Dogs and sheep worrying – the endless battle

When, oh when are dog owners going to learn? How many pet dogs are being shot, with sheep and lambs dying or being savagely attacked because careless owners allow them to run loose around livestock?

Today I received an email from a friend who is now lambing and found two dogs tearing around the sheep this morning. The usual argument with the owner erupted, the ignorant “they wouldn’t hurt a fly” comment and the response of “I can legally shoot them you know”, to the horror of the owner. Why was the owner surprised by this news? Surely any responsible dog owner should know the consequence of allowing their dog to roam freely among livestock.

Dog owners are always so angry when they hear it is legal to shoot their dog if they worry sheep and yet no thought seems to be given to the aborted lambs or the savaged/dead sheep, that can often be the result of sheep worrying. What really makes my blood boil is to see the dog owner ranting and raving while waving a dog lead in the air. The solution is literally in their own hand.

One problem is that the dog owners often see their dog just running around the sheep and they are back at home sipping tea by the time the damage is done and the abortions begin. Others stroll along not even aware that their family pet is mauling and killing a sheep at the other side of the field.

The NFU supply signs and gruesome photos for farmers to display on footpaths and gateways, this site gives telephone numbers and email addresses to obtain them.

Think seriously about letting your dog off the lead near livestock, I doubt you would enjoy going home with just a dog lead. Remember that farmers move livestock from one field to another quite regularly, so check field are empty before you allow your dog to run freely on footpaths.

In National Parks livestock often roam freely and are not fenced in. National Parks are the most fabulous places to visit but please take time to learn about National Parks and how you should behave while spending time there.

Your dog may normally be gentle and calm but put it among sheep and natural instinct will kick in, the sheep will run and the dog will run after them. The dog doesn’t have to touch a sheep to cause damage. Be a responsible dog owner, always use a lead around livestock, during lambing time find somewhere away from sheep to walk your dog and never assume your dog is not a threat to livestock. This will keep you, your dog, the farmer and his stock happy and healthy.

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61 Responses to “Dogs and sheep worrying – the endless battle”

  1. crathiegirl Says:

    Instead of just warning dog owners their animals will be shot, just go ahead and shoot them. No warnings, no second chances. Just do it. Only by taking a harsh line with urban refugees out-of-control dogs will the owners learn the lesson. Harsh words I know but as a dog owner myself I would expect no less if one of mine savaged a sheep or calf.

  2. jan mcculloch Says:

    Another point to remember is – At lambing time especially – it is important not to disturb ewes with lambs; when sheep are afraid they all flock together – a natural instinct for them. But of course the lambs are then ‘mis – mothered’ and may follow the wrong ewe, resulting in them being pushed away when the flock settles and the ewe realises it is not her lamb that has followed her but a strange lamb.
    If the lambs are older, they soon find their mothers. If they are very young, they soon become tired and weak and if their mother does not find them quickly, they soon get cold from hunger and become too frail to suckle even if their mother finds them before they perish.
    With or without a dog, walkers should steer well clear of lambing fields.

  3. Sally Says:

    Great advice there Jan and being a shepherdess you should know!!

  4. jan Says:

    what happens when your local farmer allows his sheep to wander into my garden, am I allowed to shoot them!

  5. Sally Says:

    Not legally Jan but you can approach the farmer for compensation for damage done to your garden, I know that is of little help if you have spent years caring for your garden but when people have to pay up financially they tend to make sure their fences are fixed.

  6. jones from info om hunderacer (1 comments.) Says:

    nope you cannot shoot, dogs or sheep legally

  7. Sally Says:

    Hi Jones

    In the UK they can, it comes under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953.

    This is fro the UK Kennel website

    Your dog must not worry (chase or attack) livestock (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses and poultry) on agricultural land, so keep your dog on a lead around livestock. If your dog worries livestock, the farmer has the right to stop your dog (even by shooting your dog in certain circumstances).

  8. Phil Says:

    Interesting post – I always keep my dog on a lead near livestock and it annoys me that other dog owners don’t.

    I do have one question though which maybe someone can help me with.

    In April next year I am planning to walk a National Trail with my dog for charity. There will almost certainly be fields with sheep and lambs that need to be crossed. With a dog on a very short lead, is the impact of the dog minimised, and is there any advice on how to reduce the impact of walkers on the sheep / lambs generally.

    I appreciate Jan’s comments about avoiding the fields altogether, but that’s difficult when following a National Trail.

  9. m Says:

    cant the farmers claim comp for live stock damadge and i know that the farmes of sheep and cows get a grant yearly from goverment to go towards the running of the farm cattle
    so interm we pay your wages you shoot our dogs fix ur fences and learn to produce like the rest of the world be cheaper dont cry you cant and get help from us lern to adapt get out of the old ye farm in to the new farm
    ask Mc donald he knows how to farm

  10. Sally Says:

    Hi M it isn’t about compensation, it’s about the right of farmers to carry out their work without their flock being ripped to pieces by careless dog owners who more often than not have no right to be on the land in the first place.

    As for producing cheaper food … the public in the UK demands higher and higher welfare for farm animals, new legislation driven by publc concerns reduces the cheaper options for fertilisers and feeds .. so farmers here cannot produce food as cheaply as overseas where they can treat animals any way they please and spray anything they want on the crops.

  11. Sally Says:

    Hi Phil, sorry to take so long to reply I have been computerless for a week.

