Most people who ride and own horses invariably are passionate dog owners too. If you are one of these people, then you may be thinking about taking your beloved pup to the stables while you tend to your equine friend. However, as one is a prey animal and the other a predator, is it possible for these two species with very different instincts to get along?
Much depends on the behaviour of your pup and whether your horse has had a positive experience with dogs. For these two animals to be compatible, there are some vital steps you need to take first to ensure everyone stays safe. If you are a client at a livery yard, then it is common courtesy to ask for permission from the proprietor to allow your pup onto the premises as having dogs around horses can be extremely dangerous.
Here we look at how to introduce your dog safely to horses as well as other aspects you need to know when your dog is at the stables.
First you need to look at the breed and temperament of your dog. Hunting breeds such as the Beagle, are bred to chase animals and birds whereas a herding dog, like the Border Collie, will want to control and herd livestock. An excitable dog can scare a horse, and one that is frightened may try and bite them. As a result, your horse may panic as their flight instinct kicks in, possibly injuring themselves as they attempt to flee the “predator.” Alternately, your pup might get kicked as your horse chooses to defend itself.
It is vital, therefore, that you teach your dog to be calm and respectful when he is around horses and is obedient. Ideally, a dog should be introduced to horses when he is a puppy, but this is not always possible if you have adopted or acquired a dog who is older.
With a puppy, you can start by letting him see horses from a distance keeping him on a lead and offering treats for good behaviour. Once he is happy doing this, by carrying him in your arms, you can lift him to a horse that you know is friendly and allow them to sniff one another. If your puppy has good experiences around horses, he is likely to be respectful around them and less likely to chase one when he is older.
Your dog should be obedient and respond to simple commands both on and off the lead and have a reliable recall. Just like a puppy, start gradually by allowing your dog to see horses that are quite far away, while on the lead. If they remain calm, you can get closer asking your dog to “sit” until you say otherwise. Your dog should also be familiar with the “leave it” command and walk on a lead without pulling.
When your pup becomes more confident, get closer to the horse, approaching from the side where they can see you. Praise good behaviour by giving small treats, turning away if your dog becomes nervous or agitated. By taking small steps and keeping sessions short, your dog will learn to be calm and well-behaved around horses, allowing you to spend time with both your favourite furry friends!
Once your puppy or adult dog is calm around horses, you may wish for him to accompany you to the stables regularly. However, there are certain dangers owners should be aware of to keep their pet safe.
Equine worming pastes are much more concentrated than those used for dogs and contain ivermectin, which is extremely toxic for canines, with some dog breeds particularly sensitive. These include:
Owners need to be aware of any worming tubes lying around the yard that a dog may get hold of and chew as well as any paste dropped on the floor that your pup could easily ingest through licking.
Quite often, dogs will eat horse droppings. Although disgusting for their owners, fortunately, it is not usually harmful to pups! However, after horses have been de-wormed, there is a high amount of ivermectin found in their manure which can be poisonous to dogs for up to two weeks. Therefore, owners must be particularly vigilant at this time and not allow their dogs to run loose around the stables and yard.
A dog with suspected ivermectin poisoning will display the following symptoms within a few hours requiring immediate veterinary attention:
Dogs love hoof trimmings as they provide a tasty treat so are always happy when the farrier is around shoeing horses! It is usually quite safe for most dogs to chew or eat fresh trimmings which are thought to contain calcium, protein and biotin.
However, problems can arise from horses treated for foot conditions such as thrush, or if hoof oil is applied, as the chemicals used in these treatments are toxic for dogs. Large or sharp fragments ingested by a dog can potentially irritate or perforate the stomach, intestines or oesophagus. Also, trimmings that are old and dry are likely to have mould or bacterial contamination and can cause mycotoxin in dogs if eaten.
Your dog may experience the following symptoms, requiring immediate veterinary treatment:
Always sweep up and discard of hoof trimmings whenever your farrier has finished shoeing horses at the yard.
It is not unusual for dogs to eat horse feed and if only a small amount is eaten, shouldn’t cause any harm. However, if a large quantity is consumed by your dog it might make him ill displaying the following symptoms which will require immediate veterinary treatment:
Another danger of your dog eating horse feed is if it contains medications such as phenylbutazone (Bute) which can be lethal for canines. Seek veterinary treatment if you notice your dog has the following signs:
Spending time with your horse and dog is a beautiful experience. However, you should ensure your pup is safe around horses and doesn’t upset other clients at your yard. Throw away any hoof trimmings and make sure your dog doesn’t have access to any equine wormers or horse feed as well as preventing him from eating manure. Follow these guidelines, and your dog will remain safe and happy at the stables.