Dog Aggression Specialist

Living with Livestock:
dogs with stock problems

It is now widely acknowledged by the that "even though our dogs have been domesticated for a long time they have not lost their basic instincts - they are merely redundant and need channelling". These instincts include a very strong predatory drive.

Why is it then that so many dog owners throw their hands up in horror when they hear of a dog that has chased or worried sheep? If it is their own dog that is guilty, often they can not believe that their dog could even think of such a thing. Remarks like "He's never been aggressive before, I can't understand it " are often heard. Are they unaware of their dogs instincts or do they think that only other dogs have them?

It infuriates me when a sheep chaser /worrier is described as an aggressive dog. Is a cat condemned for catching small birds and rodents? Are they accused of being aggressive or nasty for doing what comes naturally? NO! So why persecute dogs for doing the same thing - what comes very naturally.

If a terrier is a good ratter or a lurcher a good 'rabbiter' they are admired for their skills. If a dog chases and occasionally catches a squirrel, whilst we may not like it, it is generally accepted. It is just considered to be just the dog's natural hunting instincts.

This behaviour can be really annoying and can totally mess up an otherwise perfect Recall but it is not said then that we have an aggressive dog. Chasing livestock is quite rightly unacceptable in our society. How do our dogs know this. As with many we make for our dogs this probably doesn't make any sense at all to them!

We can teach our dogs not to chase sheep and we can prevent it happening in the first place. Angela runs Livestock Socialisation Classes and Workshops where dogs are introduced to stock and then taught how to behave around them. Potential chasers are identified at an early stage and the problem is solved before it develops. Please contact Angela if you would like details of the Living with Livestock Workshops

Livestock worrying is no laughing matter when you live in a rural area. Trying to avoid sheep on Exmoor is like trying to avoid a cab in London! Sheep seem to be the main problem here in Somerset. The cows are too big to argue with! In an area where Collies are the predominant choice of dog for the average family, sheep worrying can be quite a problem.

Most people, in this area, have to exercise their dogs near livestock. It is therefore essential that these dogs are taught how to behave around livestock and that their owners have full control of them at all times. Whilst it is acknowledged that dogs should be kept on leads when livestock are present, there is always the possibility of a stray animal suddenly appearing.

Farmers, understandably, are not sympathetic towards dogs when their livelihood depends on their livestock. They have permission to "shoot on sight" and they do so without a second thought. So you can understand why, here in Somerset, concentrating on teaching dogs ( and their owners) how to behave around livestock is of the utmost importance. So where do you start?

Firstly, it is important to recognise that most dogs accused of sheep worrying are not sheep killers but simply have a chasing problem. Simply? It can feel like a major problem to the owners of such dogs but as you probably know, there are simple ways of teaching a dog to control his predatory drive. There are also ways of reinforcing control of a dog when 'in chase'

Dogs with stock problems fall into one of five categories:
These dogs are the most common.  They only react to the sheep if they or moving or if they can get them to move.  They may nip them, as with many collies, but no major damage is done.  It is not aggression. This is no different to them nipping us when they get over excited. If they catch up with them, they lose interest. Problem eliminated through training and socialisation.
Bay Dogs
Dogs that fall into this category usually show interest when the sheep are moving or they can get them to move.  They differ from chasers in that once they have caught up with the sheep, they then either 'hold the flock' to a fence or sometimes bring them back to their owner.  They take this no further and are easily called away. Problem eliminated through training and socialisation.
These dogs usually focus on the weakest sheep when they do or do not move. Separators take the predatory sequence a little further. Once they have the flock moving they will pick out a weaker sheep and separate it from the flock.  They will then ignore the rest of the flock. They may just hold the 'chosen' sheep or may even nip it, but they do attack it. Problem eliminated through training and socialisation.
Learnt Killers
These are dogs who through circumstance have learnt to kill.    Once experiencing the thrill of the chase, this instinct comes to the surface.  Once this type of dog has killed they need to be treated as Born Killers . Problem minimised through training. Aversion not effective, therefore not used.
Born Killers
A dog of this type is born  the urge to kill.  That is, it's predatory instinct have always been to the forefront rather than suppressed as with other dogs. Whilst early socialisation can reduce the probability of this instinctive behaviour developing, you can not train the urge to kill out of a dog.  You can simply control it. Problem minimised through training. Aversion not effective, therefore not used.

I do not condone the use of the electric shock collar. Research has shown it can actually elicit aggression in some cases. I do not condone putting a dog in a confined area with an aggressive sheep. This has limited success and can have an adverse effect in some cases. Some dogs can develop a hatred of sheep resulting in the desire to attack becoming even stronger.

If either of these approaches have succeed in stopping a dog chasing and 'attacking' sheep, then were not born killers.

However, allowing a dog in a field with a sheep who will stand it's ground can have a beneficial effect. In a field, the dog has the opportunity to make the right decision - TO LEAVE!


© 2005 Angela Stockdale. All Rights Reserved l E-mail: l Tel: 01643 851599