People who have horses always seem to have dogs, too! In fact, you’re hard-pressed to go to a horse show or visit a barn without running into lots of mutts of different shapes and sizes.
In this guide, we take a look at six dog breeds that make an excellent choice for a horsey household!
What Are Some Characteristics of Dogs That Get Along with Horses?
Not every dog breed is a good fit for a life with horses. Shy dogs can be afraid of a large horse, while very small dogs are in danger of being trampled. Yappy dogs that are prone to become overexcitable are not a good fit either, as they can frighten horses and annoy other yard users.
Ideally, you want a pup that loves to be around people, is easy to train, and has plenty of energy, especially if you want your canine companion to join you on trail rides or spend whole days at a horse show.
So, what dog breeds fit the bill?
Labradors are incredibly popular dogs, being intelligent, trainable, and sociable. These dogs get along with everyone, including kids and horses. Your dog must be obedient in the yard environment, and Labradors are generally pretty easy to train and responsive to their handler’s commands.
Labs are bred as working dogs and have the stamina to spend all day in the hunting field as bird dogs, so accompanying you and your horse out trail riding is something these dogs do naturally and willingly.
Most Labrador retrievers are quite large dogs, weighing up to 80 pounds. That’s great, as it means your Lab isn’t so small that your horse won’t see your pup and accidentally tread on him.
The Labradoodle is a cross between a purebred Labrador retriever and a purebred Poodle.
Like their Labrador retriever and Poodle parents, Doodles are smart, friendly, and good with kids and other pets, which makes them hugely popular as family dogs.
Both parent breeds were originally bred for the same purpose, to work with hunters, retrieving shot waterfowl from marshes and water bodies. Even today, many shooters go hunting with a Labradoodle. So, this breed is trainable and energetic, making the Labradoodle an ideal horse rider’s canine companion.
The main drawback to Labradoodles is that they can be very excitable, which might not be the best fit for a barn or yard environment.
German Shepherd Dogs and GSD Crossbreeds
German Shepherd dogs work alongside law enforcement, as guard dogs, or in search and rescue roles. These dogs are bred to be highly trainable, loyal, and energetic, making them an excellent choice for life around horses.
Most German Shepherds are large dogs weighing up to 110 pounds. So, if you keep your horse in a yard at a rural setting and you spend a lot of time there alone, you’ll feel safer if you have what appears to strangers to be a pretty intimidating dog.
German Shepherd mixed-breed dogs can also make excellent horsey hounds. For example, a GSD crossed with a Border Collie can make a lively, intelligent companion that loves to go trail riding alongside you and your horse.
Golden retrievers are often seen around horsey people and in the hunting field alongside shooters. These large dogs are gentle, love to please their owners, and have plenty of energy. Goldens are extremely trainable and are generally not as excitable as some other horsey dog breeds, making the Golden retriever a good choice for a yard dog.
Goldens can weigh up to 90 pounds, making them a good size for horse life. They also have plenty of stamina and can cope with a day hacking out along the trails. The main downside to Golden retrievers is that they need a lot of exercise every day. However, that won’t be a problem for you if you take your dog to the barn with you, where Fido can burn off his excess energy romping in the fields.
Border Collies are an excellent choice for horse life. These pups are bred to work as herding dogs, accompanying shepherds and other livestock keepers on farms and out on the range. These medium-sized dogs are highly trainable, intuitive, and incredibly quick-witted, with a knack for staying out of range of a nervous horse’s hooves.
If you want a dog that can spend all day trail riding or will come with you to a show, the Border Collie is a perfect choice. The main problem with this breed is that they are so bright and intelligent, that if you don’t provide them with plenty of physical and mental stimulation, they can become destructive.
Remember that Collies are bred to herd, and that can be a problem if you don’t train your dog not to chase horses turned out in a paddock.
Australian Shepherds make wonderful dogs for life around horses. These dogs are often seen around farms and stable yards and are renowned for their high energy levels, intelligence, and endurance.
If you want a dog that can spend a whole day trotting along the trails with you and your horse without flagging, the Australian Shepherd could be a good choice for you. These medium-sized dogs are beautiful to look at with their multicolored coats and sometimes multi-colored eyes. However, they can be plagued with congenital health conditions, including epilepsy.
You rarely see a horse owner without a dog at their heels!
All the breeds featured in this guide can make an excellent choice for a life with horses. Essentially, you want a dog that’s not so small that he could be stepped on by your horse. Your pup must be trainable and obedient. Although you need a dog with plenty of energy, especially if you want him to accompany you on trail rides, you don’t want an overexcitable pooch that simply can’t behave.
Of course, you don’t have to stick to pedigree, purebred dogs. A common or garden mixed-breed pup from your local shelter or rescue center can also make a wonderful horse life dog.