Although many dogs are used to protect sheep, some dogs pose a serious danger to the flock. It is essential to ensure that non-sheep dog breeds do not get close enough to your sheep or on your property.
Let’s take a look at the best ways to keep sheep protected from dogs. This article covers:
- How to protect sheep from dogs through fencing. This is especially helpful if you face issues with neighborhood dogs.
- How to train guard animals to protect sheep
- How to train your own dog to stay away from your sheep
1. Protect Sheep From Dogs With Fencing
A fence is the best way to keep dogs away from your flock and field. There are many types of fences, but the best style for sheep is a structure that keeps the dog in and sheep out. This means you’ll need a fence that the dog can not jump over or through, and if you have a barb-wire fence or electric fencing, you will need to ensure that there are no gaps. You should also make sure that the fence is well-balanced so that it will not come down easily.
Another thing to be aware of is that sheep are strong and persistent. So, you’ll want a fence that can withstand constant pushing by your sheep and won’t break apart.
The best types of fencing for sheep include:
- Electric Fencing: Electric fencing should have at least three strands run to keep both larger dogs and smaller dogs out. This will also help protect your sheep from wolves and coyotes.
- Cedar Fencing: Slats should be spaced no more than 6 inches apart to keep out dogs and other animals.
- Barb Wire Fencing: Strands should be placed close enough to keep dogs out. Barbed wire can be difficult to keep dogs out because the strands can adjust, and dogs can usually get through if they want to badly enough.
- Double-rail Wooden Fencing: This is an option if the dogs in your area are larger, but it will allow medium-sized dogs to get in.
- Keep Dogs On A Leash And Housed Away From Sheep
Keeping your dog on a leash when it is in the sheep’s area will keep them from getting too close to them. One of the biggest dangers with dogs is that once they experience attacking a sheep, it’s hard to keep them away from the sheep. Preventing dogs from experiencing blood will make a big difference toward keeping sheep safe.
And, there are more ways to prevent dogs from being in off-limits areas. Another way to protect your sheep is to make a little outdoor kennel for your dog. It should be small, maybe 1 square meter, but enclosed.
The kennel should be in an area where sheep are not normally grazed. If dogs come to the pasture from time to time, you put your dog back into the kennel. This method is excellent if you only have one sheep or a small flock.
2. Lock Up Your Sheep At Night To Keep Them Safe
Possibly one of the most important steps to keeping sheep safe is to pen them at night. While penning your sheep at night is not always convenient, it will help you protect them from dogs at night. In times of trouble, including darkness, sheep actually prefer to be corralled rather than left out in the open. If you pen your sheep at night and provide enough food and space for them, they will probably be happier than if you let them out to pasture.
3. Guard Animals Can Help Protect Sheep
Another way to protect sheep from dogs is to use a guard animal like a donkey or a llama. Guard animals are more effective than fences, and they are handy for rangelands where it is cumbersome to build barriers. They can be left out at night, and because of their size and strength, the dog will not mess with them. Llamas have been used in Peru for centuries as an effective means of protecting sheep against predators.
Depending on the specific kind of dog that’s a threat to your sheep, you can also train a different dog to protect your sheep against them. Breeds like German Shepherds and Border Collies are perfect for this kind of defense.
4. Proper Disposal of Dead Stock
Animal carcasses and waste should be promptly and properly disposed of to protect your sheep effectively. If dead stock is left too long, the scent can attract dogs and much larger predators, posing a serious threat to your sheep.
5. Keep Your Sheep Away From Dog Territory
Dogs are very territorial animals, and they will attack sheep that come into their area. To prevent dogs from your sheep, you should be aware of the following:
- If you have a dog, do not let it get close to your sheep.
- Please make sure that there are no gaps in your fences because sheep can easily wander out of their designated areas.
How to Train Guard Animals to Protect Sheep From Dogs
Guard animals are great for protecting sheep from dogs and other types of predators. In fact, some people believe that training guard animals is a better option than fencing because once your guard animal is trained, it’s easier and much cheaper.
Guard animals have a natural tendency to be aggressive, but once they are trained, they are very loyal and will protect the flock at all costs. Here are a few steps to help you train your guard animal.
Step 1: Create a Bond with Your Guard Animal, You, and the Flock.
You must have a strong bond with your guard animal so that they will not only recognize you as their master but also so that they will want to protect you and the rest of the flock. Keep an eye often on your guard animal to make sure they get along with the sheep. If there is any danger or aggression to the sheep, get rid of the animal right away. Guard animals are usually trained best if they are trained from a young age.
