Strange Dogs in the Paddock

Owners who let their dogs into the paddock with horses risk injury to their pets.
Owners who let their dogs into the paddock with horses risk injury to their pets.

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in my car at the barn talking on the phone. While I was watching, a man walked down the street with a dog off leash. The dog — a Weimaraner — took off and ran through both paddocks, a streak of silver gray as she did several laps around the horses and then took off down the trail system.

Fast forward a week later and the same thing happened. This time I was in the barn so I walked out to talk to the dog’s owner. I asked him if he could please keep his dog out of the pastures with the horses. I explained that his dog could get hurt, or even killed, if one of the horses kicked it. In fact, years ago (before I moved there) a horse did kill a dog at this barn.

I also worried that one of the horses could be hurt if the dog chased them. I was particularly concerned because the paddocks were muddy and I could easily imagine a suspensory injury caused by one of the horses taking off suddenly in the mud.

I was shocked by his answer. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I just can’t control her when she is off the leash.” Then he told me “you worry too much, nothing will happen.” I said that was fine but I would send him the bill if it did. Obviously this guy has never been on the receiving end of a vet bill for an injured horse. And somehow I doubt he would be so sanguine if his dog were to be injured by one of the horses.

I was floored by his lack of respect and his lack of concern. In the eight years that I’ve been at this barn I’ve come across other people who let their dogs run through the paddocks. Most of them simply didn’t understand the risks (either to their dogs or to our horses) and were apologetic. I’ve never run into anyone before who didn’t offer to keep their dogs on leash until they were beyond the paddock areas.

Unfortunately I live in a town with no leash law. So there is no way to make a dog owner responsible for the actions of its out-of-control canine. I learned when I was out riding a few years ago on the trails and encountered a dog walker who had about 10 dogs with them, the majority of them off leash. Several of these dogs charged me, barking aggressively at my horse. Luckily, the horse I was riding wasn’t afraid of dogs. I turned to face them and chased the dogs back to the walker (see What to do when you are chased by a dog). When I returned home I called the police department and they told me that with no leash law, there was nothing they could do since a dog hadn’t actually bit my horse. I wondered about other outcomes: what happened if a dog had caused my horse to bolt and I’d fallen off and been hurt, or if they had chased my horse out onto the road and it had been hit by a car.

I’m not anti-dog. In fact, I own two. My dogs are trained. I do let them off leash on the trails and I appreciate that we have the freedom to let them run and be dogs. But my dogs come when they are called and when they start to deviate from training standards they have a refresher course. Most of the dogs I encounter are well behaved and have responsible owners. I hate it when the few who are not ruin it for the rest of us.

7 thoughts on “Strange Dogs in the Paddock

  1. You give very good advice. My horse kicked a dog in the head when it entered her paddock and approached her from behind. The dog survived and got a little more horse sense knocked into it; wouldn’t go near my mare after that. I was told something like ‘Your naughty horse kicked my poor doggy.’ Can you blame her? She obviously felt threatened. I love dogs too and don’t want them hurt either. I keep mine away from the horses.

  2. I live with horses, sheep, and other livestock. In the past we have had problems with coyotes, and a mountain lion. However, the biggest problem has been the neighbor’s dogs. We have had ewes abort lambs from being chased, and one ewe was killed right next to our house. A week or so ago two dogs got a neighbors calf, who survived. They came back later and got into a pen where he was being left to recuperate. I love dogs, I have always had dogs, but I cannot understand why people think it is okay to let them maraude around killing things. Some people do not understand that dogs are predators, and when they get together they will chase, and possibly kill, something that runs from them. We have the right to shoot dogs where I live, and we have when it is our last option…It is sad, but when they run your horses or other animals (including wildlife) to death, good luck trying to get any vet costs from irresponsible owners!

  3. Last summer, we were stayed for a few months at a place. The BO brought her small, untrained dog into the paddock with my young filly who promptly stomped it because it had approached her food dish. The BO wanted to blame me for it – and I told her that she knew what the horse was like and if she, the BO, chose to bring her dog into the paddock during feeding that was her decision.
    I know we plan on moving to the country – and a BB gun will be in my arsenal, as well as a Paint Gun. I even plan on having a separate kennel where I can house the strays (because I know they will be a-coming) and they will be taken to the pound.
    Yes, I own a dog, and love her. But that is no excuse for people being irresponsible dog owners.

  4. Sad that so many are so ignorant of basic animal behavior, and the simple fact that preventive steps are their responsibility.

    I love dogs to a degree equal only to horses. But I carry a dressage whip when I hack out. And I would never think twice about using it, in addition to marching my big mare right on top of a menacing dog.

  5. Haha! I was searching pictures for “paddock” because I want to know how Formula One paddocks function. (I’ve never heard about a “paddock” untill recently, when I have purchased Codemasters’ F1 2010!) Ignoring the sexy “paddock girls” pictures I scrolled down and saw this unusual picture of a horse chasing a dog! (Andf I think the horse did BITE the dog!)

    Sir, why didn’t you simply tell that unresponsible dog owner that if he can’t control his dog, to keep her on a leash?

  6. I’m with Greg.(see April 27th reply)! I was at a stables where I boarded my mare, years ago, when my sister came to pick me up & brought her dog along for the ride. He was permitted to run loose while there because my sister thought it safe and even, dare I say funny, when he would chase a horse. He literally got his teeth knocked out. . . well, kicked in, more like. Thankfully, he survived. He could have had his brains knocked out instead! Dog owners that don’t also own horses are simply clueless to the dangers. But we horse owners, most of us anyway, have experience with the hazards of combining the two: Like a lit match and a flamable gas, no one is born with the knowledge of what occurs when they are combined. Dog owners, like anyone, must be given the facts and, like the dog owner in the blog, be left to do with those facts as they see fit. Unfortunate though, that his response was so poorly chosen. Perhaps he simply needs more information? Hopefully, that won’t come from experience in the form of a dead family pet.

    1. I certainly respect your posts. I would also like to point out that there are many episodes of the reverse being true as well. Let me explain what happened to me.

      In 2001 I had rented a nice ranch house on a good size property out in the mountains of Colorado. It was a quiet nice area and for the most part very friendly. On one side I had a wonderful, open minded elderly couple who were just as friendly as could be. On the other I had a man who was….Not so much so. The first time he and I met he had issue with me having a big Rottweiler. He warned me he’d shot her on his property or his donkey would kill her. He’d said how it’s happen many times before.

      I kept my girl tethered as I could see her chasing animals. I was responsible, she was tethered to the big shed and had a nice size dog house for herself. She was indoors the times I was home and when I was not she was outside enjoying the weather and the sun.

      At some point his donkey, who was allowed to roam, got out and attacked my dog. It was a bad fight, and in the end my Rottweiler managed to kill his donkey. When the donkey finally expired it fell atop her and broke one of her hindlegs, and also pushed her hips out of place. She suffered bad injuries, missing teeth, broken ribs. But she won. When I received the call from the good neighbors at my job concerning what had accord I came right home. I took her to the vet and upon returning home he was on my porch with a gun. Apparently he couldn’t accept the reverse concerning his animal and we got into a very argument and fight. I sued him and won property damages for my dog.

      My advise? If you have a big, dangerous animal like a horse or a donkey, keep it controlled and in YOUR yard. Or if not, should it ever come and attack my animals, I will not hastate to shot and kill it. That’s as fair as it gets: If my dog is harassing your animals do what you must to protect them, it will hurt me but its within your rights and I fully understand. But expect the same concerning the reverse.

      Thank you,

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