Horses and dogs are two of my favorite things on this earth! Horse people and dogs tend to go together. In fact, most barns often have a dog or two either lounging or wandering around behind someone as they work. Some dogs look like they were born with horses, others not so much.
The breed of dog you have will most certainly make a difference in how they handle being on a farm. If you have an obedient dog that stays right with you and has a low prey drive, you probably are perfectly safe taking your dog to the barn with you, assuming the rules allow it.
My bloodhound, Banjo was raised around horses. I would tie him in the barn or walk him around on the leash while I was teaching. He is pretty lazy, and though I never let him off the leash without a close eye on him, he never barked or chased the horses.
Keep in mind with the scenthound though, that the smell at a farm can put them into sensory overload. In other words, a bloodhound or a coonhound might follow their nose far away from you. Or a normally obedient dog might be so overstimulated that you can't get their attention.
Herding dogs are often seen around horses as well, but unless they are well trained, their herding instincts can get them into trouble if they nip at the horse's heels or chase them.
Any well-trained dog can learn to be a farm dog. As with anything else new that you would do with your dog or your horse, introducing them slowly is going to be the safest and least stressful way for all involved.
First Plan to Bring Your Dog When You Can Focus on Him or Her
When you make the decision that you want to integrate your dog into your horse life, bring the dog on a day where you will only focus on him or her.
Keep the dog on a leash, walk around the farm, and explore. Guage what their reaction seems to be. Do they like horses? Or are they scared? Do they want to run after them?
Sit with your dog in the barn as the normal routine is taking place with horses walking by, horses tied up, feeders and stall cleaners working. Let the dog take it all and be there to reassure them if they seem to get nervous or scared.
Sit next to the riding ring and let your dog sit next to you and watch some horses go. Hopefully, it will be a nice warm sunny day and your dog will relax and bask in the sun.
Leash Or No Leash?
Only you know your dog and know whether or not they will not only behave without the leash on but also be safe. Horses, tractors, trailers and other equipment can pose danger to your dog.
Depending on whether or not you think your dog is obedient enough will determine whether your dog can be off the leash at the farm. You may have to work up to bringing your dog to the farm with you.
Some people have dogs they can bring to the farm that just lay around and stay close to wherever their owners are. Other people have to get their dogs used to being tied somewhere. That would be a whole different article for a different day.
Unfortunately, some dogs, or I should say some dog and owner combinations, don't work at the farm. Some dogs are afraid of horses and bark. Others just plain run off and get lost. Some dogs don't have assertive enough owners to insist on the obedience that is necessary to keep the dog safe.
Even if your dog doesn't end up being one that can come with you on a daily basis while you are on the farm with your horse, any dog can learn to be well-behaved and enjoy an afternoon at the farm with you when you can give them all your attention. It can be a fun outing, like going to the park. Maybe by doing that the dog will acclimate and be a farm dog before you know it.
Keep temperature in mind if you are bringing your dog to the farm. Make sure that if they are thinly coated, they have some sort of jacket if necessary. Pet stores and tack stores have a wide variety available, and everything from simple and practical, to fancy and stylish!
On the other hand, if it is really hot out, make sure your dog can get in the shade and has access to plenty of water. If it is super hot and humid—and a day where you don't want to be at the barn—it probably isn't a great day for your dog to be there either.
Other Things to Consider
Are there other dogs at the farm? If so, are they dog-friendly? Is your dog friendly with others? If there a few dogs that are already frequent visitors to the farm, introducing your dog to them is another aspect that you will have to keep in mind.
They Will Get Dirty!
Any dog that you bring to the farm is going to get dirty, especially if they are long-haired. Are you going to be okay with your dog getting into your vehicle if he is muddy or dirty?
You should probably bring a towel to dry them off with if necessary, and if you are a dog person, you probably already know that you want to cover the seat or wherever the dog will be riding to save the car from needing to be cleaned too.
Up To Date On Shots and Flea And Tick Prevention
As with bringing your dog out to any public place, you want to make sure that your dog is up to date on all his vaccines, as well as flea and tick preventions. In the summertime, the sand of a riding ring or tall grass can be tick heaven, and you want to make sure your dog is protected.
Also, just in case, you want to make sure that your dog is wearing identification on his collar. A nameplate, or tag with the dog's name, your name, and your contact information is a good place to start.
Microchipping is also a great way that many pets are identified with these days, and it is a fairly cheap and easy procedure at the vet office.
Having Your Dog at the Farm Should Be Fun, Not Stressful!
Being able to have your dog companion with you at the barn should be something that is fun for both you and the dog, rather than a stressful situation.
As long as you take the time to properly acclimate the dog to the horses and surrounding environment, they can often enjoy the barn just as much as you do!