Spring marks a significant time for British farmers as they prepare for the arrival of lambs across the countryside which is always a welcome sight!
Every year we hear of countless sheep and lambs being injured or even killed by dogs. Pregnant ewes and newborn sheep find it difficult to deal with stressful situations – such as encounters with dogs – and can die from shock days after or abort their lambs.
Even the most well-mannered and gentle-natured dogs can be tempted to worry livestock. The very nature of sheep means when they catch sight of a dog they are will run at full speed encouraging a dog to react with their natural predatory instinct to chase.
Farmers are legally allowed to shoot a dog for worrying livestock, even if no physical damage is done. No one wants their dog to be shot at or injured, just as no farmer wants to euthanize a pregnant ewe or young lamb because of an avoidable attack. With lambing season approaching, we encourage ALL dog owners to be aware of livestock and extra vigilant when they are out walking with their dogs.
Here are our top ways to be a responsible dog owner:
- Keep your dog on a lead at all times when you are anywhere where livestock may be present. When walking next to or in fields with livestock keep them on a short lead and fully under control. Respect the livestock giving them a wide birth and plenty of respect.
- Farmers’ fields look like a giant playground to your dog but it’s important to be respectful of the crops growing and mindful of any chemicals which might be on the earth.
- If you’re walking somewhere where it's suitable for dogs to be off the lead, you need to remember some people might be scared of a big ball of fur rushing up to them. You might know that all he wants is a cuddle, but they don’t, so keep your dog on a lead or training line unless you are 100% sure he will recall even when surrounded by distractions, especially other dogs and livestock.
- Please, please, please pick up your dog's poo! It’s so easy these days to have bags with you and use the bins to dispose of it. It can be really dangerous for other animals, livestock and children and it’s pretty offensive for anyone to have to clean their shoes up if they tread in it so bag it up and take it away with you, even when in the countryside!
- Always be aware of your surroundings when you are out with your dog, especially if you are going to walk him off a lead. Livestock can appear from nowhere, a field that was empty last week could now be full of sheep that are perhpas hidden from view. If your dog sees them first, there could be a devestating outcome. The environment changes frequentyl so it pays to be a step ahead and, if your surroundings change or get busy, pop your dog on a lead.
The bottom line in responsibility is to remember that our dogs, are dogs! They don't know what is responsible or not, it's our job as owners to ensure they don't cause a nuisance or negatively impact anyone else's day Don’t set them up for failure: think about them, consider the situation and plan for success. You’ll both enjoy being out and about far more and it’s all good training which helps towards a well-mannered dog.