No matter what your breed of dog, they love the freedom to explore and interact with the natural world. However, at this time of the year, so many dogs loose in the countryside can have a serious, negative impact upon our wildlife.
Spring is the breeding season for so many species that are vulnerable to disruption by loose and uncontrolled dogs. Specifically:
Ground nesting birds: Gamebirds like pheasant and partridge, waterfowl such as ducks and swans or rare species likes lapwing nest on the ground. These ground nesting species often have highly evolved anti predator adaptations from the likes of foxes and crows but which a clever dog can sniff their ways to disturb the sitting bird on her clutch of eggs. The mere presence of a dog near the nest may cause a mother to abandon her eggs, and that may be one year’s reproductive potential destroyed
Lambing and calving: A disturbing 95% of farmers are reported to have experienced sheep worrying by dogs on their farm** with 2020 showing an upward trend***. Only recently, Dr Mugford at his farm in Surrey had two ewes mauled and killed a Malamute Husky dog and whose owner just walked away from the scene, despite being confronted with the suffering caused by his dog. It is important to know that a dog does not need to make actual physical contact with farm livestock to cause sheep or cows to die or miscarry their young. In addition, dogs and their owners are liable to be attacked by cows with young calves, leading to injury and even deaths from being gored or trampled.
Burrowers: Rabbits, badgers, small rodents and even hedgehogs can be threatened or killed by dogs at any time of year, and some fight back! Often nocturnal, these creatures may already be at risk from human interference, traffic and of course from our dogs. Let’s give nature some more space, peace and quiet this springtime
What you can do to help wildlife when walking dogs in the country:
Stay on the leash: Dogs are a slightly modified version of a supremely competent hunter-predator: wolves! No amounts of training will remove that predatory temptation to hunt, so best to keep your dog on a lead when out and about in the country and especially during springtime. The exception might be in designated areas such as city parks, but even there, dogs should be controlled from chasing fledglings or young mammals. This is the time of year to offer dogs a regulated freedom such as being walked on an extending lead like the Company of Animals Halti™ Retractable Lead
Work on recall training: Keep your dog’s mind active and motivated on walks with treats and toys to reward returns and closeness to you, whilst being distracted from wild things. Maybe invest in a 5 or 10m Recall Line and have your dog” Come and Go” with this semi freedom, always to be entertained for returning or attending to you. Walks must be fun for both of you, even during this seasonal, nature-sensitive spring “Lockdown”.
Just occasionally and for a few minutes during every walk, I recommend that both of you sit or lie down, then just listen and watch the wildlife around you. You will be amazed at what you see and hear. These calm moments or a still response is also an excellent trait to train in your dog.