    Keeping the dog on a short lead is fine but try to also keep it calm, a dog panting, barking and straining at the lead can be stressful for sheep, particularly when they are lambing or have lambs at foot.

    Like any animal that has a flight instinct in the presence of danger, if you are walking toward a sheep or lambs slow down and give them time and room to flee.

    Be aware of clumps of reeds, small dips in the landscape, beside walls or fence posts, as young lambs will often be left in or near shelter while the mother grazes, so it’s easy to walk through a clump of reeds to suddnly come across two little trembling bodies. Just try to walk around anything that could be hiding lambs.

    That is really all you need to do to be a thoughtful dog owner and minimise the impact on livestock.

  12. Best Dog Beds (1 comments.) Says:

    Great post. I love taking time out of my workday to read some blogs about animals. Always nice to find some useful information in between all the fluff LOL (no pun intended :-) )

  13. Sally Says:

    Hi and welcome to the blog, thanks for leaving a comment it’s so nice to know I’m not just talking to myself .. although I do that as well lol

  14. Jays Says:

    My problem is with a couple of lambs my neighbours have recently aquired, probably to eat the long grass in their paddock, which is next door to my own garden, where of course my dog normally enjoys free access, (also a couple of free range chickens have arrived. ) We have post and rail fencing and as I am very cooncerned about my dogs interest in them, I suppose I will have to put up some sort of wire fencing down a very long stretch of garden, which I’m not very happy about. (time/expense to do this etc) Once I have taken these precautions do you think I will have done all I can – I can’t keep my dog in – nor put her on a lead on our own land. Any advice appreciated.

  15. Sally Says:

    Hi Jays, I’m sorry to hear you aren’t happy about having to keep your dog off your neighbours property. It is difficult when you have had freedom to roam land and of course will be confusing for the dog but your neighbours have the right to keep animals on their own land and as a dog owner it’s your responsibility to ensure your dog doesn’t trouble their animals.

    May I suggest before you start wire fencing that you speak to your neighbours and introduce the dog to the lambs. Of course this needs to be supervised … just see if your dog is simply curious and will get bored with them quickly or if your dog thinks they are fun toys to be chased. Our dogs were introduced slowly to our lambs until the point they just think of them as funny looking dogs and ignore them.

    The more time the dog spends around the lambs the less likely it is there would be a problem, although I would caution having “supervised visits” for some time. Dogs tend to sheep worry when they are not used to being around sheep and there are a flock of sheep (rather than one or two), as the scattering of sheep sends the dog into a “which one will I chase” frenzy and natural instincts kick in.

    However, if successful, this solution may make life a lot easier for you and your neighbours.

    If you have to resort to wire fencing then I would suggest you have done all you can to secure your dog in your own property, however if your dog escapes or jumps the fence you are still legally responsible for any damage your dog does.

    There is certainly no need to keep your dog tied up on your property unless he/she has a habit of escaping.

    If you’re really worried, perhaps by your dogs previous behaviour, then a call to citizens advice might be in order to check what your legal responsibilities are.

  16. mickey Says:

    Farmer are moaning ba****ds and always going on about other people and how poor they are. When there lambing they shouldnt leave sheep out in the fields. People do walk past with dogs on the lead and that scares the sheep just as much.

  17. Sally Says:

    Well I’ve heard everything now lol. Farmers shouldn’t leave animals in fields because dog owners should be free to walk around as they like. Nice one Mickey lol

  18. Matthew Says:

    Mickey have you actually ever been near a farm?

    The only part of your post that has any truth is that dogs scare sheep regardless, but sheep are a dam sight more scared when the dog can chase them all over the field! At least on a lead they can only go a few feet.

    Sally. I have the right to shoot on a farmers land where friend has 100 head of sheep. She has told me that i have hers and the farmers permission to shoot any dog that attacks their livestock. My question is am i covered by the law metioned above?

  19. Sally Says:

    Hi Matthew

    I’m not going to put my head in a noose and say you are or aren’t covered by the above law because a) I am not a lawyer b) I don’t know your circumstances or what relation you have to your local farm and c) I don’t know what type of firearm you use.

    Animals Act 1971

    3)Subject to subsection (4) of this section, a person killing or causing injury to a dog shall be deemed for the purposes of this section to act for the protection of any livestock if, and only if, either—

    (a)the dog is worrying or is about to worry the livestock and there are no other reasonable means of ending or preventing the worrying; or

    (b)the dog has been worrying livestock, has not left the vicinity and is not under the control of any person and there are no practicable means of ascertaining to whom it belongs.

    Farmers therefore have to prove they were acting in defence of their livestock and must report any shootings to the police within 48 hours of the incident.

    Be careful with the legislation though, it does read as though a dog can be considered worrying livestock if it is off the lead and having a run round on the other side of the field. We need to use this legislation sparingly and with a degree of logic, ie only if the dogs appear to be a real threat to our livestock.

    There are also laws covering the type of firearm that can be used so you need to check that out too.

    Dog owners are also financially liable for the damage their dog causes.

    I would suggest you pop in and talk to your local police and explain your circumstances to them, also take a permission letter from your friend and the farmer and get the police to take copies of the letters. Write down the number and name of the policeman or woman you speak to just in case you ever need their confirmation of what they told you in the future.

