Well, this has certainly been an interesting week! I found out through a friend that a local rescue organisation had hired an electric shock collar trainer for a dog that was chasing sheep. I posted on my Facebook page that: “Currently I’m feeling shocked and saddened that a local rescue organisation has hired an electric shock collar trainer to “cure” a dog of his sheep chasing.
I feel very sad for the dog, but also lucky that I will never have to resort to such dangerous and barbaric practises – in fact I currently have just the same problem with Starr, she would love to chase sheep if given the opportunity, so she’s not getting it! Or at least not until I can take her up to my friend’s farm and start teaching her to play with sheep appropriately.”
And I mean every word of it. Starr has about 10% of the recall she needs to be off-lead, and about 1% of the recall I’d like her to have before I “let her loose”; and I’d never ever let her off lead anywhere near sheep that she was not working. Why would I? If a farmer thinks that a dog is worrying his sheep, he can shoot it dead on the spot, and to many farmers a dog being off lead near his sheep is more than plenty reason to shoot it…
This then brought to mind that a little while ago I was chided in the comments section of another blog. The post was about dog training and the apparent lies therein. The reproach came as I’d said I never had and never will use anything except a flat collar & static (i.e. fixed) harness on any of my dogs, and I have no need of telling them “no” (as in “don’t do that”).
I was told I had “so much to learn”, including “the four ways to deal with a behaviour” and “what to do with a confirmed sheep worrier”. I did have to wonder where the common sense was – if one has a confirmed sheep worrier why would you take it anywhere near sheep? That’s just asking for trouble, and certainly not something I would ever advise to any future potential client I may have, unless they were under the tutelage of the person who owned the sheep, and they were either a) teaching the dog to herd the sheep; or b) teaching the dog enough that he could leave the sheep entirely alone on one cue. Note also that both of these would take more than one short lesson!
It was then that I was curtly told that I “know nothing”, and should “go out and learn” as well as “shut up” because my “lack of knowledge won’t impress anyone”. Hmmm, yes – clearly I lack knowledge because I’m not going to take a dog who may worry livestock near the livestock, nor will I let said dog (or any dog, for that matter) off lead unless they’re working the livestock, and I certainly would never electrocute my dog for showing an interest in livestock! Oh, how much I must have left to learn to get these sensible ideas out of my head!
I then had someone else telling me that I “don’t live in the real world”, and “would rather keep a dog on lead than give any form of ‘no’ command”. According to this second commenter, I’m not alone in living in cloud cuckoo land, as I’m an “example of many UK trainers”. This coming from someone who allowed her dog to kill a sheep (meaning it was off lead and/or under no control around them), and then used an electric shock collar, rather than walk her dog somewhere beside sheep-covered moors. Of course, she’s otherwise a totally positive trainer, and had “exhausted every other positive option”.
I’m sorry, but I really fail to see what is so bizarre about being responsible enough to keep your dog on lead around sheep that don’t belong to you and/that your dog isn’t actively working; not to mention keeping your dog who you know is, or is likely to be, overtly interested in sheep away from them. It really isn’t that difficult – I did it for over twelve months while living up the road from a farm; not to mention having done it with my previous two dogs!
It’s common sense – if you don’t want to see your dog shot by a farmer, you need to make sure he or she can see you have control over your dog around livestock and that means using a lead – something that is visible and obvious; not just hoping that you have enough verbal control over your dog that you can call your dog away in the split second before the farmer reaches for their gun…