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Dogs and horses, avoiding conflict 

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Some dogs have never seen a horse before and if they are scared or nervous, they may react by chasing the horse. This can cause problems for the horse, the rider, other members of the public and the dog.

From the dog’s point of view…

If a dog has never seen a horse, it may be scared or nervous and react by investigating or chasing. A dog may get upset if a horse passes it quickly.

Why do dogs chase?

Dogs are a predatory species and originate from hunting other animals; it is how they have survived and evolved into what we have today

They have an instinctive behaviour pattern and aspects of it have been developed by humans so dogs could do ‘jobs’ of work

Today most dogs are kept as pets but their chasing and hunting instincts are still there

Some dogs will have never seen a horse before and they will react with a mixture of fear, curiosity or nervousness which may come out in defensive aggression or result in chasing

Dogs may see the horse and want to play – the horse is unlikely to understand this!

Ten ways to avoid a chase situation

Socialise and try to train your dog with horses from an early age so they are not a scary or exciting thing to come across.

Ensure you have your dog under close control and have a reliable recall through training.

If you do not have a sound recall, please keep your dog on a lead.

If you see a horse approaching, recall and keep your dog as still as possible in a visible but safe place.

If you see a rider approaching quickly, make yourself visible so they can slow to a walk before they pass you.

Wear hi-viz equipment, it’s the safe thing to do generally and riders can see you and react at an earlier opportunity.

Encourage your dog not to bark at a passing horse; give him food treats when you see a horse; horses mean ‘good thing happens’!

Once horses have passed you, keep your dog under close control.

Do not allow your dog to enter a field of grazing horses.

Stop and speak to each other. You have more in common than you think!

From the horse’s point of view…

If a dog runs towards a horse in play or aggression it will run away, causing problems for the horse, the rider, other members of the public and the dog.

Why do horses run?

Animals such as the horse were prey for many large carnivores, such as the common ancestor of the wolf and dog.

To survive, they run from any threat of attack. This is often referred to as ‘flight’.

The horse’s natural survival instinct is strong and a rider has little influence over this

A bolting horse presents very real danger for other members of the public present.

If the area is not enclosed, the horse may run onto a busy road and be hit by a car or other vehicle.

The dog may pursue the horse onto the road and also be hit by another road user.

The rider may fall off and injure themselves if the horse moves quickly sideways or kicks out.

The horse may kick out at the dog; as many horses have steel shoes on their hooves, these can do some serious damage to your dog.

A horse may not react any differently to an approach from a muzzled dog or even a friendly dog; they do not know they cannot be bitten.