"Do most boarding barns allow dogs?"
When we opened our facility years ago I had already had a couple of boarders at our house and they had dogs. Their dogs came out all the time and it was no big deal. After we built our new barn and I had to get liability insurance for our facility and business things started to change overnight. Per our insurance carrier dogs would be a risk to have at our barn and I needed to be very careful how I wanted to handle the dog issue. All it would take is one bite from a boarders dog and we were at risk at losing a lot. The other even bigger factor was if a dog spooked a horse and a person was hurt as a result. Even though I didn’t own the dog the risk would be all mine. I needed to make a decision.
My new boarders came and it wasn’t soon before a few started asking me if they could bring their dogs to the barn. They would see the other dogs there and wanted to do the same thing. I felt bad saying no and I didn’t want them upset at me so I okay’d it for them to bring their dogs. Soon people were bringing their dogs to the barn and basically the only rule I had was that the dogs were not allowed in the barns or arenas at all. My original rule had gone out the window and it was all my doing. I would see dogs everywhere even in the areas they weren’t suppose to be and I must admit there were times when I looked the other way because I didn’t want to deal with confrontation. I was not running my barn as a business owner or leader at all.
Well things went from bad to worse. I had people bring their dogs to our barn and their dogs were not used to horses and would bark and try to chase our barn cats. Inside I knew I needed to say something but I was a new barn owner and I was scared to upset my clients. Everything that my insurance carrier told me not to do I was now allowing and it was stressing me out.
Then two things happened that changed the way I dealt with dogs and boarders. One evening I was in the indoor arena with my daughter and one of our boarders came walking in with her dog even though I had asked her to keep the dog outside the barn. Right away I had to talk with her about it and she became upset at me and didn’t understand what the big deal was. She told me that she has been at many barns where dogs were allowed anywhere on the property and there was never a problem. The second issue happened almost at the same time when I had one of our boarders bring a new puppy to our barn and it was running around loose and in and out of everything. Horses were all over the place and it saw a cat and took off into the riding arena while people were riding. It was an accident waiting to happen. That was all it took.
I lost two boarders over the dog issues during those couple of months and I couldn’t believe how sensitive people became when I told them they needed to follow the rules we had about dogs. Things changed overnight for me as a business person and dealing with dogs on the property.
We now let dogs on the property at our barn but they need to be on a leash unless I know they are extremely well behaved. They still are not allowed in any of the barns or arenas and it works out well only because I have no problem talking with a boarder if I feel there is a problem with their dog and they are not following the rules I have in place. I have made sure I am covered by insurance but I follow the strict guidelines of my insurance. No more giving in and no exceptions at all.
Because I have chosen to allow dogs on my farm under certain guidelines I also realize that I might lose the possibility of a future boarder if they not comfortable with dogs. I now also feel very comfortable changing my barn rules back to “No dogs on property at all” if I feel I need to and if things get out of hand or if my boarders can’t respect my rules. It is all part of being a barn owner and learning to make decisions and lead.
Every once in a while I still have issues with dogs at our barn and I take care of it right away. I also have the attitude now that if someone is going to leave because they can’t bring there dog into the barn than this probably isn’t the right barn for them. There are plenty of barns out there that allow dogs anywhere on their property and they will find a place that works for them. There are also many people that don’t feel comfortable riding their horse while a dog is in the arena and my barn is perfect for them.
You will hear it all
I have had people bring their dogs to our barn and become upset with me because it is extremely cold and they can’t bring their dog into the barn. I have had people upset with me because it was extremely hot outside and they can’t bring their dog into the barn where it is cooler. I have seen it all by clients, farriers and other equine professionals. Who knew dogs could become such an issue.
People absolutely love the idea of riding with a dog by their side and dogs and horses seem like they go together. The problem comes in with that fact that most of your clients dogs have never been around horses and many of them are not well behaved. Are they going to stop running as your boarder yells at them as they chase the cat down the barn aisle or into the arena. I have seen it happen a few times and I was lucky that no one was hurt by it. It is not worth the risk!
Yes there are many opinions about dogs at boarding barns. Ultimately you will make the decision on how you want to handle this issue and you need to be aware that you won’t be able to please everyone on either side. You will have boarders that prefer no dogs at the barn and then you will boarders that want to bring their dog every day. How are you going to handle it?
I encourage you to first contact your insurance carrier and find out exactly what you are covered for when it comes to dogs on your property. Then you can decide from there. There is no right or wrong answer to this subject. It is just something that I feel is important to think about when you own a business and you don’t want to lose everything because a rider was terribly hurt due to a spooked horse and the cause was another boarder’s dog. That is when it gets ugly. It is not something to fool around with at all.
One more thought- One huge lesson I learned with the dog issue is you can’t take it personally if your client becomes upset with you because of the rules you have in place. They will not fully understand because they are not the one at risk of losing a lot. I did lose two boarders over the dog issue at our barn and I was hurt by it at the time. I never thought in my life that dogs would be such a sensitive subject but it is. Remember it is your business and you need to treat it like a business first. The right boarders will find you that will like the rules you have in place for dogs or any other issue and they will stay because they love the way you run your barn. Don’t change or give in for your clients because you feel pressure or are worried about losing them as a boarder. It almost always never ends well.
I do think dogs and horses can mix well but under the right conditions. If you are going to allow dogs at your barn then just be very aware of the type of dogs and if they are well behaved or not. You have a lot riding on it!
If you are new to my blog, then welcome! If you are just starting out in your planning stages of your horse business or need some help now that you are in it, I would like to encourage you to check out my two books. My first book, “What it really takes to start and run a horse business”, is my families journey of starting our horse boarding business and about learning from our mistakes especially during the first couple of years. My second book, "The Total Horse Barn Management Makeover", is about the relationship between the barn owner/barn manager and client and how to resolve the issues that will come up when you are running a horse business of any kind. These books will take you deep inside the equine business world and will inspire and give you the tools to get through those tough days and situations. You won’t find more honest books out there about running a horse business.
I wish you many blessings in your horse business,