Guard animals like sheep, llamas, or other guard dogs will do better if raised with the flock. But, if they are introduced later in life, house the guard animal close to the sheep for 2-3 weeks. Give the guard animal separate housing, but place it next to the sheep’s housing. After the guard animal has shown compatibility with the sheep, you can house them together.
Step 2: Guard Animals Work Best Alone
Guard animals work best when they can bond with the flock. Because Alpacas, Dogs, Llamas, and Donkeys are social animals, they work best if their only companions are the sheep. If the second animal of its kind or similar species (like a horse, cow, etc.) are introduced to the flock, the guard animal is more likely to bond with the other larger animal. This can result in the neglect of the care and protection of the sheep.
Step 3: Make Your Guard Animal Comfortable in Their Territory.
When training a guard animal, it is important that they are comfortable with their territory. It’s best to let the animals get used to their space for a few weeks and allow them to feel at home. This step is crucial if you are introducing your guard animal after it is grown.
In an ideal situation, the guard animal and its mama would be raised and kept with the sheep. As the guard animal grows up, the mother can be pulled away from the sheep. At that point, the guard animal will already be bonded to the sheep and will seek their company for companionship in the absence of its mother.
Step 4: Teach Your Guard Animal to Alert You
Llamas and donkeys are great guard animals for this reason. They can be very vocal and can be trained to be your own natural alarm system if any predators like dogs get too close to your sheep. Many guard animals can also be trained to alert you by making a specific noise (like a whistle or growl).
How to Train Dogs to Stay Away From Sheep
Dogs can pose a serious threat to sheep. It’s important that you train your dog not to approach sheep. You can train your dog to stay away from your flock by building up trust between you and the animal.
Be prepared for your dog to approach sheep, and be sure to keep an eye on them, so they do not cause any harm. Here are a few steps to help you train your dog to stay away from sheep.
Step 1: Train Your Dog With Distractions.
It is imperative that you start training your dog with distractions around. It’s important that the dog only gets closer if you say it’s okay when they see another animal (like a rabbit) or some other distraction around. If they start to get too close, clap your hands and tell the dog “no!” You’ll also want to praise them any time they stop this behavior or purposefully ignore the sheep altogether.
Step 2: Always Keep Your Dog on a Leash
If you can, keep your dog on a leash at all times, especially when there is a flock of sheep in the area. This will give you more control over when and where your dog can approach the flock and will lessen your chances of having them get hurt.
Step 3: Make Sure You Give Your Dog a Job.
If you know that your dog has a particular fixation on sheep, find some other way to occupy their time to prevent them from chasing the sheep. You can do this by allowing them to walk around and sniff things or raise them in a pen that they can roam in but are contained away from the herd. If they have trouble keeping their attention off the flock, it may be better for you to find another breed of dog or cat better suited for this purpose.
Step 4: Give Them Proper Exercise
A tired dog is a happy and less mischievous dog. Make sure that your dog gets plenty of exercise every day to stay healthy and alert. If they are not getting enough exercise, they will often find other ways to tire themselves out, such as exploring, leading them to the sheep.
Step 5: Be Consistent
When it comes to training your dog, consistency is key. Be persistent with positive reinforcement and discourage bad behavior without causing any harm to the animal or the flock of sheep.
Dog attacks on sheep or other livestock are an important and widespread problem for farmers in rural areas. It is possible to keep your sheep safe from roaming and neighborhood dogs. Guard animals and proper fencing upkeep can be great ways to deter dogs from attacking your sheep, but they require consistency and attention.
My Essential Sheep Supplies
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A sturdy dog collar is essential. Don’t do rope (they’ll break and tangle) or chain (injury!).
A Black Water Tub is way nicer than buckets that tip over. I like to get a 20 or 30-gallon in each pen so my goats have plenty of water, but you can get 100-gallons if you have a lot of sheep in one pen.
Loose minerals in a small bag or a Purina 50 lb bag, and a mineral feeder for free-choice is the best option. One side holds minerals, and the other holds baking soda. Don’t feed sheep goat minerals because it usually contains copper- something that is fatal to sheep.
Hoof trimmers are a necessity because you’ll need to trim your sheep’s hooves every few months. These are nice for the price.
Don’t make the mistake I made by waiting to order a drench gun before you need it. I was surprised by how often I use it. It helps with bloating, dehydration, and other ailments. Here’s a good drench, but you can also drench a bloat solution or water if dehydrated.
Digital Thermometor for when your lambs act sick. You’ll need to know if their temps are too low or too high so you can accurately diagnose the issues.
Vetericyn for wound care. It makes a big difference in a speedy recovery.
These heavy duty clips for fences, to clip ropes to collars, and a million other uses. They are stronger than carabeeners, which we broke a dozen of before switching to these.