Ideal Dog Breeds to Adopt as Helping Hands on Horse Farms

dog and cat in barn - ideal dog breeds to adopt as helping hands on a farm

Horse farms are not the easiest properties to maintain. Horses need a lot of care and monitoring to ensure they are content.

Newborn foals tend to be quite delicate and require extensive hands-on training to help them grow into fine adult horses down the line. Even fully-grown horses need attention and guidance throughout their lifetime if you want them to act according to your needs. Proper care can ensure that.

Over the centuries, experts have found the use of certain dog breeds to be greatly effective in the field of horse management. Most equine professionals tend to adopt specialized breeds of dogs that can aid them in their daily work with horses. While this may sound strange to many, it is indeed productive and has brought results consistently throughout the years.

This article focuses on the best types of dog breeds that can positively influence the lives of farm horses.

The Ideal Dog Breeds for a Horse Farm

Most horse owners also love having dogs, and not just for their overwhelming cuteness. Dogs are amazing pets that bring a ton of utility to the owner and are a mandatory presence in most horse farms around the world. Below is a list of dog breeds that are ideal for keeping as a helping hand on horse farms.

Standard Poodle

The standard poodle can be a great barn dog if needed. They have the characteristics required to match the levels of farm work the owner might demand. These poodles are very quick learners and are really speedy. Transporting small items to and from the barn is one of the favorite chores of a standard poodle.

A doodle, however, is a mixed breed. They're a cross between a basic poodle breed and another breed that has similar genetic characteristics to a poodle. They are widely adored around the world due to the utility they bring and the relative lack of drawbacks associated with taking care of them. They are generally intelligent and tend to remain composed even in the face of danger. Hence, they are ideal to have as a helping hands on farms.

Horse farm owners have always stated that they love doodles on their farms due to their efficiency and eagerness in tasks involving retrieval. They are great trackers and can contribute to the overall security of the premises by staying alert longer than average dogs. The other variants in the poodle kingdom are miniature and toy poodles. These, however, are less suitable as barn dogs due to the compactness of their bodies.

Australian Shepherd 

The Australian shepherd, also known as the Aussie, is one of the best dog breeds for a horse farm. This is mainly because of the high levels of energy they display. Horses themselves are highly active. The Aussie can match that accordingly and provide support to the horses constantly, without lagging behind. Equestrians find great companionship in the Australian shepherd during long trail riding sessions.

Make sure you provide your Aussie with abundant scope for exercising daily. They do not like being idle for too long and are usually happy to just run around if there are no dedicated tasks available at hand. These are not the biggest farm dogs out there. The average weight of a fully grown adult Australian shepherd is between 35-65 lb. They do not look intimidating or commanding but are certainly great at their jobs.

Border Collie

border collie standing on fence - ideal dog breeds to adopt as helping hands on a farm

Border collies, also known as Scottish sheepdogs, are arguably the smartest dogs in the world! They are renowned for the unmatched levels of focus and determination they bring to any chore their owners give them. These energetic dogs will do everything in their power to please their owners, without the need for attractive treats to motivate them. Thus, training them is easy and requires relatively less effort from the owner.

Similar to the Aussie, the border collie also requires space for exercising and physical work. Unless this is provided, they might get fidgety and start to annoy the people and horses around them. However, they do not need a ton of space as even a basic horse farm consisting of a single horse is also sufficient for a border collie to spend happy days in.

These dogs do everything in their power to protect the horses and will not hesitate to jump into dangerous situations to do so. They can be sent on long walks with the horses on their own. Border collie owners can sit back and relax once they are well trained and heavily invested in their work.

Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell terriers, also known as Parson Russell terriers, are relatively small barn dogs that are excellent sprinters. These are multi-purpose dogs that are frequently found on horse farms. Jack Russell terriers are very smart dogs that can often outwit their owners if given the opportunity. Hence, their owners generally take time to teach them the ways around the farm and the chores they need to complete every day.

This breed of terriers specializes in hunting and can wipe out all the rodents on the farm in short order! They remain highly vigilant and pounce on rats or other vermin the moment they come into sight. Jack Russell terriers have relatively long lifespans, making them an ideal choice for horse farm owners. They don't tend to annoy the horses, and are generally well-tolerated by them.

Golden Retriever

The popularity of golden retrievers is no secret. Be it the equine community or an ordinary household, these gorgeous dogs have their place in them all. The biggest advantage of getting a golden retriever for a horse farm is their composed demeanor, which makes them a great social presence. They can vibe and bond with the owner, other people in the house, the horses and any other pet living on the property.

Golden retrievers are very reliable and tend to complete their chores despite any setbacks. They follow orders even without a lot of training, making them great learners. Thus, not a lot of effort is required to completely train them regarding all the nitty-gritty of life on a horse farm. An average-sized golden retriever is large enough to portray a commanding presence but is smaller than large barn dogs like the shepherds. Owners need to ensure that the retriever is content with their surroundings, at least during the initial months of training.

The one drawback of having a golden retriever as a barn dog is the cordial nature they possess, which drives them to be overly friendly with almost anything they encounter. Again, proper training tends to fix this problem and turn the retriever into an ideal barn dog.

The Differences Between a Barn Dog and a House Dog

Any dog can be both a barn dog and a house dog, but there are some behaviours you should learn to expect from a barn dog (or when your house dog heads out to the barn).

  • Barn dogs love the taste of horse hoof trimmings and are usually pumped with excitement every time the farrier rolls down the driveway. 

  • Barn dogs that are bred to be herding dogs (like border collies) can pick on the heels of disorderly horses to try to control them. It’s important that you watch for this behaviour and stop it quickly so neither the horse nor the dog gets hurt.

  • Barn dogs can become extremely dirty from their exploits in the acres of fields on the farm. Expect dirt, grime and manure at almost all times. 

  • House dogs who haven’t grown up on the farm need special looking after when you bring them to the barn. They might not be used to being independent off-leash, and won’t be as skilled in safely scouring through the outdoors as barn dogs. You’ll have to teach a house dog how to stay on the property and stay safe.

  • Barn dogs like to have assigned tasks and routines. Expect them to give themselves jobs to do if you don’t give them work. Helping with turnout, hunting mice in the hayloft and watching out for predators while you ride are just a few of the jobs that make barn dogs happy.

  • Barn dogs are the happiest and the most comfortable when they’re with you, working. While some might prefer to stay in the barn or outside overnight, expect most of them to want to curl up on your bed with you at the end of a hard day.

Final Words

Dogs are incredible helpers on horse farms. Farmers have always appreciated their influence among the horses and have relied on them for a lot of important farm maintenance chores.

It's essential that you take good care of your barn dog, as they need protection from external threats like wild animals or diseases.

Knowing how to find the perfect dog breed for your horse farm is a major step toward bringing order there. We recommend you take the needs of your farm into account when choosing the ideal breed before adopting one. For more information on this topic, visit How to Find the Perfect Dog Breed for Your Family Farm.

By contributor

Feature image: Václav Závada; Image 1: Blue Bird


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