Could unsuitable dog breeds be to blame for a rise in sheep worrying?
This month we saw the story of a lamb being chased off a cliff by an out of control dog spread across the headlines.
Sheep worrying has become an increasing problem and the rise in population and Britain’s obsession with pets isn’t helping.
Not so many years ago people would have a dog for a specific purpose, be it protecting livestock, to catch their supper, or simply to keep their lap warm. Each of these dog were selected for the characteristics typical to their breeding such as stamina, speed or size.
But now with nearly half of UK families having a pet dog, we are seeing dogs that are highly unsuitable for their owners.
You only have to visit a dog rescue centre to notice the trend in unwanted dog breeds. Long gone are the greyhound filled kennels which have been replaced with Staffies, Huskies and Rottweilers who were bought by their owners to add to that tough guy bravado. However, for whatever reason, failure to train, care for, neuter these animals, the result is 1 in 20 of the 9 million dogs in the UK, being homeless.
I remember reading the backlash of Daily Mail journalist who wrote about how dreadful other peoples dogs can make an innocent trip to the park. but she was right. Every day i see dogs doing as they please while their owner looks on in embarrassment unable to control the situation. Only this morning I watched two dogs owners and their pets allow their dogs to run wild across the lettuce crop growing on the farm where I live. When I caught one out she feebley called Rocky, who continued to ignore her and then empty his bowels on an iceberg lettuce. She didn’t pick it up.
And these irresponsible dogs owners are everywhere. they walk among us, to the neighbour whose dog frequently soils your front lawn, to the labradoodle that pounces on your toddler in the park.
I know someone who wanted a collie after watching an episode of Countryfile, despite working full time, living in a town and never owning a sheep in their life. Subsequently it is now having weekly appointments with a dog phycologist after developing a mental disorder through lack of stimulation.
I understand that aesthetics can be extremely persuasive. Believe me, I’m a girly girl, pretty much everything I buy is based on appearance, but dogs should be selected for their suitability to the owner. Will it live inside or out, does it require a high level of mental stimulation, how big is your home etc.
I’m not saying that these highly energised dog breeds are the only ones to blame. It all comes down to the owner and their level or training and common sense. I’ve known German Shepherds to share a bed with sock lambs and I’ve known pugs to take on badgers, but statistics show that certain dogs are more likely to attack.
There is certainly a trend when I speak to farmers that have fallen victim to an attack. All animals pumped full of energy for the tasks they were originally supposed to carry out.
Animal charities and breeders also have a huge part to play in this when matching a dog with a potential owner. Some breeders will always vet their puppies’ new homes, but others will only see dollar signs and off goes that Irish Wolfhound to live in the one bed flat in Brixton.
So, potential dog owners, if I could ask one thing. Select your breed carefully, speak to a specialist and consider breeds you never even knew existed. If you have the time and space for a Belgian Shepherd then get one. If you see yourself as future flyball champion on the world then get a Collie, but don’t go buying that French Mastiff to make your neighbours Doberman look runt-like.
This article was published by South East Farmer and can be read online: http://www.southeastfarmer.net