New Forest Dog On The Forest Off The Lead

New dogs in the New Forest

Puppy in forest

The majority of our members will have successfully raised many puppies in the environs of the New Forest, experiencing daily encounters with ponies, cattle and the like. Those of you will not appreciate any guidance to the safest way to introduce young dogs to livestock.

This is intended to be taken in the spirit of advice to those with less experience of walking dogs in the New Forest.

Many young dogs would find it hugely exciting to be running around ponies and cattle which in turn may run or kick, so exciting the puppy even further.  We have all heard of dogs being seriously injured by a kick from a horse. The best way to prevent the puppy from learning this behaviour is not to allow it to start. Teach your puppy to come back when called and give him a high value treat every time whilst he is learning. Get the puppy to sit for the treat and hold the collar with one hand whilst giving the treat with the other. The young dog learns to respond immediately because the very tasty reward is irresistible. Combine this with a voice that shows your pleasure at his response to you.

Soon you will have an obedient dog who enjoys coming when called. Do this lots of times without attaching his lead, although it is a good idea to call the dog back and clip on the lead every time you are approaching cattle or ponies. That way, the dog should learn that when he sees a pony, he comes quickly to you, sits and gets rewarded. A few weeks of that behaviour and he will be ignoring the livestock as he has never found pleasure in chasing them or running around them barking.  The problem is solved before it ever started.

The same approach should apply to rescued dogs and dogs who belong to visitors. As it is unlikely that they will have experienced forest ponies and cattle before they will find the forest a very exciting place of tempting smells and unfamiliar animals which will arouse their curiosity.

The recall and reward can be taught to dogs of any age and may prevent a tragedy.