Is there such a thing as the perfect breed of dog for your yard?

  • Dogs often go hand in hand with riders. But which breed should we be opting for, for a quiet life on the yard?

    Animal behaviourist Marine Tellier points out that dogs were originally predators and horses prey animals with a flight instinct.

    “However, both species — unlike their cousins, wolves and wild horses, are domesticated,” Marine says.

    “Therefore, their behaviour is completely different to that of their ‘wild’ cousins, as the domestication process comes mostly from selecting the easiest subjects for breeding, resulting in lowering the response to fear stimuli.

    “Dogs and horses will not work ‘naturally’ together, but if presented to each other properly and at the right time, neither should show any fear.”

    So which breeds of dogs work best on a yard?

    Experts dispute the idea that certain breeds are “better” around horses than others. Dog behaviourist Sarah Fisher says that some dogs naturally get along with equids more easily, “but it isn’t necessarily determined by breed — we’ve had sighthounds, terriers, bull breeds, spaniels, German shepherd dogs, a red setter and a Labrador”.

    “Dogs, like horses, are all individual, and age, as well as experience and education, play an important part in the way a dog is likely to respond in any new and potentially stimulating situation.”

    Marine agrees: “Any dogs can match with horses. The easiest breeds if you would like to go hacking with both of your best friends would be the shepherds, retrievers and terriers, as they will be the most hardy.”

    Alice Wyatt, who hunts and events, has an immaculately behaved collie, Sooty (pictured, above) who will “go for miles” out hacking.

    “Because of her breeding, she never has a problem keeping up and never wants to go too far from me,” says Alice. “She’s very clever, but she was a nutcase as a puppy and it took a long time to train her to heel out hacking — so I led her on a lunge line from my very safe hunter.”

    “Now she is older I forget I have her on a hack; at junctions she will always go right behind the horse and run back to me when a car comes — often before I have seen or heard it.”

    As Alice hunts a lot, her dog is more than just a companion.

    “Sooty does a great job of training the horses — they have to be safe around dogs and used to them being under their feet. She is also useful for getting a lazy horse to enjoy canter work — she and my horse love racing each other.”

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    Similarly, William Fox-Pitt’s lurcher, Poppy, loves nothing better than a trip to the gallops, and can outrun most of his horses. But not all riders can enjoy hacking or galloping with the responsibility of a loose dog. It’s not even worth considering unless the dog’s recall is impeccable.

    Sarah Fisher advises riders to consider the safety of the hacking location.

    “So many dogs run wild off the lead these days, chase horses and bully other dogs. So even if your dog has had a great education and might enjoy being out, he could be safer — and ultimately happier — left at home.”

    Read the full feature about canine yard companions in the current issue of Horse & Hound magazine (3 November 2016)

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