    Also remember that if there are rights of way through the farmland then dogs do not have to be on leads but they must be UNDER CLOSE CONTROL if there is livestock. This means you can’t shoot a dog for being off the lead if the owner has the dog under close control. Close control is not clearly defined but logic would suggest a dog not a lead that comes back to the owner and stays there as soon as it’s called would be classed as under close control.

  20. Matthew Says:

    Thank you for that advise.

    Since making my last post i have been doing more research which ties in with what you have said. I will talk to my local firearms officer very shortly to confirm all of this.

  21. Sally Says:

    Hi Matthew

    Would be great if you could drop by and let us know what your local police have to say about the situation, particularly if you are not the land or livestock owner.

  22. Matthew Says:

    Sally i will let you know what they have to say re any criminal matters but from my reading of the Animals Act 1971 section 9

    it would seam that as a last resourt shooters are covered under civil law provided they have the implied or expressed permission of the landoner or the owner of the livestock.

  23. Sally Says:

    We certainly had a couple of chaps with permission from us (registered with the local police) to shoot on our farm and they could, if there was no alternative, shoot uncontrolled dogs. They had to be interviewed by the police and obviously satisfy the law regarding storage and travelling with firearms. We’ve thankfully never had to shoot a dog on our land but our neighbours have and no action was taken against them because the son used his mobile to video the dog attacking a sheep while his father fetched the shotgun. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience for anyone but there was no choice, the dog had gone into a frenzy.

    Will be interesting to hear whether your local police have the same attitude as they do round here.

  24. Julie Says:

    Of course dogs should be shot for worrying or chasing sheep…. and I say this as an owner of 3 dogs myself and a big dog lover

    Farmer’s livelihood aside…sheep are totally defenceless and why should they be allowed to be menaced and attacked (I’ve seen the results of a dog attack on a sheep and it’s horrific).

    So if your dog is shot for this reason, blame yourself, not the farmer

  25. Matthew Says:


    I have spoken to my local firearms officer and he has told me that as long as i do it in accordance with the two pieces of legislation that we mentioned eariler, only shooting as a last resort and when it is worrying the live stock, then there will be no issue with the police.

    But i hope that i hope that i never have to be in that situatuion!

    As an extra thaugh would you be able to prosecute the dog owner for cruilty / neglect resulting in the animals death?

  26. Sally Says:

    Hi Matthew

    Well let’s hope you never have to do it but at least now you can be sure you are staying on the right side of the law.

    No, you can’t prosecute the dog owner for cruelty or neglect because the dog is simply doing what nature tells it to do and if it’s gone into a frenzy then the owner could be blue in the face running after the dog and screaming at it but the dog will be oblivious. However you can sue the owner for the damage the dog causes (ie the cost of a dead animal(s), vet’s fees, removal and disposal of the carcass).

  27. Jennie Says:

    Looks like all you farmers are interested in is shooting our dogs, or looking for ways to claim compensation.

    I reckon the whole ‘dogs worrying sheep’ situation is another way for you to make money, because, as we all know what normally happens is you catch our dogs who allegedly have been ‘worrying livestock’, give us a lecture which we are forced to endure and then demand that we pay for ‘the damage’. That way you end up with tax free additional income + your sheep who get just as worried by the dog chasing them as by you guys herding them!!! The whole situation is ridiculous and needs to be changed.

    The only thing that is saving our dogs from you lot is that you are probably not very good at aiming and more likely to shoot your own sheep than the dog!!!

    As to the whole nonsense about ‘we also own dogs’ – that does not hold as you treat your dogs as a working animal and not as a pat. Plus you are unable to be emotionally attached to an animal due to a simple fact that you grow animals and then send them to the slaughter house so you cannot possibly understand what pet owners feel towards their dogs.

  28. Sally Says:

    Hi Jennie

    Thanks for your comments. Good Lord … where do I start.

    1. “lecture which we are forced to endure” – why should you not have to endure a lecture. If I came to your place of work and allowed my dog to run amok would you not feel inclined to lecture me? If you are irresponsible enough to allow your dog to worry sheep then why shouldn’t the farmer, at the very least, lecture you.

    2. “Tax free additional income” – are you having a laugh? If I come and dig your flower beds up and kill the goldfish in your garden pond would you not demand compensation in order to replace your plants and fish? Of course you would. Would this be an additional tax free income for you or would the compensation simply replace what I allowed to be damaged or killed? Many farmers will insist on compensation because the lectures are ignored but people do learn to keep a dog on a lead after they have to pay up.

    3. “Your sheep who get just as worried by the dog chasing them as by you guys herding them” – may I suggest you arrange to visit a farm and see a working dog herding sheep. Do the sheep run due to natural instinct (fleeing from the dog), absolutely. Is the dog under control at all times, absolutely. Is the farmer aware and the dog well enough trained to know the difference between herding and hunting, yes. Is a pet chasing sheep under control at all times and has it been trained to herd, no.

    4. “As to the whole nonsense about ‘we also own dogs’ – that does not hold as you treat your dogs as a working animal and not as a pat” – Whether a dog owner treats his dog as a working animal or a pet is simply not relevent. What is relevent is whether the dogs owner has full control of the dog when it is around livestock. May I also suggest you watch One Man and His Dog … this show involved farmers and working sheepdogs, if you can’t see the close relationship between the handlers and their dogs then an eye test may be in order.

