Responsible Dog Ownership Around Horses.

Throughout many parts of the world, there has always been a strong association between the two closest domestic animals to man – dogs and horses. Humans owe a great deal of gratitude to both of these animals who have had such a bearing on our culture and contributed to the success and progress of mankind.

However, the two animals don’t always get on so well. Alarmingly, in recent years, there has been a worrying rise in dog attacks on equines – especially those being ridden. Read our Holidays4Dogs article for tips on how to make sure your dog and horse riders you meet are kept safe.

There are many similarities between the horse and the dog and they often work together. Even today, there are many situations where dogs and horses work together, from herding cattle in Mexico, or working alongside each other in police, or armed forces. Even if they are not working together, there are many jobs horses carry out, that dogs can do too.

For example, in the United States, miniature horses have been experimentally utilised as guides for people with disabilities. This includes assisting people with visual impairment. Similarly, there are many programmes across the U.S. and the UK that employ horses in animal assisted therapy  helping people to cope with emotional, or mental health conditions.

However, while there are many stories of the respectful friendship between canines and equines, it is still wise to bear in mind that this isn’t always the case.

Predators and prey – dog attacks on horses.

Dogs are predatory animals, which is why their natural instinct is to chase prey. Horses, as many may know, are prey animals whose instinct is to run away from predators. This combination clearly has the potential to create a volatile relationship. As a result, this can be very dangerous when it comes to horses with riders or drivers.

While many people may think dog to horse attacks don’t happen very often, they are on the increase. The British Horse Society raised concerns in 2022 about an alarming rise in dog attacks on horses. These incidents did not just involve horses in fields, but those being ridden. There have been numerous incidents involving dogs attacking horses in the UK – many with disastrous consequences and injuries to both animals and riders.

What should dog owners do when they see a horse rider approaching?

  • Always put your dog on a lead, as soon as you see a horse and rider.

  • Make sure your dog has an excellent recall and will come back straight away as soon as he, or she, is called.

  • If possible, get your dog used to being around horses from an early age, using positive reinforcement.

  • Teach your dog to sit quietly as horses pass. Some horses may have had terrible experiences with dogs in the past, so may react in dangerous ways.

  • If your dog is barking, or lunging, immediately move your dog as far away from the horse as possible. Get advice from a trainer.

What should riders do when they see a dog?

  • Slow down and give dogs a wide berth. Remember they may very scared of such a large animal and may be reactive as a result.

  • If dogs are off lead, call the owner and ask them to put the dog on a lead.

  • If a dog attacks your horse try and ride away putting distance between you and the dog.

  • Your horse needs to be able to defend his, or herself, so allow them to do this.

  • Try to keep your horses head facing away from the dog.

  • Try and stay as calm as possible.

Final thoughts.

It is really important that pet owners exercise responsible dog ownership especially around other animals, livestock and wildlife. Owners can be prosecuted under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, or the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953. Therefore, training your dog to be calm around equines, should be part of a socialisation plan.