Dogs and Horses – Part 1: How dogs get used to the horse stable
Many riders do not only have a big heart for horses but are also enthusiastic dog owners.
They dream about a ride through nature together with horse and dog. But in reality there can be many problems if you want to integrate your dog into daily life in the horse stable.
Due to the variety of their characters also the relationship between dogs and horses can be very different. Many riders already experienced: There are dogs that start to bark, become aggressive and even bite the horse as soon as they see it. However there are also dogs that are very friendly, careful and treat all horses with respect. With consequence and patience every dog can learn this respectful behavior. And especially these peaceful dogs are so important: They show all members of the stable that dogs are able to be respectful and that it is possible to integrate them into normal stable life. This can prevent no-dog zones!
Trust, consequence and patience
The correct horse training is based on three principles: trust, consequence and patience. Especially young animals need a person they can constantly refer to and who clarifies again and again what the animal is allowed to do and what he is not. This is the important prerequisite for a successful training with the horse and an integration of the dog into the horse stable.
Communication with other riders in the stable
Before taking your horse with you into the stable you should contact and inform all other riders in the stable. It is crucial not only to know about the history of your own horse but also about the history of the other ones. Some horses had terrible experiences with dogs in the past and may therefore react in an unexpected frightened and even panic way. In this case the whole situation can easily become very dangerous. An early contact with the other stable members improves the whole atmosphere in the stable. If all members are informed about and included into the decision they will not feel overlooked. If all stable members understand that a dog can be integrated into stable life the stable does not have to become a no-dog zone – and this would make life much easier for many riders and dog owners!
How the dog gets used to the horse stable
Young dogs are very friendly, open-minded and offer a high willingness to learn. Therefore it is easier to get them used to the horse stable. Especially through fun and games puppies and young dogs are much easier to train than old dogs. In the opposite to some opinions in certain dogs and horse blogs in the internet one thing needs to be stressed: Dogs and especially puppies do need a careful and lovely treatment to get integrated into the humans life. Puppies are a lot of work and the integration into normal daily life needs more than just one week. Undoubtedly the small four-legged friends shall get used to their normal environment and life without handling them with kid gloves. However dogs need time and patience. If dogs do not get the time they need this will easily lead to a lack of trust in the relationship between animal and human. Therefore dog owners should only bring their dog or puppy with them in the stable when there already is a base of trust between them two and the dog has accepted the human as his leader and friend.
The most important prerequisite is that the dog obeys the commandos “Sit”, “Come” and “Stay”. This rule also extends to puppies. In any case the dog owner can make use of treats: Every time the dog behaves the way the owner wants him to a treat shows the dog that his behavior was right and that the same behavior will also lead to a treat the next time.
For the first steps in the new environment it is crucial that the dog sees, hears and smells that he is not alone and that his person of reference is there with him together. The person symbolizes security and trust and is an important orientation for the animal. Puppies need to be at least 3-4 months before taking them to the stable. The first times the dog should only stay around 20 minutes: the four-legged friend needs time to get used to all the new smells and sounds. In any case the owner needs to avoid that the dog gets any negative associations with the new environment – and this can easily happen if the dog feels swamped from all the new input!
After the third or fourth visit you can start to integrate the dog into the normal daily life of the stable. The horse and dog owner needs to be one hundred percent concentrated: not only the horse but also the curious and probably excited dog will run around and will need the entire attention. The small dog is not able to foresee possible dangers and needs one more pairs of eyes that are vigilant for him. In the stable the dog needs his own place where he can stay undisturbed and observe all the things happening around him. It is crucial that at this place the dog is safe of any hooves and tractors. Otherwise he will not feel comfortable and will always try to run away.
Even if your dog normally obeys quite well: curiosity is always bigger than discipline. Therefore he will definitely try to leave his place and explore the new environment. To prevent dangerous situations for the dog and other horses in the stable the owner should make use of a dog leash – at least at the beginning. The dog owner needs to stay near the dog or at least let him hear his voice if a direct eye contact is not possible. Then the little animal will not feel alone in the new environment.
If horse and dog carefully got used to each other the dog can run in the stable without the leash. But be careful: This is only possible if the dog obeys all commandos of the owner and does not play and cavort in the stable!
Be aware of hooves!
No matter if puppy or big dog: a hoof kick causes great pain and in worst case can even lead to serious injuries. Therefore every dog owner needs to be vigilant at any time so that he can prevent such a terrible experience for the dog. Dogs need to learn very quickly that they are not allowed to run underneath or near the legs of the horse. Otherwise the horse can easily be frightened and kick in any direction.
What do I do with my dog if I want to ride in the indoor riding arena?
The aim of any rider is to ride the horse. Especially in the winter period dog owners have a problem because they cannot leave the dog outside in the shadow of a tree. Additionally the owner will not always find someone to take care of the dog while riding in the arena.
For these cases it is very important that the owner already trained the dog to wait alone at a place until the owner comes back. This can be trained through different ways. The first option is that the dog learns to stay at “his” place. As already explained this can be his blanket at a safe place (free of hooves and tractors!) where the dog can sleep and relax until the rider is back. The second option is that the dog learns to stay in the box of the horse. Prerequisite: the box is free of any horse droppings (otherwise the dog is in danger of bacteria and worms!) and full of fresh straw. Staying in this new environment without barking needs to be trained several times in advance. If the owner just leaves the dog alone in the box and takes a two hour ride in the arena one can bet that the dog will bark and do everything possible to get someone’s attention. Neither this is good for the relationship between dog and human nor for the entire atmosphere in the stable and with the other stable members.
Instead you can integrate the box into normal procedures in the stable so that the dog slowly gets used to it. The daily horse grooming can easily take place in front of the box. During the cleaning procedure the dog has time to explore the new terrain. A blanket in a corner offers orientation for the dog and helps him to feel more comfortable. First you can close the door for only five minutes. If the dog stays calm and does not bark the owner needs to praise him lavishly (treats, voice, etc.). If the dog waits patiently in the box for three or four more times you can leave him in the box for some more minutes (15 minutes, 25 minutes, etc.). Finally the small animal will understand that he just has to wait and that the owner will definitely come back. The owner needs to be very patient for this training. Normally it takes quite a long time until the dog understands that it is senseless to bark and that he does not have to feel like someone left behind. Especially puppies and young dogs need a long time until they trust the owner and accept that they have to wait.
Read here “Dogs and Horses – Part 2: How to take a ride with horse and dog”
- Get past the fear:training units that help horses to overcome their anxieties -Part 1
- The importance of the right communication between horse and rider – how to understand the body language of the horse
- A recipe for success: Praising your horse
- Dogbane Family (Apocynaceae) – toxic plant for dogs and horses
—All statements without guarantee—