despite the differences in personalities, dogs and horses can live peacefully together as long as you introduce them gradually. Naturally, whether your horse and dog get along well depends on their personalities. Having said that, there are several things you can do to maximize your chances of success:

Keep Them Separated at First

  • In the beginning, do not keep the dog and horse in the same enclosure.
  • You can feed your dog and horse in the same area but with a partition in between. This way, although they cannot see each other, they are able to hear and smell each other.
  • The key is to get them to associate the positive association of tasty food while smelling or hearing the other animal.

Introduce Them Gradually

  • Once you are sure your dog remains calm on its side of the partition and shows no reaction to the horse, you can progress to bringing the two animals to the same area. This should be a neutral area, not the dog’s or the horse’s sanctuary.
  • Maintain a safe distance between the two animals. You can keep your horse tied up and your dog on a leash where it cannot reach the horse.
  • It helps if your dog is trained in basic obedience. You can get it to Sit or Heel.
  • Treat your dog using tasty treats as long as it remains calm. You can also offer treats to your horse if it does not neigh or spook.
  • If either animal shows aggression, fear, or stress signs, separate them immediately. You need to repeat the process again after a few days.

Bring Them Closer

  • Once both animals are calm around each other, you can allow your dog to fence around the horse and sniff it up close.
  • If your dog is obedient and comes to you when called, you can take it off its leash.
  • Keep watching the horse for signs of stress. If it appears uncomfortable while the dog sniffs it, recall your dog.
  • If your dog remains calm, you may treat it.
  • Be prepared to supervise the interactions over the next few days. The process can sometimes take weeks.
Picture of a Jack Russell dog on a farm
Jack Russell Terrier

What Dogs are Best With Horses?

Dogs and horses have been working together for centuries. From police dogs to guide dogs, these loyal companions have helped us in a variety of ways. But there are several breeds of dogs that are better with horses than others. Here are my top 7 picks:

Jack Russell Terrier

Historically, Jack Russell Terriers were always employed on farms and ranches as ratters. Their ability to catch vermin and rodents made them valuable pets to keep in these establishments. Naturally, they are used to other farm animals such as horses, goats, and other livestock, etc.

These feisty little dogs were bred to hunt foxes, and their boundless energy and enthusiasm make them ideal partners for horses. They’re known for their intelligence and athletic ability, which can be helpful when working with horses.

Our Jack Terrier helped us teach stubborn horses to load in a trailer. He would watch them closely, and as soon as a horse hesitated to step in a trailer, he would nip their heels. After one of two times, the horse loaded with hesitation.

And their small size means they can easily maneuver around a horse’s legs without getting stepped on. Jack Russells are also fearless dogs, which can be reassuring to a horse.

But above all, Jack Russell terriers are great companions for horses because of their unending loyalty and intelligence. These dogs will always be by your side, whether you’re out on the trail or just hanging out in the barn.

Picture of a horse and dog eating together.

Australian Shepherds

Australian Shepherds are active, protective, and incredibly smart dogs that are eager to please their owners, making them easy to train. The fact that they get along with most animals, including horses, and have stable temperaments make them reliable and safe dogs to keep around on a horse farm.

In fact, Australian Shepherds have a historical connection to horses. In the 19th century, many of the dogs that we now know as Australian Shepherds were actually bred in California as sheep-herding dogs.

These dogs became popular with ranchers who valued their herding ability and were often used to round up horses. They nip at the heels of animals to herd them. This heeler instinct is still strong in many Australian Shepherds today, and many of them enjoy working with horses.

Australian Shepherds are often used as working dogs on horse properties, where they help to herd horses and keep them safe from predators. So if you’re looking for a dog that can keep up with your equine friends, an Australian Shepherd might be the perfect breed for you.

Mountain Cur

According to Embark Vet, the Mountain Cur breed does well in packs and has always been kept around horses and livestock. With proper socialization, Mountain Cur dogs can be great around horses and make loyal companions for them. Their calm temperament, combined with a willingness to learn, also makes them easy to train to be around horses.

Pembroke Welsh Corgis

In All The Queen’s Corgis, the story of Queen Elizabeth II, author Penny Junor states that the Queen was happiest when she was around horses and Corgis. Corgis have many features which make them get along with horses: they are intelligent and highly trainable, loving and affectionate. Corgis love having companionship, which horses can provide.

Border Collies

Border Collies are one of the smartest dog breeds in the world. They learn quickly and also have a calm temperament. According to the AKC, these dogs excel in obedience, agility, herding, etc. They are among the canine world’s most balanced and durable citizens, making them a wonderful breed to have around horses.

Bernese Mountain Dogs

Bernese Mountain Dogs are large dogs with soft loving hearts. They are extremely loyal and protective and love to be around humans and other animals. Naturally, they do need socialization and training. However, their history as livestock guard dogs and companions to farmers and ranchers generally indicates that they are good around farm animals like horses.

Golden Retrievers

A Golden Retriever doesn’t have a mean bone in its body. It generally gets along well with everyone, including other animals and humans. These sweet, loyal, loving dogs are excellent companions for horses, and it helps that they are easy to train and also have very stable temperaments.

Picture of dogs and horses in a pasture.

Conclusion – Do Dogs and Horses Get Along?

Dogs and horses can get along, but it is important to understand that both animals have very different natural instincts. Even a small dog could spook a horse with its barking, whereas a large horse could easily injure a dog.

Therefore, it is very important to introduce the two animals gradually and under careful supervision. With proper training and socialization, the two can get along harmoniously, and there is potential for developing a strong bond between the two animals.

FAQs – Do Dogs and Horses Get Along?

Are horses scared of dogs?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on the horse’s personality and experience. Some horses may be scared of dogs, while others may not be phased by them at all. It really just depends on the horse.

Is it safe for dogs to be around horses?

Generally speaking, most dogs will be fine around horses as long as they are properly socialized and have been introduced to them in a calm and controlled setting. However, there is always a risk of injury if either the dog or the horse becomes spooked.

Are horses aggressive around dogs?

No, horses are not aggressive around dogs. In fact, most horses will be very friendly and curious around dogs. However, there are always a few horses that are spooked by dogs and may act aggressively out of fear.

How do dogs react to horses?

Dogs react to horses in a number of ways, depending on the dog’s personality and experience. Some dogs will be very excited and want to play with the horse, while others might react by snarling, growling, biting, baring teeth, or lungeing.