Horses and Dogs - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 25 Old 02-15-2016, 04:14 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Elkhart, IN USA
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Horses and Dogs

Hi all! I came on here when I got my first horses and you guys had some great advice, so here I am again. About a month ago, I rescued 2 more horses from my cousin who is losing her farm, so now I have 4: 4 year old TWH mare, 6 year old TWH gelding, 16 year old Tobiano Paint mare and 18 year old Morab gelding. My question is this:

My other obsession is dogs. Big dogs. I have 2 Rottweilers, a GSD, a black Lab and a couple of mutts. They all (I assume it's a pack behavior) bark incessantly at the horses. The horses for the most part ignore the dogs, but one time the female Rott got into their pasture with them and immediately took to trying to hamstring the horses. It hasn't been too much of an issue yet because the dogs are rarely outside very long in the winter and we haven't done much with the horses yet other than some basic ground work.

My fear is this coming spring when the dogs are going to want to be outside more and we'll be working with the horses more. Is there a way to safely introduce them all so that, while they may not be best friends, they'll at least tolerate being in the same area? I know that the bulk of it is going to be working with the dogs, but should I do 1 dog, 1 horse at a time? I'm thinking I need to get them out of their comfort zone as far as pack or herd? Any advice?
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post #2 of 25 Old 02-15-2016, 04:38 PM
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The thing with dogs is training. Away from the horses do they have good call back, do they stay, sit etc? Have you established commands to call them off or to leave things you don't want? These are the sorts of commands all dogs should have and if you do have these solidly trained then you can introduce them to many new situations without issue.

If not I would work on these until they are solid and then start working with them closer to the horses. Keep them busy and focussed on you so that horses just become part of the background. As you get closer you'll probably want to use a lead but make sure it's not a situation of you fighting your dog because that fight can make them fixate on horses. You only want it as a back up.

As with most training it's best done alone. I don't think there should really be any moment you introduce them - more being around the horses while training and teaching the dog to keep their distance.
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post #3 of 25 Old 02-15-2016, 04:43 PM
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Assuming you have a fenced in area for the dogs, contain the dogs so they can't get to the horses. The one Rottie that was trying to hamstring the horses.....I don't think you're going to be able to correct that behavior.

Other option if you insist on letting your dogs loose, is to put up dog proof fencing around the horses. Field fencing is a good option.
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post #4 of 25 Old 02-15-2016, 06:40 PM
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If you can't train your dogs to leave the horses alone even when you are there, you need to fence the horses from them with field fence and an electric wire low enough to make sure they won't get in. You have big dogs easily capable of crippling a horse. There are also horses who get their dander up and will go after a dog and kill it if they can.

What you want is for the dogs to know they can NEVER harass horses. Not through a fence, not anywhere, not any time. Most horses will quickly relax around dogs which leave them strictly alone.

I recommend training each dog individually to leave the horses alone -- with a shock collar if necessary (these can be useful and humane tools but you must be trained in their correct use before you ever put one on a dog).

But you can never trust a pack of predators around livestock. When you have a pack all bets are off. When you are not there they must be separated.
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post #5 of 25 Old 02-15-2016, 07:29 PM
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-Work with the dogs individually and introduce them to the horses individually.

-Packing up and killing livestock is always a major concern and you certainly have a pack. At least for the first bit it would be best to only let one or two dogs out at a time. It can happen fast too. Ended up with our Great Dane killing a calf one day following a new neighbors dog lead (she had lived for years around cows with nary a problem). After she got the taste of blood she wanted more, had to give her to someone who had no livestock. It was that or put her down.

-Rottie may not of been trying to hamstring the horse, they are a working dog and will herd cows/horses. Unfortunately they can accidently hamstring your horse as easily as doing it on purpose. I know a Rot that pulled the nose and ears off a calf simply because it thought the calf (neighbors calf) should be on the other side of the fence with "his" calves. Trying to pull a calf through a woven wire fence isn't exactly easy and certainly becomes messy in a hurry. Luckily a deal was reached to keep the calf on their property and feed it until butchering age, it was that or the police were going to be called.

-Dog escape proof your yard/pasture with a good fencing system, maybe a combination to defeat those that dig vs. those that leap. Options are electric, invisible, no climb, tall wooden, etc.. For electric I've found a good combination I picked up from Australian style fencing. Run a hot wire with a grounded wire near it so that your dog will have to hit both to get through that fence. Quick and dirty direct path to ground that doesn't rely on how wet or dry the ground is at the particular moment or if all four paws happen to be off the ground.
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post #6 of 25 Old 02-15-2016, 10:34 PM
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start working with those dogs now. Work with the alpha dog first or with the dog that is most aggressive toward the horses.

I've had a Lab/Sharpei, a Dobe/Rott, a purebred Rott and a Beagle/mix at the same time. Believe me, they knew their place with the horses because I worked with them.

The Pure Rott was the alpha so he would test my alpha horse. The horse finally had enough one day and bapped the Rott in the side of the head. He could have killed that dog but chose to give him a mild trip to the woodshed and it was the last time the Rott popped off to the horses.

On top of those four, I had to train my neighbor"s Lab and a Weimaraner that was big enough to saddle.

I'm sorry but if you want that many big dogs, you need to be working with them as they come into your life. By now you're so far behind in obedience with them, you may not achieve everything you need to.

