Every Tuesday morning after a bank holiday and most Monday mornings we get the phone call sometimes there are several. The person is extremely upset and it is justified they have had a very distressing experience. Their dog has chased stock or sometimes deer and it has gone very badly.
In most cases the dog is 2 – 3 years old. About 70% have been re-homed or come from a rescue organisation. Around 30% of the people have had since the dog since it was a puppy. It is often collies and sheepdogs and their crosses. That could be because they are common in the UK and their herding instinct makes them more likely to chase. Sometimes it is a gundog breed Labrador or Spaniel, and occasionally it is a sight hound, husky or a terrier but less often as their owners are more often aware of the greater risk with them.
Usually it has been a great shock to the owners, they say “he has never done anything like that before” or “he is really good in training classes” but they have missed the early warning signs and not done the correct sort of training.
We have a very high success rate with solving these cases especially where people have commitment, time and enthusiasm.
We have had cases where the dogs have been threatened with being euthanized because their chasing is so bad and we have been able to train them to walk through stock on a loose lead. This booklet is a guide to how to achieve the best that is possible with your dog. Our aim is to keep it as practical and as simple as possible without going into lots of dog behavioural theory and jargon.
However we find that some people want their dogs to be free spirits. They want their dogs to run free and wild with their canine friends. Well that is allowing them to be feral dogs that are just transported to meet the rest of their pack at their hunting ground and in this overcrowded modern and dangerous world they cannot do that.
If you take your dogs anywhere near any sort of stock, farm, domestic or wild animals it is extremely important that they can behave and not cause any sort of distress or injury to the other animals.
In the UK farmers are permitted to shoot dogs if they believe their animals are at risk from the dogs. Many dogs are seriously injured chasing horses each year and there are increasing numbers of cases of dogs causing serious injury to horses and riders. Cows are now kept in very large herds that will move towards dogs and their owners sometimes charging with serious and sometimes fatal consequences.
In recent years there have been reports of dogs being attacked by wild boar.
Chasing wild animals and even cats can lead dogs in extremely dangerous situations and there are many cases of this leading to very serious injuries and fatalities. Any vet or dog insurance company will confirm this.
There are several laws under which people can be prosecuted depending on what their dogs chase. The only thing that prevents more cases being brought to court is the difficulty in providing evidence and the authorities lack of resources.
It is possible to train dogs to ignore other animals and to have a reasonable level of confidence that they will not chase stock. How much training is required depends on the dogs breeding and previous experience.
If your dog has a very strong herding or chasing instinct you can never be one hundred percent sure that they will not chase stock and you must always be on your guard and if in any doubt keep the dog on the lead. The consequences are so serious it is not worth taking any chances.
It is best to get help from an experience dog trainer who has trained dogs with chasing problems, but if you cannot please use this guide with careful thought and due consideration.
Many dog behaviours are modified hunting behaviours. Chasing is one of them.
Hounds and terriers are actually hunting. In some cases to hold the game at bay and give voice until the hunter get there and sometimes to do the killing.
Gundogs are searching for, indicating, flushing and bringing the prey back.
When the pastoral breeds are herding a flock they are circling the sheep as quarry, bringing them back to the pack leader to be killed, or they are singling out a weak or injured animal to be killed.
It is only the training, discipline and control of the dog’s owner that prevents the kill.
Selective breeding has emphasised which hunting behaviours are prominent for each breed group. Stock chasing dogs are simply using these instinctive behaviours in a way that is inappropriate.
That is inappropriate to us. To the dog it is a natural behaviour and we have to control and manage the dog and offer it safer and more rewarding alternatives.
Chasing dogs get tremendous satisfaction from doing it. It is impossible to stop them wanting to chase even if we can physically stop them. It is only possible to influence what it is that they chase.
It is extremely important to understand that chasing is an innate or instinctive behaviour. That is a behaviour the dog is born with. It is genetically derived from its parents and ancestors. It is part of the dogs make up have the need to chase. We cannot change that. Some dogs have a greater need to chase than others. How good the dog becomes at chasing depends on how much practice it gets. The more practice it gets the better it becomes. How often it chases will reflect on how much success it gets. More success encourages more chasing.
