8 Barn Dog Safety Tips

What your dog needs to know before he can become a reliable barn dog.

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  • Before coming to the barn, your dog should know how to reliably come when called and greet strangers without being aggressive or overexcited.
  • If your dog is a barker, you’ll need to train a “quiet” command.Even if you have your own barn or your boarding barn allows dogs off-leash, keep your dog on a leash for the first several visits. It’s a new environment, and even well-behaved dogs can get excited by all the new people, animals and smells.
  • Use a short leash, around 6 feet. Don’t use a retractable leash, which can get entangled and cause injury.

    Corgi dog on a leash
    Even if your barn allows dogs off leash, keep your dog leashed at first while he learns the ropes.

  • Introduce your dog to horses slowly, preferably using a horse who is already familiar with dogs. If your dog shows any signs of aggression, back off immediately but calmly, and refocus your dog’s attention on something else.
  • Remember that if your horse—or any of the horses at your barn—aren’t used to dogs, they may become scared or even aggressive at the sight of yours, so always be vigilant and pay attention to what’s happening around you. Don’t let your dog greet horses unsupervised, even if he’s used to your horse.
  • Dogs like to eat some pretty gross things, including hoof trimmings and manure. Some types of equine dewormer or medication are toxic to dogs, and an enthusiastic dog might hoover up a horseshoe nail while snacking on hoof trimmings. Don’t let your dog treat the barn like a buffet!
  • No matter how well-trained they are, some dogs will never be totally reliable around horses due to their herding or protective instincts. Don’t force it. If your dog or horse are agitated and nervous at the sight of each other, everyone will be happier if your dog stays safely home while you’re with your horse.

Read more about caring for barn dogs and barn cats >>


This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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