My seven-month-old springer is chasing sheep and I cannot seem to stop or recall him. It is very concerning as he now knows how to get into the field and takes every opportunity to chase them.
Unfortunately this is quite common amongst dogs that are not exposed to farm animals. they, of course, see it as great fun, even if they mean no harm. You need to very quickly go back to the basics of socialisation. being around livestock, horses, chickens and sheep should be no big deal to the dog, coupled with a healthy awareness that it is not acceptable to chase anything in a field. You need to spend a lot of time finding animals and deliberately walking through and near to them quite calmly with the dog on the lead. And I mean a lot of time, until the dog is capable of ignoring them. So walk, sit, get near, let the dog get the scents, give lots of praise with equal amounts of verbal discipline if the dog starts to go. It is one of the few areas in training where there is little leeway and the dog has to know it’s unacceptable.
In the last issue of Shooting
Gazette there was some debate on whether or not to smack dogs. I am certainly in the ‘not’ camp but the use of higher levels of verbal discipline is certainly necessary here if the dog continues. try and advance from a lead to a long line (or some washing line will do). It gives you the chance to test the steadiness with control. If you know someone with a chicken run or pheasant pen, try the same procedure. most dogs at that age like to play and we are not stopping that, just enforcing what is acceptable to play with. I am currently working with a dog that is completely steady and at ease with livestock, but bumped into some goats for the
first time recently and it all went pear-shaped. back to the drawing board!
Mike has been rough and game shooting, stalking and fly fishing for over 30 years. His passion is working and training gundogs in the field, with a particular emphasis on developing the trainer as well as understanding the dog and its particular purpose. He is an instructor with the Guild of Dog Trainers and coaches with Lincolnshire Pet Gundogs. He also runs Rutland Gundogs and can be contacted on 07803 617859.