Browbeating and portraying images of shooting dogs is not helping to reduce sheep worrying says the National Sheep Association (NSA).

Instead, sheep farmers are being asked to help promote responsible dog ownership.

The NSA is looking to the many agricultural events and shows taking place in the coming weeks and months as the ideal opportunity to reach out to members of the public in promoting responsible dog ownership to reduce incidences of sheep worrying. The organisation is asking sheep farmers to get involved in any way they can.

NSA communications officer Katie James said: “We need to continue our work to build positive relationships with the dog-owning public to ensure improved behaviour of the minority of dog walkers that allow their animals to run free around livestock, often with devastating results.

“We share the frustration of our members about the number of completely avoidable attacks on sheep, but only browbeating the public and portraying negative messages about shooting dogs is not an effective message.

"We want to share a positive message about dog owners enjoying the beautiful landscapes in Britain, which are created by the hard work of sheep farmers, and to do so responsibly and consider the impact an attack can have on farmers business and livelihood.”

For several years NSA has collected data and opinions on sheep worrying attacks to gain an insight into its severity and unseen consequences. Results from NSA surveys have highlighted the seriousness of the issue, including statistics such as 85% of sheep farmers who’ve suffered sheep worrying attacks experiencing feelings of stress and anxiety, leading to almost a quarter of those affected considering giving up sheep farming as a result.

Mrs James continued: “This personal angle is a really important one to share when talking about attacks on sheep, as dog owners often think their pets are ‘just playing’ and do not understand the wider picture. We want to help them understand the people affected by the crime and how it all links to the management of the great British countryside and vital role of rural communities.

“Another element of this is having the statistics to back up our claims, as the official crime figures are only the tip of the iceberg. It is very difficult for NSA and others working in this area to gain the attention of the public or the government when the figures suggest it’s only a small problem. "NSA understands the reluctance of farmers to report attacks, but if we are to build up an accurate picture of the true scale of the problem, it is vital that every time sheep are worried it is reported to the police and a crime or incident number issued.”

NSA will be spreading the messages of improving relations with the wider public and the importance of reporting attacks at shows and events throughout the summer. Farmers wanting to also promote these messages should contact NSA, as staff can supply public-facing promotional items to farmers involved in or planning their own summer events. Call 01684 892661 or email