Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dogs and Horses

Dogs have been very much on my mind lately - ever since we decided to get a second dog as a companion to our lab mix named Homer (otherwise known as the Best. Dog. Ever.) On my personal blog, I listed our requirements, and along with stay home and love cats, one of the big ones is Be Good With Livestock.

Because we've all had our horror stories with dogs and livestock, right? (Well, maybe you've been lucky.) It's hard enough to raise up your own dog to not chase horses or other livestock, but often there are neighbors whose dogs are the problem. You know, the ones who just moved to the country and who think it's "cute" to see their dogs exhibiting a "herding instinct."

In most rural areas I've lived in, this "cute" behavior can be reason enough for the dog to be destroyed, either by the owner of the livestock or animal control.

Sometimes, even your own dog can be the problem. One of my most embarrassing incidents happened at a team-penning. I was there to compete, and had brought our little Heeler/McNab along, who was six months old. Like a lot of horse people, I tend to like these kinds of dogs, but their herding instinct is strong. I had the dog securely fastened to my horse trailer, and she was behaving (or so I thought.)

I was horseback, watching another team compete, when I noticed a flash of black and white, and suddenly a little dog was in the middle of the arena scattering cattle in every direction. With three horses trying to quietly pick out their animals from the herd, and cattle all of sudden bolting like crazy, it's a wonder someone wasn't hurt. Then I heard the announcer's voice over the loudspeaker: "Whose dog is that? Get that *&^%# dog out of the arena!"

*Gulp* I wanted to claim innocence -act like I'd never seen the dog before. But I called her, and she came, and I promptly put her inside my rig, where she couldn't get out. Gosh, I thought I'd never live that down. (And I left her home at future team-pennings.)

And you might have experienced the kind of dog-owners who drive up to your home or stable, and immediately (without asking) lower their tailgate and allow a couple of huge dogs to run all over - just because they're now "in the country." Bad idea, folks. Always ask, or better yet, leave your dogs in the vehicle or leave them home.

Oh, and as far as our dog search? We haven't found the right one yet. Found a wonderful older black lab who is great with our livestock, but she chases cats - badly. And that's a deal-breaker for me. So we're still looking - for another best dog ever.

How about you? What kind of dogs do you have, and are they good with your horses?

Ever had any bad (or embarrassing) incidences of dogs misbehaving around livestock?


Susan said...

Add in chickens, ducks and goats and you're right on about me being nervous when people show up with dogs. We usually give the dogs a chance though, since some of them don't get out a lot. And most of the problems have come from forgetting to watch a dog that's never learned not to chase other animals.

Linda Benson said...

That's true, Susan. A lot of dogs have never seen poultry or livestock, and need to be introduced to such things gradually, but with the owner's supervision. And dog owners in general, I believe, need to be aware that their beloved pet won't automatically behave well around farm animals.

Camryn said...

I have Cardigan Welsh Corgis. One lives with our horse & their the best of friends. I love looking out at Camryn (horse) snoozing under a magnolia tree with Onyx (dog) snoozing just a foot away. I laugh when Onyx is barking at someone & Camryn assumes a "I'll back you bud position". Two other of the Cardis are curious of the horse, one is fearful, only the "terror mix" is a butt and not allowed near the paddock or pasture.

Linda Benson said...

Susan - I love the fact that one of your dogs lives with your horse. How adorable! I've always wanted a Corgi - they are so cute!! And isn't it funny how all three dogs react differently to the horses? Animals really are individuals, and it's extremely hard to find a dog that is good in all things. Usually it takes a lot of time and training, on top of a good mind to begin with. (Just like a horse.) ;)

Anonymous said...

I have two cockapoos and all in all they are really good around the horses. Except when the horses get excited and start playing, running around tails in the air. The dogs think this is an invitation for them to join the game and play "chase the horsies"!!! They usually give up if reprimanded. And then they give us one of those looks like "but the horses wanted us to play too"!!!! :D

Dreaming said...

A friend came over for tea many years ago. She was kind enough to leave her dog in her truck. But, the windows were rolled down enough that the dog escaped, jumped into our chicken yard and killed all but one of the chickens. We were all devastated.
Our Aussie, Tucker, has caught two pigeons in midflight. I worry about what he might do if/when we get chickens.

Francesca Prescott said...

