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Sheep for fun?


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Just out of curiosity...


If you decided to get sheep at some point and the reason has nothing to do with the dog, and if you know nothing about training BC's with sheep and don't really care if the BC herds the sheep or not, what would be the outcome?


Would it be necessary to train the dog in herding if you plan on getting sheep? Or would the dog just run around them and have fun? Or would the dog terrorize them in the process?

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What would be your purpose in getting sheep? And, if you had a reason for them, why not train your dog to be your partner in your sheep "operation"?


If your dog has any herding instinct at all and can even see or have other access to the sheep, having them around will result in the dog working the sheep, by eye or by physical action. YOU might not mind if the dog works the sheep, but the SHEEP sure will not be happy about it.


It's kind of like giving a small child a box of matches and not caring if the child plays with them. Something will surely happen and it won't be good. It likely will be harmful or possibly fatal.


The dog would attempt to work the sheep to whatever level it has herding instinct. While the dog might be "having fun", the sheep sure wouldn't be. In their minds, a predator would be working them - you wouldn't enjoy that or ignore it if it were you, would you? And, yes, the sheep would be harassed. It would not be a long shot to guess that they might easily be injured or die from the "working" of a dog that is unsupervised.


Even if the sheep are in a fenced paddock that is dog-proof, the dog would likely still stare through the fence or run the fence, attempting to work the sheep through the fence. That wouldn't be good for either the sheep or the dog.


Dogs are not toys and neither are sheep. They both need to be treated with care and respect.

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Thanks for responding. My husband is British, and Brits eat alot of lamb, so he's tossed around the idea of getting sheep. I wanted to find out about how the two would co-exist when the purpose of the dog is not for herding sheep, if you can understand what I'm saying.


My only experience with BC's is as a companion dog. I don't know what is involved in herding as I have no experience in that area, so wanted to find out well ahead of time what would be involved. My husband's desire to have sheep is not terribly strong, and I'm nearly positive that his desire to work the dog with the sheep would be close to zero. So based on your response, I would either have to train the dog to work with sheep (something I would have to learn to do) or not get sheep. Based on your reply, it sounds like no matter how laid back the BC is, the desire to herd the sheep would be too strong to ignore, correct?

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It really depends on the dog. I have seen a few Border Collies that would take a look at a few sheep and head the other way! But that tends to be the exception instead of the rule.


At one clinic I attended, an 18 month old bitch was exposed to sheep for the first time. She wanted nothing to do with them. They even brought in a trained dog with lots of enthusiasm, to see if that would kindle a spark in her. It did not.


A friend of my daughter's got some sheep for her adult Border Collie. The dog was afraid of the sheep and remains so to this day. Some dogs just don't have it.


Dogs that come from working lines are more likely to have more herding instinct than dogs that have come from conformation lines. More likely is the idea. You can get a do-nothing pup from world-beater parents, although it is less likely to get a world-beater pup from do-nothing parents, as herding instinct is the product of lots of genetic selection.


I guess what I am saying is that, unless you know your dog has no interest in stock, having sheep around (within sight, whatever) would be a constant temptation to the dog.


Another issue is, that even if you like to eat lamb, if you have limited numbers of sheep, they will tend to get names, take on personalities, etc., and you may decide you don't want to eat them. They do, however, keep your pasture looking neat. A lawnmower might be much less trouble.


If you have just a few sheep and want to produce your own lambs, then you deal with the issue of having the services of a ram. That's an entire other issue, as he would need to be kept separate from the ewes until his services are needed. Rams can be a real handful, even for a trained dog, and be a hazard for folks who don't know how to handle them.


I want some sheep real bad but because I want them for training my dogs. I think that having sheep and having an untrained dog that can see them (from the house, from the yard, etc.) might very likely result in problems for the dog (obsessing about the sheep), for the sheep (being harassed by the dog), and problems for you (coyotes or stray dogs getting into the sheep, worming and vaccinations for the sheep, construction and maintenance of fencing for the sheep, getting the sheep shorn, hoof trimming, dealing with hoof rot and other ailments, a ram or replacement sheep over time, etc.).


If you want sheep for a good reason, give it a try if you can handle their needs. If it's just a thought, think again about it and maybe try doing something else for yourself and your dog, and find someone who raises the kind of meat you would like, and buy it from them. It will be cheaper in the long run.

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I'll pass this information along to my husband. I'm personally not fond of lamb (as food). I also mentioned to my husband that he would become attached to the sheep and not want to eat them. He denies this, but I know him better. He's a big softie. Explaining to him that raising sheep, with or without a BC, is not so simple will hopefully put the idea to rest. I might have been up for it if it only meant putting a few sheep in the yard and that's it, but I suspected there would be more involved.


Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

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Something you might want to consider is buying a few lambs in the spring and raising them over the summer and then having them butchered in the fall. I have a fair number of customers that do this around here. I send them (the lambs, that is) out wormed and vaccinated and haven't had anyone complain about significant health problems. Also, there's no need to trim hooves or shear the sheep over this short time period. Since the lambs are old enough to eat pasture, assuming you have a large enough yard, supplemental feeding is also not a problem.


Regarding the dogs - I don't personally have a problem with my non-herding dogs and the sheep.



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