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Why do some dogs chase sheep and others don’t?

In any case, it's a serious offence that needs dealing with

Field of sheep

What makes some dogs chase sheep and others not is a puzzle.

Q: Unfortunately I’ve had a few close calls with my young Labrador when I’ve been picking-up near sheep. He’s a good working dog but given half a chance will worry sheep. I’ve managed to avoid any serious incidents but want to stop this inclination. What do you recommend?

A: What makes some dogs worry sheep and others not is a puzzle.

Some youngsters quickly learn after they have caught sight of their first “woollies”. A quick rebuff and strong command of  “no” or “leave it” does the trick.

Although there does seem to be something about sheep that lights the blue touch paper for some dogs, Sheep seem to send a buzz to some dogs that triggers the ultimate temptation to chase. But there are dogs that stop at sheep chasing and others, given the opportunity, who would be sheep killers.

I don’t believe that the “killer” description means being hell-bent on ripping a sheep apart, but these dogs see bringing a sheep down as the goal. Sheep chasers – for the most part – are content to get their kicks from the fun of the chase.

Must be stopped

Any form of sheep worrying must be stopped. Ideally, young dogs should be taken close to sheep on a lead (with a farmer’s permission) to test their level of interest and educated accordingly with firm vocal disuasion.

It should be obvious to an owner if the message is getting through. The ears should drop, the body language show relaxation and attention. You don’t want the response of a body taut with excitement and ears cocked. If you can’t achieve, in several sessions, a clear indication from the dog that he has got the message and that sheep are a no-go area, you may need to try other tactics.

Put a dog in a pen with a ram?

Some old country people swear by putting a sheep worrier into a pen with a ram for a few rounds. It might work but you could well end up with an injured dog (or worse) so it’s not advisable.

What about e-collars?

Electronic collars are used by some to combat sheep chasing. They’re the subject of a lot of dispute at the moment but could have their place in when used in boundary fence systems.