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This is a question I've been meaning to ask for some time...

I'm totally in awe because everybody here seems to have such model dogs: well trained, jolly nice, gentle, sweet natured, relaxed, good with everybody including the pet mouse etc.etc. But hand on heart: Has anybody here had any real problems with the darker side of our dogs' nature? In particular I'm interested to hear from IS owners who have experienced sheep worrying or chasing livestock/wildlife... And if so what did you do about it?


The reason I'm asking is that Errol can be left alone with the cat, pet rabbits, chicken etc but cannot be taken anywhere near sheep! And with the Council now introducing sheep grazing into every public park and local nature reserve this has become a real problem...




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Good one, Catherine! The only time our MC/Tartuffe would ignore my recall was when sheep were around! He could not resist running towards them. They would start moving too, when they saw him, and the chase was on! Usually I allowed our dogs to run free in the countryside, but not when sheep are around.

Hi Catherine,

YES, my reasonably trained, gentle and sweet setters do have a very dark side!

I have had trouble with sheep, chicken and ducks. Fortunately my own sheep, chicken and ducks, so I only had to deal with the dogs and not a very angry person at my dogs - beside me, of course!

I used a long line to try and correct the behaviour. I take my dogs on a long line to the park where my sheep are, step on the end and call them before they reach the end of the line, then praise when they came. I admit that negative reinforcement helped, so i had someone spraying them with water when they were reluctant to come to me. same with the chicken and ducks. 

Also, if you can find a brave sheep that will not run from your dog, that is also very helpful! I had the luck of coming across a crazy sheep that ended up chasing my dogs - the sheep had no horns, so there was no major concern on them getting hurt. Since that sheep chased them they are not so eager to run after sheep. 

My problem is not totally solved and I will never trust my dogs alone near sheep. I can keep Pitanga near me for sure, Romã staying put needs lots of shouting at her to STAY, and I get them on a leash as soon as possible if we happen to meet sheep. Goats generally don't give dogs a chance, so they also now better than bothering my goats.

Sheep definitely a 'no go' for Hamilton he running for all he is worth on one side of the fence and about 200 sheep running equally as fast on the other. Recall didn't come into it there was no way Hamilton was coming back until he'd reached a dead end. Ducks (our own) are also fair game especially at hatching time!! So yes a darker side to our ISs we also have a problem with Hamilton at the vets, the vet is very good with him and has christened him Mr Grumpy, bad experience with the previous vet.  
Yes, i have found that Jensen and sheep don't mix well, he managed to get under the fencing and into the field where the sheep were once, I have to admit that despite how mad I was at him (his normal excellent recall gone) I was quite impressed as he managed to split the sheep into two groups and then herd them back into one!!! Good job the farmer didn't see it, despite him being a friend I think I would be minus a dog!! So now he's never let off next to that field. Have no idea what Elise would do around sheep, Amber wouldn't bother as she is the only one that listens 100% of the time no matter what the situation!!

I used to have an IS called Wiliam who had lots of faults and was a very macho dog.I thought I'd get him used to sheep and take him to our, now long gone,cattle market.He was terrified of the sheep but,boy, did he want to have a go at the cattle!

My three have never met sheep.But I think Arthur would chase them.I don't think the other two would bother.

I have a friend who has a Border terrier,Ted ,he also had a Border Collie.He was walking them in a field when he suddenly realised that the farmer had put sheep in there.The Collie wasn't bothered but Ted took off and chased a sheep into a deep river.He had hold of the sheep by her fleece .My friend had to jump in,neck deep ,and drag the dog off and get the sheep safely out.Luckily it wasn't hurt or pregnant and ran off to the curious flock waiting for her.

You just never know!

The only time we have had a problem like this was once on holiday, we decided to go to 'the official Dog Walk' there were a few of us and all together about 10 dogs  (irish, red & whites, a lab and a crossbreed), the dogs were all running off the lead and there were also lots of sheep. I cant remember much of what happened except chaos!!!!!!!!!!!
My dogs have never come across sheep so I don't know what they would do. I have one who was a dreadful chicken killler but I caught her at it a few times and now I can call her off when she gets that look in her eye. She is a very brave dog though and once took on a rodeo bull that the neighboring farmer had put in his paddock. I didn't realise it was there and it started to come after me and she grabbed it's tail and was sort of swinging off it. The bull was distracted and tried to get around at her but she was too fast. I still don't know how she managed to get away without being hurt but we both got out safely. Didn't go for a walk in that paddock again!!

Hi Catherine,

Ours stalk pidgeons and gulls in the garden, thankfully they have not caught any yet. Murphy is fine but Meg will chase rabbits till she drops if given the chance.



I didn't think birds would count as they are gun dogs! Fred has caught a blackbird but dropped it when I realised,it flew away.Ellie has caught a squirrel, to her and the squirrel's surprise! The squirrel was unhurt.Arthur,as yet,hasn't caught anything but is fascinated by pigeons and will chase them as they fly across the sky,he has learnt his lesson though as the last time he was so busy looking skywards that he ran straight into a fence! He looked at me as if it was my fault!
My young dog actually caught a pigeon the other day. I don't know how he managed it but thankfully he hasn't gone after the chickens.... yet!

Phew, I admit that I am glad to hear that livestock and wildlife chasing is not as uncommon amongst ISs as I had feared. Not that it should be encouraged or considered acceptable behaviour. However, compared to others Errol really seems to have moved over to the Dark Side: when still only 8months old he managed to bring down a lamb! I didn’t see how it happened as he had disappeared out of eyesight. By the time I found them both the lamb was alive but on the ground so it could have been simply exhausted or disorientated. Errol was excitedly jumping around barking just as he would trying to animate another dog. Unfortunately it took me ages to get closer – the field was enormous and the wind blowing - so when I finally reached them Errol was about to start tearing at the poor creature’s leg. It was really distressing but somehow I managed to remain calm, asked him to ‘leave’ and ‘sit’ and strangely enough that’s exactly what he did! It was quite surreal. Still the damage was done. It took me ages to locate the owner of the flock as many farmers lease grazing land on the Downs. I got away lightly as the farmer seemed strangely understanding and was just glad I had reported the incidence to him. I’m aware that he could have reported me to the Police and rightly so.


Obviously since then sheep were a no-go area but it seems impossible to avoid them around here. Most recently Errol managed to get through a large hole in a fence onto a field which had always been used for cattle grazing (which he fears) but suddenly there they were: sheep. He chased the flock and separated a ewe but ran back towards me when he was confronted by another walker with a Staffie and I was able to put him on the leash. The fellow walker gave me a stern lecture and accused me of having walked my dog off leash through the herd which was completely fabricated. I was so angry, both with myself, the dog and the whole situation… I’m also highly embarrassed about my stupidity and experienced dog owners will no doubt tell me off for being irresponsible but in my defence I did not know that the livestock had been rotated and I had considered the area to be safe.


Rest assured I’m no longer taking any chances and have signed up for 1-2-1 tuition with a dog trainer with focus on recall, distraction and desensitisation. Errol is currently getting used to wearing a Citronella Spray Collar – well, I’d say he’s used to it already. He stretched his neck out willingly this morning even though the thing fits really tight. We have yet to put it into action though. I really am not sure whether my efforts will help in any way or whether I’m just wasting my money here but anything is worth a try. In the meantime it’s the long line only for the young man….

Hi Catherine

We live on 10 acres we have sheep and a horse and there is a dairy farm across the road so our IS in the past and present are ok with everything as they are used to it all, occasionally my present IS will chase the horse for a short while until I scream at him.  we had geese at one stage no one worries them they rule the area




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