    5. “and then send them to the slaughter house so you cannot possibly understand what pet owners feel towards their dogs.” – utter nonsense. I have seen hardened farmers crying when old dogs have to be put to sleep. You seem to forget that most farmers spend more time with their loyal dog(s) than they do with their families. They do not work in offices and are with the dog almost constantly. The ability to raise animals as livestock to feed people does not mean a person is heartless or cannot have a loving relationship with a pet. As I type this one of my cats is curled on my lap and the other is hanging off the living room curtains, while I try to get over the loss of one of my dogs who had to be put to sleep yesterday due to cancer … I rest my case.

    If none of this convinces you I would ask you to look at the pictures in the links below … I warn you (and any other readers) they are rather gruesome and show sheep after attacks by “pet” dogs. One shows a live sheep with half of it’s face hanging off, can you honestly look at those and suggest that sheep have less rights to protection than your pet dog?

  29. jan mcculloch Says:

    I was distressed to read your comment jennie. I have been a shepherdess for many years – my dogs are my soul mates – I love them dearly – they and I have a great bond that far exceeds the relationship I have with my pet dogs. Many months of dedicated training, patience and LOVE makes a working dog jennie …. I do not know a single farmer who would disagree with me,

    Sally – I feel your responses to jennies comment are fair and accurate.

    Sadly there are very many non farming folk who do not appreciate how much our livestock means to us farmers; yes we rear animals to provide meat, but the breeding stock (cattle or sheep) stay with us for may years and we take great trouble to look after our them and keep them happy and healthy. I have had sheep that I delivered as lambs and who grew to be replacement sheep in my flock … any good stockman knows his sheep and cattle by sight and very many have names ,,,,
    we are not the heartless money grabbing folk that you claim jennie. .

  30. Simon (1 comments.) Says:

    I’m a dog owner but in complete agreement in the situation where it is private land. The law allows us to walk through parts of much of that land but we should be respectful of the owner and whatever they happen to be doing with it.

    Public land however is another story. I don’t think the livestock law applies here but many farmers are sending their livestock out into national parks etc. As this is ‘public land’, they should be equally as accepting. Most dogs are curious, mine will run towards a cow or sheep (worrying it) but never gets too close. I don’t feel we should be punished for other people’s lack of training.
    Simon´s last blog .. My ComLuv Profile

  31. Sally Says:

    Hi Simon

    Sorry to disagree but the law does apply to common land, as far as I understand it. This is what the countryside code says:

    # By law, you must control your dog so that it does not disturb or scare farm animals or wildlife. On most areas of open country and common land, known as ‘access land’ you must keep your dog on a short lead on most areas of open country and common land between 1 March and 31 July, and all year round near farm animals.
    # You do not have to put your dog on a lead on public paths, as long as it is under close control. But as a general rule, keep your dog on a lead if you cannot rely on its obedience. By law, farmers are entitled to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals.

    taken from the Countryside Access website

    Remember the land may be common/public land but the livestock are still the property of the farmer.

  32. Matthew Says:


    Firstly not all of us on this blog are Farmers! For my self I am privileged to have permission to shoot on a sheep farmer friends land. As part of our arrangement I have been asked to protect her sheep from ignorant & stupid dog owners such as your self. 3 years ago she lost 8 lives (6 ewes & 2 unborn lambs) to 2 dogs, who’s owner could not be bothered to walk them so just let them out the back gate to exercise themselves.

    I think that your remark that it is way of getting extra money out of people shows your level of understanding of this situation! The compensation will never cover all the income that the life time of an animal can generate.

    Your point about emotional attachment is also completely inaccurate; my friend above has reared many of her flock by hand and can recognise all of sheep by site and name them.

    Though amazingly you do make one good point, the situation should be changed! However I think that it should no longer be a right for people to walk over farmer’s land it should be a privilege that is earned.

    Before you say that I am some kind of uncaring shoot anything that moves killer. I to am a dog owner and he is a pet, though like most Lurches he will chase any thing that moves. So like every responsible dog owner I keep him on a lead when around live stock.

  33. jan mcculloch Says:

    It seems odd to me that some people do not think it is cruel to allow their pet dogs to chase, frighten or maul livestock … and that they do not see the risk involved for their pet dog either – cattle can kick or trample a dog to death … Tups (rams) can batter a dog – it is only reasonable, in my own mind, to take care of ALL animals and prevent injury or death to them all by being a responsible dog owner.

  34. aidentas Says:

    I agree fully that dog owners should be responsible for their animals and are not in a position to complain if their charge are injured or killed whilst traumatising livestock.
    I have 5 acres and three dogs and am keen on getting some sheep to keep the grass at bay and for meat. We have already had a problem with the dogs attacking the chickens which we were hoping to allow free range though are now confined to their chicken tractor. The dogs take a small interest in the neighbors sheep, mostly barking which understandably scares the sheep from grazing our fields and the area around the house (the dogs domain.) Can anyone suggest the best method of getting the dogs to accept the sheep without all the commotion?

  35. Eve Says:

    Can anyone help me with a “worrying” dilemma? This morning I spotted two of my neighbours’ dogs (widely known locally for their “freeranging”) worrying the small flock of ewes grazing the paddock next to mine. I contacted the neigbour who, after about 20 mins, was able to call the dogs off. Should I notify the farmer of what’s happened, risking upsetting relations with my neighbour, or leave well alone now the dogs have been removed? My concern is that if any damage has been caused to the sheep by these dogs, my three labs, who’ve peacefully co-existed for years with the sheep/lambs behind my 5ft wire fences, might get blamed. Can anyone help with this?

