Updated: Aug 3, 2019
As a nation of animal lovers, we love our dogs to be a part of our everyday lives and we love more than anything to see them happy. Sadly, happiness has been correlated with out of control dogs doing whatever they want, whenever the want and livestock chasing and animal killing is on the rise. It seems as though our love for animals has been given mainly to our dogs and the lives of other animals who are chased, hunted and killed by dogs are seen to be second to none to the fact that our dogs 'enjoy' carrying out these natural behaviours.
If you take a look on Facebook, you will more than likely come across at some point or another a video of a dog chasing some sheep or cows or a desperate farmer sharing the story and photo's of the aftermath of a dog who chased and attacked their animals. To most people, seeing animals who have been injured and or died because of a dog attack awakens a sadness and anger on the damage and loss caused by a beloved pet. No one enjoys seeing pictures of badly injured or dead animals but videos or pictures of dogs chasing but not actually harming the animals are given a much more slack response by the public.
I'm sure may of us have seen the famous 'Fenton' video of the dog in Windsor Great Park chasing after the deer with the owner running after him screaming and shouting with not so much as a blink from his dog. This video went viral and is still in circulation and widely talked about today as a 'funny' video showing a 'naughty' dog. Some people will defend any negativity saying 'it's natural for a dog to do this!' or 'he didn't harm them so he was just playing!'. So let's start by talking briefly about those comments.
Now the first comment is absolutely right - it is completely natural for a dog (predator) to chase and want to kill a deer (prey). However let's use another example of the same behaviour in an animal that hasn't been humanised, let's say a lion. If a lion came into a village and attacked and killed some people the news headline would't read:
'Lion attacks and kills villagers which is okay because it is a natural behaviour for this animal to express!'
It would be more like:
'Lion shot dead after viscous attack on village resulting in the brutal killings of many.'
Now I can almost guarantee that the comments on that headline would't be defending the lion for the killings because it is a natural behaviour, so why is it acceptable for our dogs?
The big difference here that I see is this; we have the opportunity, unlike in the lion scenario, to prevent this behaviour from happening. We can't train a lion to not attack people and so no blame is being held on anyone for that attack happening, it's just a sad story that no one could have prevented that led to a sad ending for both parties. The difference with dogs is that we all have the opportunity to prevent the suffering of other animals caused by our dogs. Yes, it is natural for dogs to chase and kill other animals, however this doesn't mean it is okay and should be allowed.
Let me explain why.
In our house we have four rabbits. Three live outside it a big secure set up and one currently lives in the house. Every single dog who comes into our home is taught from day 1 that they are not allowed to chase or scare the rabbits under any circumstance and in the nearly two years of having the rabbits at our base where we train dogs, we have never lost a rabbit to a dog. Now so you can fully understand this i'm going to tell you some things about rabbits and specifically, our outdoor three.
Did you know rabbits can die if they get too scared or stressed? Rabbits are very complicated and very delicate animals and if they get scared or stressed their entire digestive system shuts down and they can die. If they are i the presence of a predator, get scared and don't have places to hide and feel safe they will simply give up and shut down. Now out of our three rabbits, the two boys (grey and white) are super chilled and super confident and have grown up in close contact with dogs ever since we have had them so they rarely get scared by dogs or anything else like that. They also know that their set up is safe and they have us to protect them if all else fails. Our girl (black one) is a different story. She is very nervous, very jumpy and very young so gets freaked out and ill very quickly. We have battled with her a few times with her getting stressed or scared and shutting down, if a dog scares her or she feels threatened, she is the first one to run, hide and freak out.
Why do we still have rabbits even though we know we will have dogs in that will try to chase them? Well the simple answer is because they were her first and because we want to! We love our rabbits and we have had rabbits for a long time and so getting rid of them when we know we can teach dogs to simply eave them alone is the lazy option. The way we see it is simple. Our rabbits deserve to live a long and happy life just as much as our dogs do! In order for them to live a long and happy life, the dogs that come into our home need to learn that chasing and trying to harm them isn't an option and that they must respect their space and allow them to live their lives happily and safely. Each one of our dogs has met, been in contact with and will not harm our pet rabbits. They have been taught to control their prey drive and to respect that the rabbits are allowed to be here as much as they are.
The bottom line is this:
Our dogs aren't the only animals on this planet. We as dog owners and animal lovers should be doing everything we can within our power to ensure that our dogs aren't casing unnecessary harm or stress to other animals that they come into contact with. Livestock worrying and animal killing is 100% preventable and not proofing your dog around other animals is just foolish. There are billions of different species of animal that live on this planet everywhere you go. The excuse that you weren't expecting that animal to be there just isn't good enough. In a world with billions of different species of animals, how can you assume in the 10-15 years of your dogs life that you will never, ever come into contact with one unexpectedly?
We as dog owners need to step up and do everything within our power to make sure our dogs don't cause harm to the other animals that live on this planet. They deserve to be on this planet just as much as our dogs do and they deserve to be able too live their lives happily without being tormented by an out of control dog.
If your dog can't be around other animals without chasing them or trying to harm them, they shouldn't be off lead in public. Simple. Your dogs happiness is not above all of the other billions of animals that live on this planets happiness or in reality, their lives.
Teaching you dog not to chase and harm animals is easy and it means your dog can enjoy off lead freedom without other animals suffering unnecessarily.
Be responsible and teach your dogs not to chase or kill other animals, it's that simple.