Live­stock is a worry

It is vi­tal to ac­cli­ma­tise your dog to farm an­i­mals so they don’t chase them — with po­ten­tially fa­tal con­se­quences, warns David Tom­lin­son

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - GUNDOGS -

If you are go­ing to work your dog on a shoot, there is one thing of which you can be cer­tain: sooner or later you will en­counter live­stock. In arable East Anglia it may not hap­pen of­ten, but al­most any­where else in the coun­try it is likely to oc­cur on many, if not most, out­ings.

As a re­spon­si­ble gun­dog owner, the last thing you want is for your dog to show an un­healthy in­ter­est in farm an­i­mals. Cu­ri­ously, none of my many gun­dog train­ing books make much men­tion of fa­mil­iaris­ing your dog or dogs with live­stock, but it is one of the most im­por­tant as­pects of train­ing.

I was re­minded of this be­cause, for the past 10 years, I haven’t had to think about live­stock; my dogs weren’t in­ter­ested and so were re­laxed around an­i­mals. Now, as the owner of an en­er­getic and cu­ri­ous seven-month-old sprocker, Emma, I am aware that she has yet to meet ei­ther sheep or cat­tle, though she is al­ready steady to both chick­ens and horses. That is a good start, but a flock of sheep, bob­bing away, is a hugely tempt­ing tar­get for a young dog, and at the mo­ment I have no con­fi­dence that she won’t chase.

That’s why I am about to em­bark on a pro­gramme of fa­mil­iaris­ing Emma with sheep. There are a few lo­cal flocks I can in­tro­duce her to, while at­tached to a re­tract­ing lead that can be reined in if she does show any sign of want­ing to pur­sue the an­i­mals. Past ex­pe­ri­ence sug­gests that it doesn’t take long for most dogs to dis­cover that sheep are really bor­ing and chas­ing them isn’t a re­ward­ing pas­time.

One of my spaniels was walked daily as a puppy through a field of sheep and took no no­tice of them. How­ever, on her first walk on Ex­moor she en­coun­tered a ewe and her grown lamb and de­cided that they looked good for a bit of sport. Quite why she de­cided to chase them re­mains a mys­tery, ex­cept that a sheep on a heather moor is a very dif­fer­ent prospect to one in a grassy pad­dock in Kent. But chase them she did.

Caught in the act

For­tu­nately, she pur­sued them back to­wards me, so was caught in the act. Se­vere ver­bal chas­tise­ment took place and she never looked at an­other sheep for the rest of her life.

Cat­tle are a rather dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion to sheep, as they have the abil­ity to tram­ple both you and your dog if they really want to. Ev­ery year there are tragic re­ports of dog walk­ers who have been killed by cat­tle, though of­ten the dog es­capes. Cat­tle, es­pe­cially young­stock, are cu­ri­ous an­i­mals and the sight of a dog will of­ten draw them to take a closer look. Dan­ger arises when a herd crowds

“os­triches are birds with small brains and a very pow­er­ful kick, so keep away”

Cat­tle are cu­ri­ous an­i­mals with the abil­ity to tram­ple both you and your dog

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