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Livestock Worrying

Livestock worrying is a growing problem which can cause stress and injury to farm animals and financial losses for farmers. Where attacks do occur, incidents often leave dog owners shocked and traumatised by the apparently cruel behaviour of their pet.

There are serious legal penalties for any owners where their dog attacks or worrys livestock. This could a fine of up to £40,000 or 12 months in prison. Police Scotland will deal with any reports of livestock worrying.

It is therefore important to realise that ALL dogs are capable of livestock worrying. It is natural for your dog to chase moving objects and it is your responsibility as an owner to make sure your dog is under full control when walked in areas were livestock are present. Livestock worrying has become an increasing problem within Scotland and the rest of UK with large media coverage of the resulting injuries to both livestock and the dogs. In order to reduce these problems and any risk to livestock safety as well as your dogs safety reasonable steps should be taken when in areas where livestock are present.

  • When near livestock (hens, horses, sheep, cattle etc) ensure your dog is always on a lead or tied up.
  • Never leave your dog unattended as it only takes a matter of seconds for a dog to run after livestock.
  • Familiarise your dog with livestock before visiting rural, animal-populated areas with the permission of the livestock owners when applicable.
  • Train puppies at a young age (ideally before 12 weeks of age) and allow them to socialise with other animal species to reduce the fascination and the tendency to chase later in life. Training the six commands of basic obedience - stay, come, sit, heel, wait and down - will give you confidence that you will be able to control your dog.
  • Reward your dog with gentle praise or a special treat when he reacts mutely to livestock. Eventually the dog will recognise the link between the treat and the desired behaviour.
  • Remain relaxed when your dog becomes excited around livestock; otherwise the dog may recognise it as an attention seeking technique.

Sheep worrying
It is important to understand that livestock worrying does not just involve the chasing of other animals. It involves any behaviour that your dog may exhibit that can cause alarm to any livestock. This includes dogs jumping at fences or gates where livestock are present, barking loudly and /or aggressively at livestock, baring teeth or snarling and stalking behaviour just to name a few. Therefore you must ensure that when in the vicinity of livestock you must have your dog under FULL control at ALL times.

For further information about the rights and responsibilities of dog owners see the Police Scotland livestock worrying information (opens new window).