It’s that time of year again. We’re surrounded by cute lambs who can lead our hounds into temptation. Our dog’s desire to chase can be stressful for us owners but it can also lead to livestock getting injured in the process.
Some dogs have more of a tendency to bark or lunge at livestock. This isn’t because they’re predators but because they have no idea what these large black and white animals or smaller cloud-like animals are. They might think that they’re a threat and therefore need to do their very best to make sure they’re defeated in the grassy battle field.
Whatever is going on in the head of your hound, it is your responsibility to keep them safe and under control, on a lead or long line. If, like us, you live in an area where the cloud-like animals have a habit of squeezing through fences and taking themselves off on adventures, usually along country roads, then a strong recall is vital. I mean, VITAL! You must be able to call your dog and put him or her back on lead. I save the best treats or the most prized tug toy for rewards in these situations! If there’s any risk of seeing livestock, especially at the moment when the lambs and their Mum’s also need to be kept safe, leads and long lines are the best options.
If your dog is lunging, barking or growling then it’s important to work on this so that you can happily walk past livestock without your dog getting stressed out and in turn, the livestock having a horrible time too. You need lots of space between your dog and the livestock and their absolute favourite treat. Your dog’s favourite treat, not the sheep’s!
With your dog on lead, make sure you’re far enough away so your dog isn’t reacting but is aware that the animals are there. Then, every time your dog looks at the animal(s), give them a treat. Then slowly decrease the distance… this can take days, weeks or months, and that’s ok. The important thing is that your dog is relaxed and able to learn. Keep going until you can walk past a field of sheep and/or cows without your dog reacting.
Remember that the livestock are not there for your training purposes and it’s vital that you don’t move closer until your dog is relaxed so that all animals are kept safe. For the livestock, the dogs are considered to be predators, so it’s normal for them to feel frightened and behave as such. Keeping your dog on lead will keep all animals safe and reduce your stress levels too!