  36. Sally Says:

    Hi aidentas, I shall ask my friend, the shepherdess for any suggestions and let you know.

  37. Matthew Says:


    Personally I would tell the farmer, as there is the possibility that the ewes could already be with lamb. Also on a selfish note why should your dogs get the blame for something they have not done.

    Though i can understand you not want to upset your neighbour, I would suggest that you note down in diary what happened and when. Though as you have already done that above simply add this page to your internet favorites incase you need it.

  38. Sally Says:

    Hi Eve

    I can understand why you feel this is a dilemma, it seems like a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation. Obviously this isn’t legal advice, just my opinion.

    First of all, in order for your dogs to be blamed the farmer would have to show that your dogs are able to get out of your garden, have evidence they were the dogs involved (eg video footage, photo’s or an eye witness) and the farmer could only take direct action against your dogs if he found them in with his livestock, so I don’t think you have too much to worry about with your dogs.

    My concern with your comment is that it took your neighbour 20 minutes to get their dogs under control and the ‘freeranging’ suggests this is not a one off where the dogs escaped and were brought under control as soon as possible. This does not bode well if the dogs get back in with the sheep.

    Personally I feel you have a responsibility to let the farmer know so he can go and check his ewes carefully for injuries, it would be dreadful if a ewe was suffering and nobody knew. He also needs to see if anything can be done to stop the dogs from getting into his field again.

    If you tell the farmer then explain your concerns about relations with your neighbour, as you are doing him a favour by letting him know he should have the decency to keep you out of it and approach your neighbour saying a member of his family or a friend saw the dogs in the field and explaining the possible consequences if it happens again.

    Alternatively, if you don’t want to be directly involved you could approach your Local Council Animal Warden and explain what is happening to them, asking them to speak to your neighbour about controlling their dogs and let the farmer know what is going on.

  39. jan McCulloch Says:

    Eve, I would agree with Sal and Mathew – tell the farmer – but ask him to keep his ’source’ confidential. He will more than likely be very grateful to you for the tip off and when he sees you try to keep an eye on his sheep for him he will not want to divulge his source.

    aidentas – your problem with your dogs needs to be addressed from the absolute basics onwards – you need to train your dogs to understand a simple command – this can be either ‘Leave!’ or ‘Lie down!’ or ‘Stay’ ….. the name of the command is not so important …. but ensuring the dog understands the command and obeys it is vitally important.

    Can you ask your dogs to ’stay’ and be confident they will do as you ask?
    For instance …. if you place a biscuit or treat on the floor and ask your dog to ’stay’ or ‘leave’ how confident are you that the dog will obey?
    If your dog was about to run into traffic on a busy road and you shouted ‘Lie down!’ …. how confident are you that your dog will drop like a stone into the lying position, saving his life with his obedience?

    From what you say about the hens, it looks like your dogs are not accepting you as their leader and they are not obeying your commands; you have to start with the very basics, ensuring the dog understands and obeys your commands, before introducing the dog to livestock.

    Working with each individual dog, alone, and fine tuning the training is helpful, before moving on to asking the dogs to do things as a group.

    When you can ask one dog to ‘Stay’ while the other two walk with you, at your heels, you will be reaching a point where you can start to feel confident that you are in control.

  40. Eve Says:

    Many thanks for your wise words, Matthew, Sally and Jan – very much appreciated. Thankfully, all the ewes appear to be uninjured*. They eventually emerged from the gully in the paddock they retreated to and resumed grazing apparently unharmed. They may well be with lamb (raddle marks) as Matthew suggested, so I have now alerted the farmer to the incident using the approach you suggest. Fingers crossed there’ll be no comeback.

    * My labs bed down in my office during the day and they alerted me immediately to what was going on by speeding out of the door & down to the fence to check out the noise. Without their warning, nobody would have known what was happening & more damage might have been caused. (Some of) The dogs done good, I reckon! Thanks again for your guidance, folks.

  41. Sally Says:

    You’re welcome Eve, I do hope the farmer does the decent thing and keeps you out of it. Thank you for letting him know.

  42. Dave Says:

    Hi all,

    As someone who used to live in a villiage surrounded by farms but never owned any pets I completely agree with the law for the protection of livestock.

    I have walked friends dogs before when they have been away and even though they rarely see me, they do listen to me so when i walk them in a local park (no livestock or access to livestock anywhere nearby) I am 100% confident when I let them off the lead.

    Having known many farmers in the area where I used to live to get extremly upset when they loose their animals to irresponsible (and as stereotypical as this sounds) sub-urban dog owners who have no idea about the “rules” of the countryside which for the most part is simple common sense.

    I just saw a piece on the news about a sheep that got mauled by a pet dog a few weeks earlier and only in the last few days as the swelling went down was it discovered the sheep had a broken jaw and couldn’t eat properly and was rapidly loosing weight meaning to stop it from suffering any more the vet had to put it to sleep, devistating for the farmer.

    And the last few months there have been a number of news reports of dogs and owners getting trampled to death by cattle because they were foolish enough to enter fields with their dogs off the leads which scared the cattle, and unlike sheep, they didn’t run away from the source of the commotion.

    Even if I wasn’t from the countryside, the last thing I would do is enter a field full of cattle with a dog, i know this country has public rights of way which sometimes goes through some private land that can’t be blocked but in this day of health and safety culture, the government might be right that people just don’t have any common sense any more and need to be taught how things work in the countryside and what they can and can’t do.

