There they are: Your two best friends. Fred has been your buddy since you were a teenager, sharing your victories and disappointments, always steadfast and reliable. Bonnie has only been part of your life for a couple of months, but you’ve hit it off in a big way and look forward to a long and active friendship. Now you want them to meet and be best buds, too, so the three of you can share pleasurable times together.

But like all relationships, it’s hard to predict how this is going to go: Fred is your middle-aged Quarter Horse; Bonnie is your Border Collie puppy. While you’ve seen many agreeable horse/dog combinations amongst your friends’ animals, you’ve also seen dogs that are relentless about chasing horses or clueless about avoiding horses’ legs. You’ve also witnessed horses which are unreasonably terrified over dogs, as well as the occasional horse which actually runs after and attacks any dog hapless enough to stray into her pasture.

How can you help foster a safe, compatible relationship between your animals?

Reasonable Expectations

For a start, you need to realize that your success or failure begins with the individuals involved.

“Horses have a good reputation for developing buddy relationships with a variety of species other than their own,” states Sharon Crowell-Davis, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVB, professor of veterinary behavior at the University of Georgia. “Dogs are the same way. However, it depends on the individuals.”

In some cases, certain horses or dogs are just not going to get along with the other species.

Herding dogs, for example, have a strong instinct to nip at the heels of large animals, notes Nancy L. Dougherty, American Kennel Club judge, secretary of the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America, owner of Windy Hill Kennels (Parson Russell terriers), Joint Master of Foxhounds of the Lewisville Hunt (Le