Clueless Dog Owners

An invisible fence keeps Lily in the backyard. She has about an acre that she knows is hers. The goats and the chickens are in her domain. I’d prefer a solid fence, but Lily can jump over just about anything. I want her to be able to patrol the entire back property, and due to the nature of the rocks, trees and wet areas, the only way to keep her in (that I could afford and wasn’t an eyesore) was to use the invisible fence (a buried wire). I trained her well. She’s never gone through it, but she has no fear of the edges of the fence line (which is a sign that it’s training, not pain and fear, that keeps her in).

In any event, the back acre is hers, but she’s well aware of what’s happening on the street. When she’s indoors, she watches from my office window. Outside, she uses her hearing to keep tabs up the street and around the bend. (Have you seen her bat-ears? She’s got amazing hearing.) There’s a bit of lawn at the end of the driveway, in her acre, where she likes to lie down, that allows her to see a patch of the road. I’ve got a decorative split rail fence there, not for Lily, but to let passer-bys know that the backyard is off-limits (amazing how people will see the coop and just come right on over as if this is a petting zoo). There’s a “beware of dog” sign hanging on the fence. Lily is not always friendly to people or other dogs.

It sounds secure. Right? But today was one of those days when I wish I’d put in a solid fence. This afternoon Good Farm Dog Lily let me know that something was wrong. I was outside, too, watering some plants. I looked up and saw two huge dogs, lumbering in a stiff-legged old dog way, directly up the drive. There was no owner in sight, but I assumed someone was there, so I yelled, “please call your dogs.” I hurried over to the driveway and said, “come, come.” I have a happy dog voice, that is usually irresistible to dogs. I was ignored. One of the dogs managed to get his bulk through the split rail fence and into the yard. Lily could see that this was not a dangerous dog, but it still wasn’t supposed to be there. She barked and sniffed, but didn’t show teeth. Meanwhile, the dog is heading straight for the coop. Thank goodness the hens weren’t out free-ranging. I don’t care how old and un-athletic a dog is, they can still kill chickens.

By this time a woman holding two rope leashes walked up the drive. She looked like she wanted to stop and chat with me, but I kept insisting, “get your dogs!” She seemed totally unperturbed. She called them, in stern voice, which is just what you shouldn’t do. If you were a dog and faced with an interesting yard of chickens, or an angry owner, where would you go? He ignored her and heads over to the goats. Goats scare easily. They’re especially wary of strange dogs. A scared goat can bolt and injure themselves. Luckily, this was an old dog (the even slower one was still making it’s way across the lawn) and so the goats stayed sane.

Finally the dogs shambled over to us, but still don’t go up to the woman. In fact, they keep evading her. One of them lifts his leg on my raspberries. The berries are few in this hot summer, and there went my dessert. I was holding a tub of water and I tossed it on him. It had no effect. He peed again. At last she got the leashes on the dogs (while I’m saying, “my raspberries, get the dogs out of my backyard!”) Instead of hurrying, or apologizing, the woman starts to chat. AGHH! And she’s STILL in my backyard. I start walking away from her, down the driveway. It works, she follows. She says, “These aren’t my dogs, but they’re usually so well-behaved. They go to work with the owner.” I say, “That’s a totally different experience that being outside and going after chickens. Even old dogs can do damage. Please keep the dogs on leash.”

Not a bit of this exchange was satisfactory. It takes longer to type it, than the actual event. I wish I’d ignored her, grabbed the dogs and hauled them off the property. (At the time, I didn’t because I didn’t want Lily to decide that this was a SITUATION that she had to take care of. I didn’t want to see mauled old dogs.) I wish I’d been able to say something clear that would have gotten through to her that this was serious. That letting dogs wander, willy-nilly up and down driveways as you’re taking a stroll is not a good idea, and that even these placid-seeming dogs could have harmed my animals.

After she left, I hosed off the berry bushes. I gave Lily a very big cookie. If she hadn’t been alert, those dogs would have had plenty of time to do damage. Right now, Lily is resting under my desk, satisfied by a job well done. I might stop fuming by tomorrow.


  1. Oh Terry…… I am so sorry, what a stressful situation. I am ever amazed at how clueless, unaware and inconsiderate some people can be! Glad no one got hurt. Deep breaths……

  2. There seems to be a spate of idiot owners lately doesn’t there? Remember that dog that ran towards me on my track and repeatedly flung itself at me, trying to bite me through its muzzle while I shrieked at the owner to get in under control; she just walked on, unruffled, and told me to ‘just ignore him’. I was in tears by the time the postman came. Sometimes there’s nothing you can say to these people because they are ignorant, arrogant, or both. I later learned that this woman regards her dogs as her children, a fact that was imparted to me by someone in a kind voice as if this condoned her actions, and that I was being unreasonable. As a cat-owner, I clearly don’t understand, do I? What do I know about dogs?
    I’m still cross a month later! And as for the owner of the spaniel who charged into the orchard under the gate and pinned one of my hens to the ground – still gives me a cheery wave when I see her!
    Many people I think have the view that

    chickens as pets = mad sentimental owner who needs to get a grip.


    • I AM a dog person, which makes me even more infuriated. Indulged dogs are as awful to be around as spoiled children, and just as dangerous. People who use their dogs for emotional surrogate reasons, and don’t treat them as the animals they are endanger everyone AND I think it takes away from the wonderful relationship you can have with your animal when you relate to them for what they are and what they truly need. Oops, I wasn’t going to start ranting again….

