Donna Campbell Smith is an author, freelance writer, and photographer. She
has an AAS degree in equine tech and is a certified instructor.
Barnie, my Jack Russeell Terrier
Top 5 Horse Dog Breeds
Dogs have long enjoyed a connection with stables, probably from the time of
equine domestication. It is probable that dogs were man’s best friend back
when horses were only considered a food source. So, when the horse was removed
from the dinner table and promoted to beast of burden, the dog was right there
at his side.
Today it is a rare horse barn that doesn’t have a least one resident “barn
dog.” Over the years, certain breeds have come to be particularly associated
with horses. Hunting and herding dogs have a long tradition of being coupled
with horses in a working relationship, as well as vermin-catching terrier
A few breeds stand out when we think of horses and dogs. It’s not so much
breed that matters as temperament. Most barns get a certain amount of visitor
traffic, so the barn dog should be non-aggressive, especially around children.
Traditionally, the barn dog is a useful canine, earning his keep in such
capacities as herding, hunting, or controlling vermin populations.
1. Australian Shepherds
Australian Shepherds have long held up their end of the job as herders on
farms and ranches in the western United States. Contrary to their name, the
breed was actually developed in the American West.
They are bred for their working ability rather than type. Crossed with other
herding breeds, the Aussie is known for his intelligence, endurance, energy,
and strong herding instinct. They do not make suitable housedogs because they
need plenty of wide-open space, attention, and training. In fact, many
breeders note that this highly intelligent dog can outsmart his owners in many
The Corgi is a favorite of horse folk. He’s a short, long dog that is just as
at home herding cattle or sitting on your lap in front of the TV. Welsh legend
has it that the Corgi was a gift from the fairies. Little in stature but big
of heart, the Corgi was a cattle dog, rather, and family pet to the ancient
Welshmen. A stiff penalty was given to anyone who would dare to steal a
family’s Corgi because they were so important to the farmer.
3. Jack Russell Terrier
Jack Russell Terrier is a personal favorite—a little dog with a BIG
personality. I met my first J.R. at a Saddlebred barn. It was love at first
sight. Now I have “Barnie” in the family, and there is never a dull moment
around the house. At age 17, he has slowed down a little but still gets
excited if I say, “Find the mouse,” or even more so at the mere mention of a
The Jack Russell has been around for about one hundred years, developed from a
strain of foxhounds by a preacher in England named John (Jack) Russell. These
dogs also have been bred over the years for work rather than type. They
resemble the early foxhound and come in a range of sizes and hair types. Most
are spotted with brown or brown and black, with at least 50% of their coat
They are great hunters with a never-give-up attitude. Author Stephanie Davis
describes this dog perfectly as “happy, bold, and energetic” and ” extremely
loyal, intelligent, and assertive.”
Great Pyrenees puppy
Dalmatians have been associated with coaching since ancient times. Since that
time, they have been guarding the coach and horses while the owners ran their
errands. A dog with the stamina to keep up with horses, we remember them best
for their affiliation with the fire station. Their job was to run ahead of the
horse-drawn engine to warn pedestrians and other vehicles that they were
coming through. This was before sirens. Owners of driving horses still enjoy
the tradition of having a Dalmatian in their barn.
5. Great Pyrenees
Great Pyrenees aka Pyrenean Mountain Dogs are large, fuzzy, white, and
powerful dogs that historically have been used in Western Europe to guard
herds of sheep and goats. Miniature Horse owners have discovered these dogs to
be ideal for protecting their horses from stray dogs and coyotes. The dogs are
very territorial but gentle with their families and animal charges. On the
downside, they tend to bark a lot and will roam if not kept contained within
fenced boundaries. They require a lot of exercise and patience in their
Whether your dog is one of these breeds or a “pound puppy,” I am sure he makes
life at the stables more interesting. Horses and dogs can be great friends,
especially when you have only one horse. Being a herd animal, a single horse
will enjoy the company of a dog while his human herd mates are gone. While
making a wonderful companion, a dog can help you catch your horse, catch mice
as well or better than a cat, and act as a security guard. All things
considered, they work for very low wages.
© 2008 Donna Campbell Smith
Scroll to Continue
Read More From Pethelpful
Why Does My Cat Sit on My Stuff?
Tips for Home Care for Your Vomiting Cat When You Cannot Visit the Vet
The Top 10 Fastest Dog Breeds
Christie on February 25, 2012:
My lab is terrified of horses, because the only times she sees them are at 4th
of July parades. They are much bigger than her, too.
Kim on November 06, 2011:
i am getting a huskey
Donna Campbell Smith (author) from Central North Carolina on October 07,
Thanks, Bay, for your comment and for reading my article.
Bay on October 07, 2011:
I know my heeler is awesome with horses and 4 before her were grate with them
… foxhounds are also good with them
Equestrian Tack on October 15, 2010:
Labs and Goldens, in my experience. Any dog that is not intimidated by size
and is generally good with around other dogs will be fine with horses.
abby on August 31, 2010:
I have a german shepard who does great with horses
Donna Campbell Smith (author) from Central North Carolina on April 11,
I have lots of friends with Labs and horses – i think labs do well with just
Brooke on April 11, 2010:
I have two labs, and I’m not sure how they’d do with horses. I think they’d be
perfectly fine, though.
Hanna on March 27, 2010:
BOrder collies DUHH andi agree with dalmatianss
English Shepherd on February 19, 2010:
I’m not sure how they are with horses, but I’ve heard that English Shepherds
are excellent farm dogs. Many people have told stories of how the puppy
watched them trying to teach a Corgi (or other herding breed) to herd. After a
few days of watching, the English Shepherd just got up and joined them. They
are great all-around working dogs. They do not bark much, are fast learners,
make good watchdogs, are great with a family, and don’t need to be penned when
not working, like other dogs do.
obxdeborah on June 21, 2008:
I remember when I worked at La Mirage, a Morgan and Saddlebred barn, a lot of
people at the show had grey hounds. I guess the connection to horses is the
racing thing. So many are abused and discarded when they are too old to race
or just not good enough. It seems that there was a pretty large adoption
organization for the Grey Hounds.
Kay on June 18, 2008:
I love the Aussie breed. I had a male who was phenomenal. He was an indoor dog
who took pride in everything he did. When we moved to a small ranch, I barely
had to teach him how to bring the horses back in at night to be put up in the
barn. They are a very, very, very intelligent breed and also extremely loving.
They do need exercise and do work well on a leash if introduced to it as a
young pup. He was very vocal on the goings on when I would walk in the door.
He wouldn’t bark to announce I was home, rather he would tell me all the
gossip of what happened. I know it sounds funny but that is how he was. He was
very protective of my other animals and me. I absolutely love this breed. But
you have to make time for them….almost like alone time. He did take on the
dominant role when we were not around and like I said, you could see the pride
in face and attitude knowing he did a job well done.
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on May 28, 2008:
Nice informative article– enjoyed it, as I know a few of these dogs.