Horse people love their dogs, but I’m seeing more and more barns with “no dogs allowed” in their barn rules and boarding agreements. As someone who is an avid rescuer, trainer, and sport dog enthusiast in addition to riding, I can completely understand. Many of the dogs I’ve seen around barns have horrific manners and quite frankly are a liability to horses, riders, and spectators. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Read this next bit closely, because I’m going to tell you exactly how to make your dog welcome at (almost) any barn. Train him. It’s that simple. Most people go through great lengths to make sure their dog understands how to behave in their home, but very few riders actually train their dog at the barn.
The barn isn’t your house, and dogs don’t generalize behaviors well, so you need to reinforce how they should act in different settings. Get a handful of treats and a leash and start practicing (and rewarding heavily) behaviors you want.
Want your dog to sit quietly outside or inside the ring? Practice it. Want your dog to listen to you while you’re mounted? Grab a friend to help and practice it. For best results, use a super yummy, high-value treat. Also, keep in mind that it will take several practices before your dog can master his new behaviors. Make sure you’re giving your pup a heavily rewarded refresher any time you feel the desired behavior is diminishing to remind him what the expectation is.
Would you expect a horse (or rider) to understand his job without training and practice? Of course not, so don’t do the same to your dog.