    Well that my opinion


  43. Sally Says:

    Thanks for your opinion Dave. I agree many people think you can say shoo and wave your arms and cattle will run away but that is rarely the case.

  44. alison Says:

    I have just experienced a really horrible incident – for me, the farmer and the sheep and I just want people with dogs to know that, unless they are trained sheepdogs, you can NEVER trust your dogs near livestock. I have always considered myself a responsible dog owner ( over 25 years dog owning in rural area without mishap) and keep my dogs on the lead if I ever see sheep grazing, other dogs and near other people’s property. Living on commonland I have also been walking my dogs around pegged sheep pens to acclimatise them and they haven’t barked or even seemed very interested. Yesterday – knowing that sheep were pegged on the other side of the common from where I was I let my dogs off briefly in a quiet spot well away visually and distance wise from the sheep. Well, without warning one of them raced off, covered the distance in minutes and chased the sheep right out of their pen. My dog had obviously remembered from previous walks where they were (or heard something on the wind?) and instinct cut in. Nobody could make me feel any worse than I already do about this – luckily they were older lambs, not already tupped, and they were all herded and apparently ok although spooked. Even though my dog kept her distance and barked rather than bit I know it would have been my fault entirely if she’d been shot. I just want to say – you may think you know your animal.. but if there are livestock anywhere in reachable distance keep your dog on a lead, the wolf in them comes from nowhere. I have committed what I consider to be a cardinal sin of the countryside and truly feel sick about it. I will never let my dogs off the lead again on commonland, and fully understand the farmer’s anger. Stupid, stupid, stupid!!! Don’t make the same mistake.

  45. Sally Says:

    Hi Alison

    Thank you for sharing your experience … been there got the t-shirt. You think you know your dogs and it’s such a shock when they refuse to listen and instinct takes over. Around livestock leads are the right answer every time.

  46. Clare Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Jennie’s comments (Oct 15th 09) re farmers’ double standards, thay have working dogs who they do not become ‘fond’ of and would not be devastated if they were cruely shoot by another.
    My dog recently attacked a ewe one of many that were on our ground in a paddock which had been fenced off. The farmer was only too happy to have free grazing until the ewe stuck it’s head through the fence and my dog in an opportunistic moment attacked and wounded it while still in our garden!! Why, I now ask myself did the farmer allow ewes to graze so near to a domestic dog in the first place if as so many of you say ewes can become stresses just being near a do! Of course I answered my own Q earlier… FREE grazing!
    As a result the farmer wanted us to have my dog put down which I absolutely refused and would have seen him in court first! Needless to say we paid out a ridiculous sum……all for one ewe…..who eventually would have ended up in the slaughterhouse anyway!
    It was extrememely stressful for all of us.

  47. Sally Says:

    Hi Clare, it is very unfair of you to generalise and say farmers do not become ‘fond of’ their dogs I am particularly attached to mine and know many other farmers who are very attached to their dogs. Also many family pets are dreadfully abused by owners who couldn’t care less about them, so should I say pet owners are not fond of their dogs?

    What would have happened if a child had stuck it’s hand through your fence to pet your dog? It is your responsibility to ensure your fencing is adequate to keep your dog from hurting anything but I agree it is also the farmers responsibility to ensure his sheep are in a securely fenced area.

    The sarcasm about the ewe ending up in the slaughterhouse aside … I am curious as to whether you are a vegetarian?

    As for the farmer wanting your dog to be put down, the issue is not about whose land the dog was on. The dog has now attacked a sheep and shown it is not safe to be around livestock. You say you let the farmer use your land free of charge so I am assuming you live in a rural area, how can you say your dog will not attack livestock in the future?

  48. Jo Says:

    I think it is a shame that their has to be so much animosity between people who love the countryside and animals. I agree that it is unacceptable to allow dogs to chase sheep, but also know that dogs do need to have time off the lead for exercise, especially the working breeds. The term “dog under control” is much used but can mean different things to different people, for some it means must be on a lead.
    What facinates me is that farmers are obviously experts at training their own dogs not to chase livestock and could use this to help their own locals to train the dogs that threaten their sheep. Perhaps the farmers could help to provide a solution that would benefit all. I am particularly keen to have my dog “stock-proof” as he has a good nose and potential for mountain rescue but MUST be stock-proof for this. I have heard that if you put a dog in a stable with a pair of tups this can put the dog off chasing sheep for a lifetime. But is it cruel? I don’t know – but if no animal is harmed and the dog never chases a sheep afterwards, it has to be worth a try. Or are there any farmer/shepherds out there who know how to achieve this? Can you offer any advice? If there is a farmer local to Shropshire/Staffordshire out there who would be willing to help me (and yes, I would pay for it because I would see it as an important part of training my dog) I would love to hear from you. If you google sheep-worrying there is only one trainer who advertises who offers this type of training. Is it any wonder we have problems?

  49. CJ Says:

    This whole worrying sheep is a massive grey area. i have been brought up around farming all my life and understand “Protecting your livestock”. But i have a serious issue when a farmer approaches me in front of my 5 year old niece and threatens to shoot our dog for sheep worrying. The dog was no where near the sheep like i said i know the laws etc. The said farmer has also shot dogs previously that where not worrying his sheep. This law needs looking into and ammending as i am all for protecting your own as such but it has gone too far when “A Farmer” can walk around the open mountain side (Common land) shooting other animals as and when he chooses.
    Any comments would be appreciated.

