North Stoke, Gloucestershire
Over the last three years we have had 10 attacks from dogs on our sheep. Breeds of dogs involved have varied from labradors and cocker spaniels to lurchers and a saluki. The majority of these attacks have occurred in fields or on footpaths adjacent to the fields of sheep, with the owners not being aware of the whereabouts of their dogs until it is too late. Other situations arise when dog walkers enter a field assuming that because there were no sheep in that field yesterday there won't be any in there today. Injuries to the sheep have been severe wounds to legs and throats, death and, if ewes are pregnant, it can also lead to them aborting.
What I feel some dog walkers don't understand is that farmers see the real effects of dogs chasing sheep, as they have to deal with the consequences and injuries to their livestock. So when farmers stop you when you're out walking your dog and ask you to put your dog on a lead, we are not trying to spoil your walk in the countryside but are fearful that your dog will attack or worry our livestock.
When I see a dog and its owner coming through the farm I see that dog as a loaded weapon, a potential threat to my sheep. The dog may be the most well behaved dog in the country but I don't know that. The owner may be the nicest person on the planet (as one dog walker once told me) but I don't know that.
It is not my intention to alienate dog walkers but to educate them. The two most common phrases I hear are (when asked to put a dog on a lead) 'my dog doesn't chase sheep' and (once an attack has taken place) 'they have never done that before'.
I know how well-behaved dogs can be. I train my own sheepdogs and I have competed and judged working gundog competitions. There are many good, well-behaved dogs out there unfortunately their reputation is being sullied by a number of dog owners with poorly trained, badly behaved dogs which run around the countryside not under close control.
Not putting your dog on a lead and not keeping your dog under close control can lead to the suffering of an innocent victim - the sheep.