What the dog chases is a learnt behaviour so we can change (or train) what it is the dog chases. If a dog chases something and starts to be successful in completing the part of the chase that rewards it then it will want to chase even more. It can be like playing a slot machine or computer game a little bit of success will spur the dog on to try harder and more frequently.
The best time to train a dog what to chase is before they start decide for themselves what is good to chase and what is not, and before they come into contact with other animals, joggers, bikes etc.
It is best not to allow them to chase anything at all and definitely not anything you do not want them to or that will end up being dangerous for them.
Training should be done in a fun way. Make everything a game. We want fast and reliable responses not competitive obedience accuracy.
As well as having high value rewards, toys or treats you must be very happy when the dog is with especially when it has just returned to you.
You must be the centre of your dog’s world and the area around you the safest best place to be.
It is extremely important that the primary bond a dog has is with its owner not other dogs, animals or people. If the dog would prefer to be with other dogs or people than be with owner then contact with other dogs and people must be stopped until the bond is developed. This usually takes between 4 to 6 weeks. It will take longer if not enforced completely. The owner must feed, water and walk the dog and play training games with it frequently. Several times a day for short periods is the best way. Once a day is the bare minimum needed. Training once a week in a class is almost useless. After about 4 to 6 weeks there will be a connection between the owner and dog. This can be tested as the dog will want to be with owner more than anything else. When the connection has been made supervised contact with other dogs may be allowed for short periods of time (10-20 minutes). If the owner cannot call the dog away with one call when walking away then contact must be stopped again.
Toy or Treat.
It is extremely unusual for dogs that like to chase not to like playing with toys. In fact we would go further and say that in the cases we have seen where the dog liked chasing but not playing with toys the real situation was that the handler was not good at playing with toys with their dog. This was most likely a contributing factor in the dog chasing. The dogs had a strong innate desire to chase and play but were not getting that sort of stimulation from the owner. So when they got the opportunity to chase something they were unable to resist the temptation.
Treats are usually not enough incentive to override a dog’s desire to chase. They are good to use for some sorts of training but not where we are trying give the dog something more stimulating than chasing. In the case where the dog likes treats but not toys try using a bag with treats in it. You can buy or make them. Some dogs respond better to fluffy or feathery toys. Most dogs respond well to toys on a line that is dragged in jerky movements along the ground. If you stop your dog doing other activities but have short sessions of getting it to play with a toy it will soon be an enthusiastic player. Usually dogs that want to chase will take to playing with a toy quickly but where it is taking a bit longer people will give up too easily. Keep at it and keep it fun. If your dogs is not being allowed to chase or play in other situations he will eventually play with you and you toy. People will try to command or force the dog hold the toy. This usually ends up with the person getting annoyed and frustrated and putting the dog off the idea of playing with the owner at all. Animals being chased do not do that. There is also a risk with some dogs that it could lead to aggression.
Children and young people are usually much better at getting dogs to play but of course there are risks and you should not put anyone in a position where they may get bitten.
The best toys to use are the tugging type. The problem with balls and frisbees are once the dogs have them they can play with them and self reward on their own away from their owner. Also the reward is mainly about going away from the handler. Balls can be used to start the dog wanting to play with toys, but very quickly keep the toy or the dog on a line so the dog cannot run of with it.
Tugging toys are excellent for developing interaction with the handler. Dogs can be trained to be obsessive about playing tugging games and their desire to play them will be greater than their desire to chase. Once the dog is obsessive about it's tuggy toy there are lots of stimulating searching and retrieving games you can play with it. These are a great substitute for chasing.
Some people do not like tugging a toy with their dog because the dog starts to grip onto the toy and will not release it. The best way to deal with this is to have two toys of the same value to the dog. When the dog is gripping too much or is starting to growl, let go of the toy and use the other toy to tug. Have good a good command to tug (get it, hold, play, tug) and a good command to release the toy (give, out, drop). Have a 5 second cycle of play tugging and release. 5 second tugging release, 5 seconds no tugging, repeat for 3 or 4 cycles.
Training your dog is much more important than exercise. Yes it needs exercise but if it is off free running and exploring the world it is finding opportunities to self reward and chasing maybe included. Free running is for dogs that are well behaved and have learnt not to chase. If you have an hour to walk your dog you have time to train your dog.
