Dogs on the smallholding

I don’t think I know any smallholders who don’t keep at least one dog. Dogs can be really useful around a smallholding, as herd dogs, as security and providing rodent control but mostly, I think we have them because we like them and enjoy their company when we’re working outdoors.


Dogs that are not properly wormed can excrete tapeworm in their faeces. If ingested by sheep, and sometimes cattle, the tapeworm cysts can lodge in the animal’s brain causing a condition called Gid. As the cysts develop, they press on the brain cells and cause nervous symptoms such as blindness, staggering and circling.

Foxes also carry the tapeworm.

The Working Sheepdog

For many sheep keepers, a working sheepdog is unnecessary. Small flocks of sheep are often hand tame and more likely to follow a bucket than need herding with a dog. However, sheepdog trialling is becoming a popular pastime for people who enjoy being out in the countryside and working with their dog.

The dog breed of choice for sheepdog trialling is undoubtedly the Border Collie. However, this intelligent and active breed needs both physical and mental stimulation to keep it happy, so it’s not the breed for everyone.

If you are planning to buy and train a Border Collie for trialling or for working, it’s advisable to take advice from an experienced trainer before you choose your pup. S/he will be able to tell you want to look for and what to avoid and how to start the early training.

It takes years to train a good working collie, and dogs learn bad habits as quickly as good ones so it’s best to start off on the right track.

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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