Safety with Dogs and Livestock

One perk if living out in the country is that every second neighbor has some kind of livestock. In my neighborhood alone there are two alpaca farms, one goat farm, and multiple homes with horses (and those are just the places I know about). There is also land owned by an equestrian club. In the summer, it is great fun to see the droves of people and their horses who show up for competitions. Although some dog breed are considered livestock guardians, and some breeds are considered herders, it doesn't mean that any dog is automatically sensible around livestock. The poodles and I often stop to say hello to the large animals we walk past, but I always keep safety my first priority. Here are my top 3 safety tips with dogs around livestock.

1. Keep leashed and outside the limits. I never unleash the poodles around livestock. Even if I know that 99.9% of the time they can be trusted not to run off or chase anything, it is always better safe than sorry. We stay leashed and on the outside of the fence.

2. Be aware of how the larger animal behaves around your dog. Do they appear anxious, threatened, or wary? If so, move on and don't needlessly stress them. A lot of larger animals communicate emotion using their ears (not unlike dogs). Ears pined back is a clear signal for unhappiness.

3. No barking. If I sense barking is imminent, or has already started, we move on. Barking is stressful for everyone in that situation and often a sign of frustration or over-excitement on the part of the dog.

I apply these same tips when we see deer. This is very common, as they often take up residence right outside the living room window. I allow the poodles to watch them, as long as they don't bark or display prey drive. Typically if barking starts the deer moves on anyway, but if not I redirect the poodles' energy with tricks or games and allow the deer to enjoy my grass, and flowers, and shrubs and...well, that's another problem altogether!
Garden guests, please only eat the weeds.
Do you have any tips to share regarding safety with dogs around livestock?


  1. Great tips! Rodrigo, Scout, and Zoey get really amped up and will start barking, because I'm not allowing them to investigate, so I keep them away from live stock. If I'm walking 1 or 2 of our dogs, they behave a lot better; they aren't feeding off of each other's anxiety.


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