  50. Matthew Says:


    The law is not grey about when aperson can shoot a dog to protect livestock. From my conversations with firearms officers, a person can only shoot a dog when it is attacking livestock. To shoot a dog afer the incident is against the law. I have found the following web site very usful

    particually this part
    Subject to subsection (4) of this section, a person killing or causing injury to a dog shall be deemed for the purposes of this section to act for the protection of any livestock if, and only if, either—.
    (a)the dog is worrying or is about to worry the livestock and there are no other reasonable means of ending or preventing the worrying; or.
    (b)the dog has been worrying livestock, has not left the vicinity and is not under the control of any person and there are no practicable means of ascertaining to whom it belongs.

  51. Sally Says:

    I do understand what CJ is saying, a neighbour at a farm I used to live in would have shot my dogs had they simply wandered onto his land. He was a brute of a man and seemed to simply enjoy shooting dogs. However, it turned out he only began behaving that way after he woke one morning to a blood bath in his field, due to a couple of local pet dogs on the loose.

    I really wouldn’t like the law to be reveiwed or ammended, dog owners need to keep dogs under control when around livestock but I do think farmers need to be educated in the specifics of the law and what constitutes sheep worrying.

  52. PJ Says:

    I had a situation this morning, where by mistake my children opened the front door to go out in the snow and forgot to shut it in time – consequently my lab got out and chased a farmers sheep. The lab in question has chased his sheep on one previous occasion about 8 months ago when a friend took her for a walk. She was incorrectly accused a third time – she was not even here.

    I whole heartedly agree I am in the wrong my dog should never have chased the sheep. Since the one previous time, I no longer walk my dog in the village, do not let my dog off the lead unless I am on a walk where there are no livestock – there are two near me where I can safely do this so she gets the exercise she needs and no harm can come to sheep. So I have made efforts to ensure this does not happen. Of course I am angry with myself this morning that she slipped out. The farmers naturally are furious with me. She did not touch the sheep but she did chase which I fully understand is not good. The farmers are informing the police.

    I’m a little frustrated that all my efforts have been in vein though at the same time I understand the farmers frustration. If she is not put down by the police, I don’t know where I stand on this, then I will try one of the electric collars. It would really help me if I could work with the farmer – ie when the sheep are not in lambing and I know the collar works we could let her near them and shock her but he is inapproachable.

    So I guess I’m saying I do understand the farmers, I feel very bad this has happen twice in the year I have had the dog. she is my fourth lab and I had no trouble from the previous 3. I believe I am doing everything I can to be a responsible dog owner but feel reading this thread I will only be seen as a villain.

    I am at my wits end – any suggestions would be gratefully received.

  53. Sally Says:

    Oh poor you PJ, really I feel for you it’s a very awkward situation.

    Sorry it’s taken me a few days to reply. Have the police been in touch? If not then I suggest you go to see the community police officer and ask his/her advise on the situation.

    This will achieve a couple of things, it will show you are trying your best to control the situation and heaven forbid should your dog get out again then the police will at least be aware you aren’t just letting her roam about aimlessly. You could also ask the police to be a go between with you and the farmer, if the suggestion about helping to train your dog (and how concerned and responsible you are dropped in for good measure) came from them it may be better received.

    There is the farming method of teaching a dog not to worry sheep … I have never used it because I’m a big softy and I doubt the RSPCA would approve either, so I am not recommending it personally but I am told it works very well and is surely a better alternative than having the dog shot. Simply put your dog in a secure pen with a couple of strapping rams and close your eyes …. the dog will limp out battered, bruised and spend the rest of her life trying to avoid sheep. It would also be a much quicker method than the electric shock treatment (shudders) but I imagine takes a strong stomach.

    With all this said farmers need to understand that neighbours dogs do occassionally get out, as farmers livestock do but we don’t go round shooting them. Farmers must work with the local community to ensure everyone can live quitely and happily, without all the shouting and cursing that goes on.

    If this particular farmer is not approachable you could get in touch with the NFU and ask if they have any members in your area who might be willing to help you train your dog. Not all farmers are belligerent gits but we have more than our fair share I will admit.

  54. Chris Says:

    My new neighbours have erected a sturdy fence around their garden in an attempt to control their sheep worrying dog (which has seriously injured two of my animals in the last few mouths, one of which had to be culled as a result of a broken back).

    So far I haven’t sought compensation for these losses, because a) they recognise their responsibility and are clearly distraught by what’s happened. b) They’ve spent a lot of money, time and effort to try and control ‘the problem’ and c) I don’t want to get our relationship as new neighbours off to a bad start.

    Yesterday, however, one of my sheep stuck it’s head through their stock fencing to nibble grass on their side and immediately found itself in a world of pain! Although I treated it’s wounds immediately it was looking very sorry for itself when I did my rounds this morning and the outlook isn’t promising.

    Where do I stand legally in such a situation? The dog was on it’s owner’s land after all. The problem is that like most sheep, mine invariably find the grass greener on the other side of the fence. It’s not just the animals in the fields either. We live in a moorland environment, where I exercise commoners grazing rights. Quite often, particularly during harsh weather such as we’ve been experiencing lately, animals will move down off the moor and congregate in the lane around our property.

    I’m a dog owner myself with two much loved working collies. As such as I hate the idea of dogs being muzzled, but I’m beginning to think that the only solution is that their dog should wear one whenever it’s outdoors.

