Lambing season: protecting livestock – and your dog

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With talk around the general public needing to keep their dogs under control around livestock, particularly during lambing season, Barkig Heads behaviourist Adem Fehmi shares his tips on walking near livestock…

With lambing season in full swing, I thought I would take some time to give you all some tips on how to ensure that your dog remains safe around these animals – and also so that these animals remain safe from your dog! It is important to remember that dogs have a ‘chase’ instinct and, if this is not managed appropriately by you as their owner, this can be at minimum distressing for the animal being chased and, at worst, cause physical harm and even death.

For pregnant animals like ewes, the stress caused by being chased by a dog can even cause them to miscarry. Don’t forget that it’s not just the other animals that can get hurt, your dog is also at risk of being injured or killed in an altercation with another animal, especially one that is larger or has horns!

So here are my top tips for walking near livestock:

1. Always keep your dog on a lead around livestock. This is especially important if you are unsure as to how your dog will react to other animals. You could choose to use a longline so that your dog has more freedom but you still have control over your dog if necessary.

2. Make sure you have your dog’s focus on a nutritious and tasty treat or on a favourite toy when walking in areas that livestock may be present

3. Make sure you have trained your dog appropriately. Obedience commands such as ‘come’, ‘heel’ and the ‘emergency stop’ can be really useful to keeping both your dog and other animals safe from one another. It is important that your dog is able to respond to these commands even when faced with distractions.


4. Before walking in close proximity to livestock, it is best to check your dog’s reaction at distance first. Move closer over time, working at your dog’s pace and rewarding calm and non-reactive behaviour with praise and a tasty treat. This may take some time. It is a good idea to get your dog used to being around such animals from a young age, but it is never too late to start.

5. Think FOR the livestock. By this I mean think about their needs and how they may feel about your actions. Avoid walking through or between cattle or sheep, especially when they have young. This might mean you have to walk the long way round. You should also avoid ‘cornering’ livestock as this can make them feel threatened and induce stress. Always give them a space to move into or an exit route.

6. Always make sure you stick to designated footpaths and close gates behind you. The countryside is not a ‘free for all’ and it’s important to understand and know the areas you are walking in.

7. If you’re ever in the unfortunate position of being charged at by livestock then it is best to let your dog loose so that you can all move more freely and hopefully get out of the way. But let’s hope none of us ever have to make this decision!

This is a gust post by Adem Fehmi. Want to write for us? Visit www.dogstodaymagazine.co.uk/essay-submission or email editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk.

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