Walking the dog must be structured. Ie If you are going for a 1 hour walk.
The first 10 minutes must be controlled walk on the lead not allowing the dog to pull and making the dog stop regularly in sit, down and stand.
The next 10 - 20 minutes should be active training, recall, send away, searching, retrieving. If it is not somewhere secure it must be on a long line.
The next 10 – 20 minutes can be down time for the dog to do its own thing if you are in safe area or somewhere it can be trusted not to chase
The last 10 -minutes must be a controlled walk home.
Just walking for hour and letting the dog do its own thing lets the dog have too many opportunities to make up its own mind about what it is allowed to do and self reward for it.
The most important thing we train a dog to do is to come back to us and let us put its lead on. All dogs should come straight back to their owner on the first call no matter what the situation or distraction is. If they will not do that they should not be off their lead.
The owner must have a brilliant recall before they are allowed near anything that will trigger chasing.
For recall training start in the home by dividing the dog’s food for the day into as many small portions as possible, some can be used as treats in training. Take some of the food somewhere and call the dog to come and get them. If the dog will not leave you when you have the food great, get someone to hold the dog while you go to another part of the house then call the dog. When it gets to you it can have its treat but it is important that you let the dog know you are absolutely delighted that the dog has come to you.
A few special treats such as meat and cheese can be included. You can also have treats that you can eat yourself, you get great attention from a dog when you are eating if you share a little with your dog you will get fantastic attention.
Have a command that means come here to me as quickly as possible because it is going to be wonderful when you get here, and then you must make sure that it is wonderful with a very high value rewards.
Do not use a wait or stay while training the recall. If you going to do a dog activity that includes the dog being trained to wait do it totally separately. We do not want any doubt in the dogs mind that when you call it has to come immediately. Training a wait and a recall at the same time causes confusion and stress, and leads to problems with both of them. They can easily be combined when they are both one hundred percent reliable.
You can use a bag to keep your treats in that can also be used as a toy, it will help to get your dog to associate the toy with rewards.
Then do the same thing in as many different locations as possible. Start in the garden or another quiet area then very gradually move into areas with a few more distractions. Still use the dog’s food and treats. You can vary the reward but make sure it is high value.
As a separate activity have games with tugging toys with your dog. If you have dog that is not very interested in toys you can still use this process to get a brilliant recall and it is very unlikely that your dog will be a chaser.
Introduce playing with the toy as part of the recall game this should be as exciting and as much fun as possible.
You can then start calling the dog and running away and trying to hide from it.
Get someone to hold the dog on a short trailing line while you run away while holding the toy or treat bag behind you. When you are about 10m away call the dog and your assistant should release it, keep running it will not be long before the dog gets to you, be very pleased when the dog gets to you and reward it with a lot of praise and tugging game and or treats. Gradually increase the distance from the dog before calling it and the assistant releasing it, but not so far or where there is anything that might distract the dog and prevent success.
Sometimes go out of sight while someone holds your dog, when the dog shows the first signs of mild distress your assistant should let you know and you can come back into view and call your dog.
Play the recall games frequently and in as many situations as possible.
Until your dog is reliable playing the recall game keep it on a long lead or line while playing. So it is not able to run away from you. Every time it runs away from you or does not come when called it is learning how to avoid you and your inability to do anything about it is being reinforced.
Try not to constantly call your dog, you call it once and it should come to you immediately. If your dog doesn’t come to you run away or hide. Do not chase after it, and do not let it know your are disappointed or upset.
Leave a short trailing line 1m-2m on the dog so that if it fails to come to you your assistant can get hold of the line and either restrain the dog or tie it up until it shows mild distress then you can return and do a short recall and reward the dog.
If the dog will not come in from outside the home do not spend ages calling it. Call it once and close the door. Let it see you start to eat a tasty snack, then let the dog in and let it have some the snack. The next time you call the dog in from outside it should come to share the snack.
A very good exercise to teach the dog control and discipline is stop on recall. The best way to teach it is with a toy but a treat will do. Have someone hold your dog move about 10m away, call the dog to you and hold the toy up above your head. The first time it will get quite close before it stops, but when it stops throw the toy to the dog and let the dog get it. As you keep practising the dog will stop further away from you. Eventually you will be able to stop the dog by just raising your hand without the toy. At this point you can add in the stop command. Don’t overdo it at least half the time call the dog to you and reward vigorously. The recall is always more important than the stop or any other exercise.