    One thing’s for sure, quite apart from the suffering to my animals, I simply cannot continue to sustain these financial losses. Therefore I’ve decided to claim compensation for the next animal that dies. Possibly today! With market prices as high as they are at the moment, I’m confident that an invoice for the loss of the sheep plus the removal of its carcass is going to come as something of a new year shock to my new neighbours.

  55. Wendy Says:

    Hi, can anyone give me any advise….. ami doing the right thing? My husband went out today with our german shepherd for a walk in the woods. He lost sight of the dog for a few minutes then realised he had got through or over a barbed wire fence into the sheep field. By the time he caught the dog there was a dead sheep in the field, y husband couln’t see any blood so doesn’t know if it died of shock or the dog attacked it.
    He then came home, telephoned the famer and left a message for him to call us regarding the fatality.
    Unfortunately the dog insurance doesnt cover worries to livestock and i dont know if any more will be found dead tomorrow. I dread to think of the cost but i’ll have to worry about that when the farmer comes back to us.
    Is there anything else i should do ie report it to the police? Do i have to get my dog destroyed? etc Obviously we will have to keep the dog on a lead at all times in future :(

  56. Sally Says:

    Hi Wendy

    Has the farmer been in touch with you yet?

    First of all I am not aware of any law which would allow your dog to be destroyed now. The only time a farmer can shoot a dog is if he catches it actually worrying sheep and the dog owner is not present or cannot get the dog under immediate control (ie there is no way to stop the worrying until the dog gets bored with it).

    Did your husband touch the dead sheep to see whether it was still warm (therefore had it just died)? I’m asking because it’s the time of year when sheep seem to find delight in dropping down dead for no apparent reason just to pee farmers off, so it may have already been dead.

    Everything really depends on the farmer and whether you are sure your dog was the cause of the sheep’s death. He could choose to sue you or just accept payment for his losses and an assurance to keep the dog on a lead in future.

    One of the most important issues at the moment is to get your dog under control. Go to training classes so that when you or your husband call the dog it WILL respond to your command and return to heel … it takes effort but much better than having your dog shot and will make your walks more enoyable if you can let him/her off the lead in “safe” areas.

  57. Sally Says:

    Hi Chris

    Well done on the attitude, you have been very patient with the situation and your neighbours appear to have taken responsibility.

    I can’t advise on the legal standing, think you’re best to see a solicitor for that or if you’re a member of the NFU they will be able to advise you.

    I certainly don’t see how it could be classed as sheep worrying if the dog is on it’s own property, so could you sue if your livestock get onto their property and are attacked? It’s an odd situation and best to get professional advice.

    What sort of stock fencing have they put up, which allows the sheep to get it’s head through? Sounds like it needs to be a smaller gauge fence or even hexagonal wire netting to stop anything getting through from either side.

    As you say the new neighbours have done their best to control the situation, which is more than many do, so what about asking them to add some hexagonal wire netting to the lower part of the fence to stop sheep grazing through … maybe even split the cost with them as it’s got to be cheaper in the long run than the costs you have had so far.

    The only other alternative I can think of is double fencing the garden (with a 4 foot space between fences), it would look a little odd but their dog would be unable to attack anything.

    It’s certainly better to continue to work with your neighbours to solve the problem but I would get professional advise on your rights and responsibilities.

  58. Wendy Says:

    Hi Sally, thank you for your reply. No the farmer hasn’t got in touch yet and No my husband didnt touch the sheep to see if it was warm but when i asked him that he said its funny you say that because it did actually look rather stiff considering it had only just died. May be our dog didnt actually kill it (i sooo hope not) We discussed it today and decided that a training class is now a priority, he is only 2 years old and in general a pretty obedient dog, the recall is obviously his main problem and needs to be addressed immediately.

  59. Rebecca Says:

    I rehomed a dog yesterday evening from a rescue centre. Imagine my horror when I was attempting to leave the house the dog shot past me and the pushchair and headed into the field next door to us and started hassling the sheep!
    I could not get her to listen to me or come back…It was so distressing, but I live next door to farmland and the sheep are in the field next to our house over winter. Since having her she has always been on the lead, but she escaped and was determined. I was so shocked. It is a natural instinct and I was horrified. I dont know what to do now for the best as she may escape again. I guess she will have to go back into rescue regrettably. :(

  60. Sally Says:

    Hi Wendy

    As the farmer has not got back to you it MAY mean the sheep was already dead and he was aware of it. At least you had the decency to call him and let him know what had happened.

    Good luck with the obedience classes … just remember they WANT you to be the boss.

  61. Sally Says:

    Hi Rebecca

    Sorry I’m confused, you say you rehomed her yesterday and then say since you have had her … so I’m not sure how long she has been with you.

    What she needs is training. If she only came to you yesterday then she will be overexcited and has no bond with you (ie no idea you are the boss) so of course she will not respond to you.

    I would suggest either training classes or if your neighouring farmer is willing take her to “meet” the sheep, it’s a long process before you can trust a dog around sheep completely but it may curb her chasing instincts.

    Unfortunately training will take time, so at first perhaps you can close the dog in a room or cage (you could probably get a travel cage from Freecycle either free or very cheaply) and simply shut the dog in when you are going out of the door or if you want to take the dog out then put her in the cage until you get her lead on.

    Time and patience is required, as with all dogs and with rescue dogs you don’t know, it may be the first time she has ever seen sheep.

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