Dog attacks are all too common nowadays. You see it far too often, the images shared across social media of mutilated sheep laying stricken and decaying in a field. Or worse, a sheep still clinging to life with parts missing. This happens because of irresponsible dogs owners who simply can’t follow the rule of keeping dogs on leads in or close by fields with livestock in. But, surely this works both ways? I had an incident recently that left me wondering what the farmer was thinking.
Dogs attacks are too common
Before I get into my experience, I do want to address the issue of those people not controlling their dogs around livestock.
No matter how much you trust your dog (or dogs), or how well controlled they are off the lead, there’s no excuse for allowing them to be loose around livestock. My own dogs have never shown any interest in sheep. We live in the countryside and often take public rights of way through fields of sheep – with the dogs on the lead. It’s just not worth the risk.
But the issue of dog attacks on livestock, sheep especially, is a growing problem in rural communities. The threat of farmers being able to legally shoot dogs that are off lead on their land doesn’t even seem to be a deterrent.
It’s the few spoiling it for the many – once again.
I can’t imagine what farmers think when they see people heading onto their land with dogs, regardless of the fact there is a right of way. But, that does excuse what happened to me recently.
The tables turned
I love my long Sunday runs with Duke, our black Labrador. The exercise is almost secondary to the job of running along the highways and byways of North Yorkshire. Even when we’re on road routes, they’re quiet country lanes and pretty much traffic free.
Recently I was on one such run. Duke was off the lead even though we were on a country lane, the only vehicle we encountered was a cyclist. After a while, I noticed a field ahead that had temporary electric fencing around it, and no hedge or other barriers. A sure sign around these parts that there were sheep in the field.
Even before I had seen the flock, I had Duke recalled and on his lead. Then I spotted a black and white animal moving toward us. It was on the road-side of the electric fence and it became clear it was a Border Collie sheepdog. I scanned around for any sign of the owner but couldn’t see anyone. Although Duke was attached via my running waist belt, I gripped the lead just in case.
The collie was not alone. Two more appeared on the other side of the electric fence and one was growling and barking aggressively. I knew that fence was not going to keep it from getting to Duke and me.
The second two dogs leapt the fence and suddenly I had three border collies snapping and nipping at Duke and me. I am a confident person around dogs and show authority rather than fear. At first, I just kept running and not acknowledging their presence, all the time looking around for any sign of their master.
Then I spotted a farmer on the other side of the field of sheep. He was looking over but making no attempt to recall his dogs. I’d had enough.
I stopped, turned toward the snapping pack and shouted an authoritarian “GEROFF”. The lead dog was still snapping at Duke, so I was forced to use my foot to persuade it to change its actions. Yes, I kicked it off.
All three dogs got the message and retreated to their field. The farmer saw what happened but made no attempt to come and check on me or my dog. After all, I was on a public road and his dogs had just attacked us. I’m sure he was amused by the whole incident. I was not.
Farmers and their dogs
This is the first time I have experienced something like this. Generally, farmers and their dogs are very good with the public on their land around here providing you are responsible.
I am always in awe when I see a sheepdog being worked by a farmer. The control they have with whistles and words is amazing. That’s why I know the farmer I encountered could easily have called off his dogs, even from a distance. So why didn’t he?
Was he trying to prove a point? Was he trying to show some authority and deter me and my dog?
The truth is I’ll never know unless I encounter him again. The route I was on isn’t one I take that often, though I am tempted to do so more now on the chance that I come across this farmer again.
If farmers want dogs owners to be responsible and stop dog attacks on sheep by keeping dogs under control then they should be doing the same and setting that example.
What about you? Have you ever encountered an unpleasant farmer with his dogs(s)?
Thanks for reading