The Countryman's Weekly

Stock Training

Stock Training
April 25
08:10 2018

WEB1-25-04-18The importance of stock steady working dogs

By Jackie Drakeford.

WHERE I live is big sheep country and attracts lots of tourists too. Add holiday seasons, people out with untrained pet dogs and little understanding of the countryside, and there is sheep worrying. It isn’t just tourists by any means but the problem escalates at holiday time and the pressure on farmers is enormous.

Relatively few non-country people understand that a sheep does not have to be ripped up by the dog to be harmed; shock, abortion, broken legs or suffocation where sheep get trapped in a corner will all cause huge problems. Of course it is a great thrill to the dog, which will want to repeat the experience as soon as possible.

We who keep working dogs are much more aware of genuine prey drive and how, despite pet dog owners’ delusions, their dogs are not playing when they chase sheep. Although, I know more than one working dog owner who has come unstuck with a dog they thought was reliably sheep-proof.

Ideally we steady our dogs to sheep as puppies. Get them out there as soon as possible, do easy training exercises among flocks of sheep, teach the pup that sheep are just ‘furniture’ to be ignored. These lessons need frequent refreshing during the early part of a pup’s development, and even with steady, reliable older dogs I never miss an opportunity to reinforce sheep training. However, being safe with fat, placid downland breeds of sheep is only half the job, and many a dog steady with sheep seen as a flock in a field can be undone by hill sheep that bound up suddenly from behind a rock and scurry away.

  

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