We can teach recall from chase when the dog is coming back every time we call it and it is enthusiastically playing with our toy. That is we can start to train the dog to come back to us in the same way when it has the chance to chase something.
Start with a toy the dog may chase. Get someone to run away from you and the dog trailing a toy that the dog likes behind them. Send the dog after the toy but before the dog gets it that toy should be removed and then you must call the dog back where you have a higher value reward, a better toy, treat and a very happy you.
Even if it does not go perfectly at first you must always be the best and most rewarding place for the dog to be.
Introduction to other stimuli to chasing can only be done when you are confident you have trained the recall from chase. It is best done with and experienced trainer and if you have any doubt about being successful do not do it.
It MUST be done in a safe way. If stock are used they must be penned or fenced safely away from the dog. It is also best to use stock that has been trained for the job and that are very used to dogs.You must not use any animals without the owner’s permission or in any way that is unsafe or stressful to them.
Stock in a small pen are best as they will not be able to move and stimulate the dog. Start at a distance far enough away from the stock that they are not stimulating the dog. Do the previous training exercises.
Very gradually move closer to the stock while still doing the exercises. If the dog gets excited by the stock move away and do the exercises again. Do not do it for too long. If you have done a successful series of exercises within sight of the stock without the dog being stimulated stop. Move closer next time. Eventually you will be able to let the stock move about. Use the watch me exercise to keep the dogs attention and practise the recall from chase and stop on recall exercises.
If a bike rider or jogger is to be used they must be fully briefed about what to do and must always be a least twice as far away from the dog than the long line or lead will allow. On the initial attempts as the dog approaches they must stop and be perfectly still to remove the trigger, while the handler runs in the opposite direction calling the dog and displaying the toy/ treat bag. After this has been successful many times then the dog can be gradually moved closer to the jogger, or biker.
The dog must be on a lead or long line attached to a good quality well fitted, collar or harness.
As we have a higher viewing aspect and better eyesight for distance and colour than dogs in some situations we can see potential chase victims before the dogs. In this situation we can start to allow the dog a little free running. Dogs hearing and particularly sense of smell are much better than ours so we should not rely on seeing danger before they know by scent and hearing that there is something there. Dogs have a better field of vision than us so may see chase victims behind us. They can also see tiny movements that we may miss that will trigger a chase, and they have much better night vision. In these situation where the dog may be aware of the target before us we must keep a dog on a lead.
Once you have got the dog to the stage where you can let the dog run free it is very important that it can be put on the lead very quickly. It can be difficult to get hold of a dogs collar find the D ring and clip the lead on. Some dogs become wary of having their collars held. Nearly all leads can be made into a noose by threading the lead back through the holding loop. Teach you dog to put its head into the noose on command in exchange for a treat. You then have the dog on the lead quickly and you can clip it on when it is convenient.
Before going near any stock teach the playing with toys and recall exercises as for chasing and also the following three exercises.
Hold a treat or toy up by your face whichever is most suitable for the situation. At some point the dog will look at your face when it does let it have the toy or treat. The dog may make eye contact with you but it will only be for a fraction of a second as they find it uncomfortable. When the dog looks at your face as soon as you put your hand up start using a command, eventually you will be able to get the dog to watch you with a verbal command without putting your hand up.
Another useful thing to teach the dog is to touch your hand. Start by holding a treat between your thumb and forefinger and offering it to the dog. The dog is sure to accidentally touch your hand as it reaches for the treat. As soon as it touches your hand give it the treat. After a very few times the dog will touch your hand asking for a treat at this point you can start to use a command for your dog to touch your hand and then reward it with a treat from your treat bag or pocket.
Teach the dog to lie down on command by holding a treat in a closed hand on the ground as soon as the dog lies down release the treat to it. Increase the length of time the dog stays down by giving treats for slightly increased periods of time lying down. When the dog is doing this reliably start the down exercise but look for the dog relaxing and then very calmly reward the dog. For example when it rests its head.