      • and ANOTHER thing that annoys me is that I too adore dogs, I just happen to have cats (or rather, cat, singular now) which just about everybody in the English countryside seems to have an aversion to! The more negligent owners of dogs think cats do more damage than their dogs who rampage through fields of sheep, disturb ground-nesting birds (no Nightjars, Skylarks or Yellowhammers round here) and leave great dollops of poo everywhere. Some fiend in our village puts the poo in bags and hangs it in the trees down my track. Who do they think is clearing it up?

        I completely agree that animals need to be allowed to be animals, not little people in furry suits, and that’s half the joy of it. Although I did once make a chicken wear a specially knitted scarf for a photo opp…

  3. Terry I completely understand your frustration and fear. I lived in rural Illinois for several years and dumped dogs and people just letting their dogs run free was a HUGE problem.
    When I lived in Illinois my poultry (75 chickens, 20+ ducks, 6 different trios of geese, turkeys and peacocks) was a side job for me. I sold eggs, dressed poultry and extra birds.
    The dogs could wipe me out in a heart beat. I tried to be Mr. Nice Guy and the good neighbor but finally decided they weren’t so why should I. I practiced the three S’s.

  4. I too AM a dog person, I currently have three. Only four years in my life, while in college have I not had a dog in my life.
    Terry you are so correct a well trained dog is a joy to have.
    All three of mine have a job. Fu’s is to protect the flock, Lulu’s is to bring me the newspaper each morning and my night pants from the chair each evening. And Skippy’s is to keep the squirrels on the move and to keep Lulu active so she doesn’t get over weight and he does it well. I tell him go play with Lulu and he knows exactly what he needs to do.

  5. Ken- YES to dogs with jobs. Scooter’s job is to keep Lily busy, just like Skippy does for Lulu. Although, it’s more for Lily’s brain than her weight :)

  6. Wendy, In high school I once put sunglasses on a rooster and a hand towel under the wing and brought him into speech class on my arm to the tune of some Beach Boys. I did a speech on chickens, of course. Yes, I did get an A for that presentation.

    • The Stones ‘Little Red Rooster’ would have been good too! Well done for your presentation – there would be bloodshed if I ever took one of mine into a public space.
      I’m almost put off getting more cats because of the attitudes of folk around here, which gives me a very heavy heart. I take the point about songbird predation, but they can be trained; Kipper, a prince among felines, killed only squirrels, rats, mice and rabbits, and in huge numbers too. I started when he and his sister were kittens – quick gentle squirt with a water pistol when they were stalking birds, masses of praise when they caught a pest. Easy. Did rather result in rabbit-based breakfast in bed on occasion though!
      My friend’s rescue dog carries a basket round the garden with string and things in for her – great training in concentration and feeling useful after years of neglect. So good to see.

  7. Lord, I just don’t get it. You cannot let your dog off a leash when walking near other homes! It’s just a sign of disrespect for another’s property. I love my dog to death, and it’s the owners I have a problem with. How’s a dog to know when its territory ends? The owner needs to make boundaries clear. And, Terry, it seems like a no-brainer that those boundaries would NOT include your garden. I would have thought you’d made it clear enough that you weren’t looking for ambling visitors to disrupt your animals. Alas, someone always finds a way. I’m beginning to think the people need a fence as much as the dogs do! Anyway, I’m sorry about your berries. What a shame.

  8. People who live near us occassionaly let let their dogs roam. With our then extremely elderly dog it wasn’t always great to have another couple rambunctious younger dogs off a leash without an owner around. These dogs were friendly, and our dog enjoyed having them around, but if they got too active they probably could have accidentally hurt her. Also, it’s very unresponsible to have your dogs roaming; they could get hit by a car or might not be able to find their way back home. Always be responsible to your animals and treat them with respect!

  9. May I join in- even if it is a day late? We are currently beginning training for our new puppy- not just for fun, but for HER. She needs to know her place in the world, and we need to provide that information. YOUR yard is not part of her place- and I don’t blame you one bit for being upset.

    My “favorite” experience came at our county fair when an unmarked service dog (Corgi) was brought into the livestock barns for the first time in his life. Needless to say he went nuts, the goats, sheep and pigs went nuts, the 4-H kids and leaders went nuts- and the owner of the dog took the case to the Oregon Supreme Court under ADA laws. We (exhibit superintedents) were all forced to take ADA training with the individual and his dog in the room. Thank goodness logic prevailed and he lost the case. It was irresponsible of him and caused a great deal of mayhem and a minor amount of damage.

    • Oh, I get so angry when I hear about people abusing the ADA. Also, I strongly support the use of service dogs, so to hear about someone who doesn’t handle the dog properly in public, Is really upsetting. One person can ruin it for everyone whose lives are transformed by their working partners. A corgi service dog, not trained to be among farm animals – what was that person thinking???

  10. When I started researching chicken keeping, I came upon a topic that was always numero uno: loose dogs. I’m glad I was forewarned, we built a hardware cloth encased run that my girls are in all day. We let them out but only when supervised by 2 of us because herding frightened chickens out of danger is not EASY (one person to guard the girls and one to stave off the intruder)! I know the 2 dogs that normally get loose, we see them all the time, but there are 3 other dogs that I don’t know at all and I send my young son inside when I see a loose, unfamiliar dog. I’m with you, if the dog is not in your yard, it needs to be on a leash.