How to Train Your Dog Not to Chase Sheep

Updated on March 14, 2018
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark raises free-range rabbits, chickens, geese, ducks, guinea fowl, horses, and sheep at his small farm in Brazil.

Dogs Will Instinctively Chase Sheep

Dogs have to be trained not to chase sheep.
Dogs have to be trained not to chase sheep. | Source

Livestock guard dogs are raised in the barn close to sheep and often reside with a few lambs as soon as they are weaned. Worrying sheep is a big problem, and your dogs must be trained to avoid sheep or else their instinct to chase could put them in danger. Chasing is dangerous for your sheep and your dog. Some dogs that chase sheep may even be killed by livestock guard dogs. In certain regions of the world, dogs that chase sheep are even shot by ranchers. In many places, a shepherd can legally kill your dog if he/she is chasing sheep.

There are training classes available in Britain and in some areas of the United States. If you are a sheep rancher in a remote region of Montana, or only have a small flock of sheep in a hobby farm in Wisconsin or Minnesota, these classes may not be available.

Livestock Guard Dogs Are Desensitized to Sheep

Livestock guard dogs are raised with sheep so that they do not have the urge to chase.
Livestock guard dogs are raised with sheep so that they do not have the urge to chase. | Source

Training Your Dog Not to Chase Sheep

  1. Start with basic obedience training. Teach your dog all other methods of impulse control so that he is used to obeying you in all situations. I emphasize impulse control every time I take my dogs out for a walk; if your dog learns that he is not able to do whatever he wants whenever he wants, he is much less likely to try to chase sheep.
  2. Take your dog out on a leash. No matter how well you have trained your dog, he should be under your control the first time you introduce him to the sheep. Put your dog on a training leash even before going outside to the area where your sheep are grazing.
  3. Move towards the sheep. Your dog should be at your side in a heel position.
  4. Walk towards the sheep until your dog notices them. Before your dog lunges for the sheep, tell him to lie down.
  5. Give him a treat, but only when he looks away from the sheep and looks up at you.
  6. Stand up and move another few steps towards the sheep. When he acts like he is ready to go after the sheep again, tell him to lie down. Give him a treat, but ONLY after he looks up at you and away from the sheep.
  7. You can walk towards the sheep several times but give your dog a chance to cool down. Lead your dog back the way you came, away from the sheep. When he is in a safe area, you can then play catch with him, wrestle with him, or go through some of his tricks (like spin, shake, etc.) so that he will earn lots of treats.
  8. Repeat the exercise. If he does not get too excited about the sheep, you can go right up to them and let him smell them. If he is too interested and starts pulling on his leash, have him lie down and take him away after he is calm.
  9. Repeat this exercise in the afternoon or the next day. It is better if you repeat it as often as you can. (Dogs will learn more in three 10-minute sessions than they will in one 30-minute session.)
  10. When your dog has gone through this training exercise numerous times, you can let him loose and allow him to walk past the sheep. Only do this if you have trained him to come to you at all times. If your dog only comes to you 90% of the time, this is not good enough. That 10% may cost one of your ewe's her life. To ensure that your dog has a perfect recall, you should use a safety word and teach him to respond to this word 100% of the time. I use “touch," a command that was developed for use in guide dogs for the blind.

Dogs Must Learn Impulse Control

If you let your dog loose before training him, it will be difficult to teach him not to chase sheep.
If you let your dog loose before training him, it will be difficult to teach him not to chase sheep. | Source

Are There Alternative Training Methods?

The method I have suggested above works with most dogs. It is not the only training technique available, however, but it will teach dogs to leave sheep alone without using cruel methods.

Older methods used in areas of sheep production include leaving the dog in a paddock with a ram. When the dog starts to bother the ram, the ram attacks and hurts the dog. If the dog lives and survives his broken bones, he is probably afraid of sheep and will not chase them. If the dog figures out that a ewe does not act the same way as a ram, however, he may turn into a sheep killer.

A newer training method that I do not recommend, is the use of an electronic (shock) collar. The dog is given a shock as soon as he starts to show interest in the sheep. This is cruel, but it does sometimes work. Some dogs are intelligent enough to figure out that they are only going to be shocked if they are wearing the collar.

Choose a Breed With a Low Prey Drive

Not all dogs can be trained not to chase sheep.
Not all dogs can be trained not to chase sheep. | Source

Will This Work With Every Dog?

No training method works with all dogs, and not all dogs can be trained not to chase sheep. If a dog has a very high prey drive, like most sled dogs (Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, etc.), sighthounds (Greyhounds, Salukis, Afghan Hounds, etc.), and some hunting dogs, then no amount of training is going to help when the sheep start to run. A small dog might grow tired of the chase, but if you have a sled dog or sighthound, the dog may develop a “selective deafness” and ignore any command until the sheep are taken down.

Many dogs can be trained to ignore sheep, however, even if they have an interest in chasing them. If you already have a dog, no matter what the breed, try the training method in this article. If you do not have a dog yet, find a breed with a low prey drive like a Boxer, Golden Retriever, or Newfoundland. Some large guard dog breeds are also a lot happier sitting around rather than chasing sheep (the Neopolitan Mastiff, Giant Schnauzer, and Boerboel, for example.) If you want a small dog, many breeds are great since they will not go after your sheep. The Bichon, Papillon, and Maltese are all excellent choices.

Have you lost sheep to a dog?

See results

A Cruelty-Free, Alternative Training Method

What About Strays and Dogs You Cannot Train?

All sheep ranchers worry about stray dogs and other dogs that cannot be trained. At night, we can confine our sheep to the barn. In the day, watching out for dogs is a constant struggle.

If a stray or a neighbor's dog will not learn to leave your sheep alone, the only alternative is some sort of guard. The most common guard is a livestock guard dog (like the Great Pyrenees, Kuvasz, Komondor, Anatolian Shepherd, etc.), but these dogs are expensive and sometimes hard to find. I keep my sheep enclosed at night when strays are most likely in the area, but during the day, they graze with a Sicilian donkey that protects them against dogs. Some ranchers own llamas, another good guardian animal, and others have small mules or ponies.

I have also heard of some hobby farmers keeping a flock of African geese since they are large, loud, and can be aggressive with stray dogs. Geese will not work against a coyote or larger predator. Smaller and less aggressive breeds of geese are of no use even against smaller dogs.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

    Please leave a comment if you have other ideas to stop dogs from chasing sheep:

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        9 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Suhail, I would imagine you will have more of a problem with coyotes up there. Down here it is mostly strays, but when I lived in North Africa it was jackals.

        A hobby farm will be a great chance to put your dog to work!

      • Suhail and my dog profile image

        Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

        9 months ago from Mississauga, ON

        Oh yes sure Dr. Mark. And I may run into this problem as my brother and I want to have a small family hobby livestock farm.

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        9 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Hi Suhail. Did you see this problem when you were younger? Just what K2 was built to do! I know that not a lot of people are going to need this info, but I do hope it helps those that do run into this problem.

      • Suhail and my dog profile image

        Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

        9 months ago from Mississauga, ON

        Hi Dr. Mark,

        This is the dog training for most unusual of circumstances, certainly not for the urban dogs. I really liked the article.

        Regards,

        Suhail

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pethelpful.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://pethelpful.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)