The first step in socialising dogs with stock is to do training exercises with the stock in the distance. Any exercise that keeps the dogs attention on you and requires the dog to concentrate will do but complex exercises like agility are better. The recall and playing with toys and retrieve and search exercises are ideal. Very gradually move closer to the stock while doing the exercises. If the dog is distracted by the stock move away until it will do the exercise. If it has lost concentration take a time out then try again if that does not work stop and try again another day.
When the dog can do the complex exercises about 10 meters from the stock follow the same process using the hand touch, watch me and lie down and relax.
While doing the socialising always consider safety. The stock must not get alarmed or injured and if the dog should behaviour inappropriately and get a reward however unintentional it will set your training program back. Keep your dog on a line or lead and have fence between the stock and your dog and you.
The equipment we prefer to use is a plain collar, harness lead and long line.
Use a plain smooth well fitting collar. Check chains and half checks cause too much damage to dogs necks and throats and come off too easily.
A harness is ideal to use with a long line. There are a lot of very good harnesses available that are snug fitting, comfortable, strong and unlikely to come off. They are less likely to cause injury to a dog when the long line snags than a collar.
The lead or long line must be strong enough to hold the dog and the handler must be able to let it slip through their hand. Beware of nylon or other materials that easily cause rope burns.A ten meter tracking line is the best we have found so far. Lunge lines for horses are good for holding on to but can be heavy and hold water in wet conditions.Skill is also required in handling the line and it must be practiced before using it around stock.
Before using a flexi lead the following points must be taken into account.
The clips can break releasing the dog in dangerous situation and in this situation the line can retract very fast and the broken clip can hit and injure the handler. We have also heard of the handle and mechanism breaking up. If you want to use a flexi lead ensure it is very good quality.
The line can form a loop and the dog can step in it, then it retracts snaring the dog. This can also sometimes happen to the handler or the stock. Skill and timing is required to use a flexi lead and you must practise with it before being using it around stock.
Clickers can be very useful tools when teaching the exercises particularly with dog that are very sensitive to voice tone and body language. But they are another item to carry and have ready for use. The fact that they detach the dog from our voice and body language can be an advantage but it can also reduce their effectiveness as ways of rewarding our dogs.
Whistles are for use in situations where our voice will not carry far enough, or where people have quiet voices. Your dog should not be further way from you than the length of a lead or long line. It is also another item to carry and to have ready to use. So a whistle should only be used where there is a very good reason. If there is a good reason it must be used as just another form of command and trained away from stock first.
Head collars are not appropriate on their own as they are not secure enough and can be pulled off There are now claims they damage the dogs eyes leading to glaucoma if not fitted correctly. They also can hinder playing with toys. A big problem with them is getting one that fits your dog correctly as they are usually sold in sealed bags. If you can get one that fits well it can be useful while you are training.
The best way to use them is to have a lead with clips at each end and have one end on the harness and one end on the head collar.
It is best not to allow puppies or young dogs to have any sort of access to stock until you have good control of them, and are confident with their basic training. Do not allow them to chase anything but you and your toys. Ensure they have a reliable recall from and early age.
Once the dog and the handler have good control you can start moving towards the penned stock. As soon as the dog shows any interest in the stock, move away from them, calling the dog and rewarding it with a high value reward. You must be sure that the dog has returned physically and mentally to the handler before rewarding it. If you reward too soon when the dog is still focused on the stock then you can reward the behaviour you are trying to prevent. Then go through the basic training exercises with the stock in the distance. Continue with them gradually moving closer to the stock. Make sure you time the reward so the dog gets it for being with you not for chasing the stock.
If your dog has already chased stock and particularly if it has caught any animal you can still use the previous techniques. It is absolutely critical you stop all chasing and the only chasing games it plays are with you.
Positive punishment and aversion training aids such rattle bottles, discs, spray and electic collars will sometimes give the appearance of working in the short term but it never lasts.
It is very easy to misuse them and make the situation considerably worse.
Do not put a spray collar on a dog and go walking near stock in the hope it will solve the problem.
