Why Do Dogs Bark at Horses?

Many animal lovers don’t stop at just one type of pet. In fact, it’s quite common for those that own larger, more high-maintenance animals like horses, also have dogs as pets. However, dogs and horses aren’t always the most naturally compatible animals for many reasons. 

If you’ve ever brought your dog around horses you own or regularly work with, you may notice your dog barks excessively when they’re around horses. There are a few reasons why your dog might exhibit this behavior, and several ways you can work with your dog to improve it over time. So why do dogs bark at horses?

They Feel Threatened 

It’s no secret horses are much larger than dogs and can have a commanding presence. Imagine if you were suddenly faced with a creature that was four or five times your size! 

Your dog may feel threatened by the horse’s size, even if the horse isn’t behaving in a threatening way or even paying any attention to your dog at all. This feeling of fear and desire to scare the horse away can lead to excessive barking.

They Don’t Have Common Body Language 

Dogs read body language very closely when interacting with other dogs and even humans. Though dogs and horses are both four-legged animals, they have innately different ways of expressing emotion and intention through body language. This can be confusing to your dog, causing them to bark to express their frustration.

They Haven’t Been Socialized Around Horses 

Though dogs and horses aren’t very naturally compatible in terms of size and body language, it is very possible for the two to learn to coexist happily. However, if your dog has never seen or spent time around horses before, they may feel overwhelmed, which can cause them to bark excessively to relieve stress.

They’re Excited 

In some cases, your dog may simply be excited about meeting a new friend and bark at the horse to get its attention. Though it’s good your dog isn’t fearful around horses, this type of behavior can spook a horse and lead to an unsafe environment for both animals as well as yourself.

What Can I Do About It? 

Generally, getting your dog used to being around horses is most effective if you start at puppyhood. However, this isn’t possible for every dog owner, and there are still several effective ways to reduce your dog’s urge to bark around your horses at an older age.

Gradually Introduce Your Dog to Your Horses 

Just like you wouldn’t immediately bring a reactive dog into an environment with a bunch of unfamiliar dogs, you shouldn’t bring your dog right up to your horse without knowing how they will react.

Start by walking your dog on a leash at a distance where they can see and smell the horses and gauge your dog’s comfort level. Gradually close the distance over time until your dog can calmly stand next to the horses without reacting, and only take your dog off their leash around horses when you feel completely confident in your dog’s ability to behave.

Use a Bark Collar 

When it comes to excessive barking for practically any reason, dog owners love no-shock bark collars for their ability to get results fast. Bark collars are completely safe and pain-free. They simply encourage your dog to be quiet by emitting a warning beep. If that’s not effective, a bark collar sends a small vibration if it detects a long period of uninterrupted barking. 

Over time, your dog will learn that when they stop barking at the warning beep, they’ll be able to avoid the vibration altogether. Make sure to reward your dog with treats when they stop barking to increase their incentive to be quiet.

Watch Your Dog’s Body Language Cues 

If you know your dog well, you can tell whether they’re barking from a place of fear and aggression or excitement and playfulness. Make sure to watch your horse’s body language as well and be ready to remove your dog from the environment if your horse becomes frightened. 

If your dog is exhibiting fearful body language, some soothing words and affection might help them to calm down and feel that it’s safe to stop barking.