Humankind has enjoyed a remarkable relationship with two species of animals for tens of thousands of years. Both are relationships quite unlike any other.
Horses and dogs
If dogs are man’s best friend, then horses might qualify as “second best friend.” Horses and dogs serve men and women differently, but they are often charged with working together, such as in ranching, herding, and hunting.
Consider that, evolutionary speaking, horses, and dogs are natural enemies. In the animal kingdom, a dog is a predator, and a horse can be the prey. That gives them a scant natural incentive to work together, much less get along.
That’s why training a horse to interact with a dog – and vice versa – generally requires special effort and some specific techniques to overcome the natural instincts of both species so that they can get along.
Here are just a few tips for successfully introducing a dog to a horse:
Start with Generally Well-Trained Dog
The first step focuses on the dog before it meets the horse. You want to start with a dog who is well-trained to be obedient in all respects. That means teaching it to obey basic commands and teaching it what behaviors are frowned upon and which are to be rewarded. A dog that is generally obedient will then be obedient when you introduce it to a horse for the first time.
Nix Herding Behavior
Most dogs are natural herders, some more than others. They will instinctively want to chase a horse or a group of horses in a herding fashion. This makes horses extremely nervous. Herding behavior must be worked out of a dog early. Whenever the dog even hints at herding a horse, firmly put a stop to it.
Respect the Horses Feet
Horses are easily spooked by things that run around near their feet. This should be a particular focus when training a dog to interact with horses. Also, a dog can get seriously injured if a horse stomps on it by accident or defensively. Use firm commands to make sure a dog keeps a distance from being under a horse and near the feet.
Introduce Dogs Early and In a Barn or Stable
Bringing puppies into where horses are kept in stables is an excellent way to get them accustomed to one another. Let them see each other often in controlled situations. Amazingly, dogs and horses who grow up together can become terrific friends and enjoy each other’s company. That must start early, however.