Using aversion techniques you can very quickly go from a simple chasing problem to having a serious behaviour problem. These techniques should only be used as a very last resort and only with expert help. For example if the aversion is used a couple of times in the same place ie running past a gate the dog will associate it with the gate not what it is chasing. If the aversion is used at the same time as the handler is jumping and down and shouting then the dog will associate it with the handlers sudden extreme behaviour. Electric shock collars are banned in Wales with good reason. They always cause more problems than they solve. For some dogs discomfort and pain are just part of the chasing experience. Bull breeds can actually find it stimulating.
1 Stop your dog chasing anything at all including other dogs.
2 Get your dog to be obsessive about playing with toys and you.
3 Teach a reliable recall.
4 Reinforce a reliable recall.
5 Teach a recall from chase using two toys.
6 Very gradually expose the dog to its chase target
7 Proof your recall with chase targets in multiple locations
1 Teach your dog to “watch me” with eye contact.
2 Teach your dog to touch your hands.
3 Get your dog to be obsessive about playing with toys and you.
4 Teach your dog to lie down and relax.
5 Very gradually expose the dog to the animals it may meet while doing 1,2,3 &4.
6 Proof the exposure to animals in multiple locations
When on any enclosed land with sheep all dogs must be on a lead or 'under close control'. If you allow your dog to worry livestock you can be prosecuted and fined, ordered to pay compensation and even have the dog destroyed.
Worrying livestock means attacking or chasing any farm animal or poultry - there does not have to be any contact.
The landowner is not liable to compensate the dog’s owner in such circumstances.
The main countryside rule is - DOGS MUST NEVER WORRY LIVESTOCK.
Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 the owner, and anyone else under whose control the dog is at the time, will be guilty of an offence if it worries livestock on agricultural land. The dog must have been attacking or chasing livestock in such a way that it could reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering or, in the case of females, abortion or the loss or diminution of their produce. An offence is not committed if at the time of the worrying the livestock were trespassing, the dog belonged to the owner of the land on which the trespassing livestock were and the person in charge of the dog did not cause the dog to attack the livestock. The definition of 'livestock' includes cattle, sheep, goats, swine, horses and poultry. Game birds are not included."
Other Relevant Laws
Section 1 of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 makes it an offence for a dog to be at large, ‘that is to say not on a lead or otherwise under close control’, in a field or enclosure containing sheep. It is also an offence for dogs to attack or chase livestock, and farmers are permitted to shoot dogs that are worrying, or are about to worry, farm animals.
The Animals Act 1971 section 9, states that the farmer is not liable to compensate the dog’s owner in such circumstances. Any dog which is not a working dog can be regarded as worrying livestock merely by being off lead and not under close control in a field or enclosure where there are sheep. A landowner could shoot such a dog, if it can be proved that the action was necessary to protect livestock and that it was reported to the police within 48 hours
The Town Police Clauses Act of 1847 made it an offence for ‘any unmuzzled ferocious dog’ to be at large in any street (this term is defined as including any ‘public passage’, and therefore covers all rights of way).
Under the Dogs Act 1871 if the animal is found to be out of control. A magistrates’ court is empowered to place restrictions on dog ownership and even make an order for a dog to be destroyed,
The Control of Dogs Order 1930 requires that every dog in a public place must wear a collar with the owner's name and address on it. The exemptions are when the dog is being used for sporting purposes, driving or tending livestock, destruction of 'vermin' or is one of a pack of hounds.
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1989 can also ‘make an order disqualifying the owner from having custody of a dog for such period as is specified in the order’. Further to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, section 3, such an order can be made regardless of whether or not the dog has actually injured someone. The court can also specify what measures should be taken to keep a dog under control
Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 Sec 3(1) Owner or person in charge allowing dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place injuring any person.
'Dangerously out of control' is defined as being 'on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person'.
Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 Sec 3(3) Owner or person in charge allowing dog to enter a non-public place and injure any person.
A person commits an offence if he hunts a wild mammal with a dog, unless this hunting is exempt.
Exceptions are Rats, Rabbits,
Protects all animals from neglect and cruelty
Protects wild animals from acts of cruelty chasing could be considered an offence and definitely would be if the animal was caught and injured.
Includes taking, injuring, cruelty and interfering with badger sets.
There are many animals covered by this regulation mainly reptiles, amphibians bats etc but Otters are the most likely EPS to be chased.
STOP Predatory Chasing by David Ryan
Rough love Susan Garrett