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More dogs in firing line, top trainer warns

Farmers this year are more likely to adopt a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ policy to sheep chasing, a top Cumbrian dog trainer has warned. As the lambing season gets underway, Ingrid Grayling of Penrith says that demand from dog owners for anti-chasing courses has increased significantly.

Ingrid Grayling

It follows recent reports of dogs being shot and killed because they were worrying livestock in parts of the UK where lambing begins earlier. As Cumbria’s season prepares to get into full swing, says Ingrid, owners fear that their pets will be next in the firing line if they chase sheep. “Farmers are entitled to act if they see an uncontrolled dog pursuing animals on their land – and they are defending not just their livestock, but also their livelihood,” said Ingrid.

“With the increasing financial pressures being put on farming enterprises, they can't be blamed for trying to prevent their sheep being savaged or killed. Increasingly, this means having a zero-tolerance approach to dogs running wild, even if the owners are present and frantically trying to recall their pets.” she added.

Ingrid says that this year she is using her own flock of sheep to cure dogs of their sheep-chasing habits which could put them into the farmer’s firing line. She defends her use of electric collars for training, and says that they are the kindest and most efficient way of achieving a remedy which will last the dog’s entire life. After just one 90-minute session, claims Ingrid, most dogs can then be safely taken in the presence of sheep without fear of them being overcome by an instinct for the chase: “It’s just an exciting game for the dog when he sees a flock fleeing in fright, and few would actually go as far as attacking a sheep,” she says. “But the farmer doesn't know whether the game will end in bloodshed or simply a field-full of distressed stock – and some will prefer to act first and ask questions later,” said Ingrid.

Conventional training rarely works for sheep-chasing, explained Ingrid. The crime is often committed a long way from the owner, and the dog is unlikely to understand why it is later being reprimanded. The remote-controlled electric collars she uses deliver a brief jolt the second the dog begins to chase – usually bringing the him to a complete standstill, says Ingrid.

The dog is then summoned back to the owner, lavished with praise, and given a small doggy treat. Most dogs, said Ingrid, learn extremely quickly and she maintains that her methods are much kinder and more effective than metering out a pointless punishment when the dog is retrieved. See Ingrid’s website at www.ingrid-grayling.com