Which is why you should start with the alpha dog or the dog that is the most aggressive with the horses.

A Good Horseman Doesn't Have To Tell Anyone; The Horse Already Knows.

I CAN'T ride 'em n slide 'em. I HAVE to lead 'em n feed 'em Thnx cowchick77.
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post #7 of 25 Old 02-15-2016, 11:44 PM
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Honestly, this is probably not what you want to hear, but my feeling is that you might have too many animals in need of work.

I don't remember reading your previous posts, and I don't know what else you do in life, but since you are posting in the "New to Horses" section I am assuming that you are... well... at least somewhat new to horses. I am also assuming that you haven't had your first two horses for very long yet, and that at least your two newest (rescue) horses need work. Four horses is a big commitment for anyone, let alone someone inexperienced, let alone along with six big dogs.

Unfortunately, there is no magic trick to teaching the dogs to leave the horses alone, and I most definitely wouldn't be using a shock collar in this situation. I agree with Saskia - if your dogs do not have really good basic obedience already, work on that first (under increasing levels of distraction). At least you need a really solid recall and sit/down stay. Work on controlling them individually - e.g. recalling them individually from the group. Then work with each dog individually on impulse control. Start with low energy activities - e.g. put the dog in a down stay and just have someone walk the horse by at a distance. Go for walks together (dog on leash). Gradually work the horse closer to the dog and increase the activity level. It helps to do this with a very calm horse that does not react to dogs at all.

The basic rule is that none of these dogs should EVER have the chance of chasing the horses. Primarily, it is dangerous, and secondly, it is a self-rewarding behavior, so it will get harder and harder to control once the dogs have had a taste of it.
For the times you can't absolutely ensure that they will not go after the horses, management is your best option. I agree that building a separate run for the dogs is probably your best bet for the moment.
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Last edited by Regula; 02-15-2016 at 11:49 PM.
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post #8 of 25 Old 02-16-2016, 04:14 AM
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You have three dogs that are by nature, herders and protectors, the GSD and the two Rotties. Big powerful breeds and they need training to ensure they know the horses are part of the pack and not prey.

As said this is best done individually. When you have a pack they will egg each other in and all should be well under control.
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post #9 of 25 Old 02-16-2016, 08:29 AM
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Invisible fence. I agree with everyone that you need to train these dogs to stay away from the horses, and that if you have the ability to put up a large chain link fenced-in area for the dogs, that would be great, but to give that many dogs enough room to run, you may find it prohibitively expensive.

We got an invisible fence system after our last dog got hit by a car twice (the second time killed him). We had also just gotten a rescue dog who had been tied his whole life and who just didn't understand the concept of staying on the property no matter how much training I did with him (high prey drive - he would just beeline it for the woods). So we bought a plug-in wall unit and an additional collar for our second dog. You have to train them to understand the invisible fence mind you, but our dogs got the idea within a few days. We don't even bother turning it on anymore because our dogs know the boundaries so well. I usually do a little refresher each spring when the snow is gone and they tend to want to roam, but again, a few beeps on the collar (these are warning beeps that occur before any shocking happens) are enough to remind them. Your dogs might still bark, but I'm guessing that will get old real fast when they are outside most of the day. You should also be around all the time even with the invisible fence. A power failure can down the system.

My feeling is that dogs should not be allowed to go into pastures or paddocks at all. Someone is going to get hurt. A very low wire might also keep them out, but they may learn to get under or over it. You can adjust the radius of the invisible fence and get as many collars as you want. This does not replace training, but can be used in conjunction with training and frankly, with this many dogs, it will be hard to keep control of them.
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post #10 of 25 Old 02-16-2016, 10:11 AM Thread Starter
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Great replies, thanks! 3 of the dogs have been to a professional trainer and they do have good manners, recall, sit etc. They're just young and excitable and every time they see the horses it's game on. The one poster who said Jules might have been trying to herd is probably correct. She doesn't have a mean bone in her body for all that she's a rott.

The dogs have a large fenced area in the back yard, but unfortunately it's attached to, but closed off from where the horses are. Jules managed to squeeze through the gate when I was going in to feed the horses. The horses immediately went nose to nose in defense. One of them clipped Jules in the mouth, a little blood but no damage.

I really don't think it's as bad as I made it out to be; I've caught the paint and one of the mutts playing licky face a couple of times. The strangest part is, it's the GSD, who's second to lowest in pack dynamics, that gives the horses the most grief. And having had it mentioned, yes, it seems like she gets aggravated because she's trying to herd them from the other side of the fence and gets agitated when they don't go where she wants them to go. On the plus side, none of the dogs have shown any inclination to try to dig under the fences to get to them.

I know/knew that training was going to be the answer, I'm just frustrated myself because it's been so cold and not friendly for training. As for biting off more than I can chew, that's how I operate. The 2 horses we got initially we've been doing some ground work with throughout the winter and will continue that this spring. The 2 rescues, one will never be ridden. He's a beautiful red lawn ornament. The paint will go to my trainer this spring to be reminded of all her former training.

I'm just frustrated and ready for spring and looking forward to teaching my menagerie to live in peace with each other. Thanks for all the input, it did give me some insights on where to begin with the dogs, which commands etc.
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