How embarassing it must have been for you when your dog chased the livestock! Eek! My dogs are pretty good with horses. I have two: a King Charles spaniel and a Yorkie (big Yorkie!), and they always came trotting along behind/ahead of me when I went for trail rides with Kwintus. Or they'd sit and watch me work him in the arena. Leo (the King Charles) always came rushing into the arena when I transitioned into walk as he thought it meant my ride was over and we'd be heading out for a cool down walk down the trail! The only embarassing incident I can think of right now involves a dog I had years ago, who passed away a while back. He was a lovely Bearded Collie, with fabulous long hair that took hours to comb. Unfortunately, he loved to roll in smelly stuff, and one day we went for a walk and he jumped into a giant vat of...liquid manure. Yep. He came out looking like a monster from the sea or something. Green and slimy. And you can't even imagine the smell! The walk home was horrendous, and of course it was a Sunday afternoon and we met all kinds of elegant people out walking their polite very clean little dogs. I don't know how many baths it took to get rid of the stink! Yuck!

Linda Benson said...

mommyrides - yes when animals run, it does seem like an open invitation to most dogs. We used to have a small mule that I truly believe instigated that kind of thing. She'd come to the fence, look at the dog as if to say "You can't get me," and they'd proceed to chase each other up and down the fenceline. Geez.

dreaming - sorry to hear about all those chickens. Oh, Bad Dog. And Tucker, gosh, he seems a bit inclined in that direction, doesn't he? Good luck with him.(Once we tied dead ducks that our dogs had killed to their collars, and made them wear them for two days - telling them how bad they were about 1000 times. Gruesome, but it worked.)

Francesca, your dog Leo jumping in a vat of liquid manure, Takes the Cake for embarrassing dog stories. OMG. Why do dogs like manure (and dead things) so much, anyway? Gross! :-)

Vincent Diamond said...

I can only think of one horse person I've ever met that *didn't* have a dog. I'm more of a cat person myself, but I can see the need for a guard-type animal if you're at work all day, and your horses are home alone. Of course, the small, lapdog types aren't all that functional for that though.

Personally, I'm just not a big fan. I'm really nervous having them around the ring when I'm taking a lesson, and I'm constantly aghast at people taking them to horse shows where they may upset the people and horses that are competing. Why? What's the appeal of having an animal that might act up and cause problems? I just don't see the value in that scenario.

I had a friend who didn't properly introduce her Great Dane to a boyfriend's horse and got kicked to the point of needing surgery. A $2000 lesson at a time when she didn't really have the money. Stupid, IMO, just really stupid.

Not a dog-hater, but just not seeing the appeal unless it's on your own property with your own horses.

Leslie said...

My two horses tend to be aggressive toward dogs, at least in their own fields. My two dogs learned to stay out of their way quickly. Now, haven't encountered an off property situation with dogs yet, so that may be a whole different story for them.

Anonymous said...

Yes! I had brought my dog JB with me to the barn, & had tied him to the railing with his cable tie (he chewed through rope ties..) while I was out getting my horse.

All of a sudden, I noticed all the other horses had their heads up & were looking at this 2 year old racing up & down the fence.. with my dog on the other side of the fence running alongside!

ooo.. I was so mad at him, but when I finally caught him, I realized he hadn't been chasing her, they were playing tag!

Still, from then on, when he was at the barn with me, but not in my immediate vicinity, he was shut in a stall!


Linda Benson said...

Vincent Diamond, Leslie, and Jaimie - I love dogs, but I like to keep mine home these days. I do think they can cause trouble with horses without meaning to. My friend has a little Aussie that she lets run with her on the trails, and the dog cuts in and out under horse's feet (and also comes into the arena.) I just think this is an invitation to disaster (but she thinks it is cute.) *sigh*

One of my scariest horseback moments was trail riding a green 3-year-old, when two neighborhood dogs ran up behind and started biting her between her hind legs!! Amazingly, the filly bolted but didn't buck, and allowed me to stop her and get off. I was scared to death, but held on to her and yelled at the dogs. That got my adrenaline pumping!

Yes, I love dogs, but only if they are well-behaved and kept under control. :)

Alison said...

Hi Linda! I'm sorry the black lab didn't work out. It's always sad when an older dog end up being shuttled back and forth but chasing cats is definitely not cool! My chihuahua is great around the horses. At first I worried about her getting stepped on but she has a little dogs careful alertness around bigger critters. And she hates not coming with me, so I guess we'll see what happens. The bigger collie type is one of those of chases--but my gelding chases him right back. Great post!