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Dogs afraid of lamb meat is a peculiar type of fear, but countless dogs show panic when their owners cook lamb meat.

The topic of dogs afraid of lamb meat may not seem to make much sense, but you might be surprised to learn that many dog owners report their dogs getting anxious, to the point of acting panicky when they cook this meat. 

What's up with these dogs? Aren't dogs supposed to like meat and its tantalizing smell? Until dogs can talk, we can really only make some assumptions. Here are just a few possible explanations.

Not an Unusual Fear

If you Google "dog afraid of lamb meat" you may find countless reports of dogs demonstrating some quite peculiar behaviors when this type of meat is cooked.

 I thought about this topic just the other day as I was reading the book "Dinner with Rover: Delicious, Nutritious Recipes for You and Your Dog to Share" by Helena Paton-Ayre and the following sentence intrigued me.

The author at a certain point in the book, when talking about a dog remarks: "He still reacts to black poodles, with uncontrollable rage, and regularly attacks his nemesis, Pepper the black Labradoodle who lives up the road. He's also scared to death of cooking lamb meat, which is bizarre."

This little excerpt brought back dear memories of my female Rottweiler, Petra, who started acting panicky when I started to grill lamb on my favorite grill. 

She was a pretty calm dog overall, who would tolerate firework displays, the sound of distant shotguns from hunters and cars backfiring, but who would lose it all when lamb was cooking.

 As I thought about this I Googled "dogs acting scared of lamb meat" surprised to have found so many dog owners observing the same reactions!

A Matter of Fat

As I troubleshoot several possible causes for dogs developing a fear of lamb meat, my thoughts go to the high fat content of lamb and the impact of this. 

Every time I cooked lamb, it meant cooking it at high temperatures with lots of fat draining out which led to lots of smoke in the home.

 I think that some dogs instinctively react to smoke, which is why we have so many stories of heroic dogs alerting their owners about smoke to the point of saving them from potentially deadly fires.

Is your dog afraid of lamb meat?

Is your dog afraid of lamb meat?

A Matter of Negative Associations

Dogs, also have the uncanny ability to form associations between different stimuli and situations. 

For instance, dogs who suffer from separation anxiety, learn quickly to associate the owner putting on his shoes, with grabbing the car keys, then opening the door, then closing the door and then turning on the car engine. 

Soon, dogs therefore start becoming antsy the moment the owner grabs his shoes because they have associated it with a sequence of events that culminate with the owners leaving. 

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In a similar fashion, my Rottweiler learned to fear lamb meat due to a series of events. Basically, when I cooked lamb, my home would fill with so much smoke, it would trigger the fire alarm which would further cause my dog to panic. 

Of course, this had a compounding effect which likely exacerbated her fear of not only the lamb leading to smoke, but now leading to smoke and the ear-piercing alarm sounds followed by my husband rushing to check things out and opening all windows and doors.

So I think that the high level of fat in lamb meat leading to sizzling sounds and smoke may have triggered some primal instinct which prompted her to sense danger and react towards it.

A Natural Aversion?

Some dog owners speculate that their dogs are afraid of lamb meat and object to eating it because they were selectively bred to not harm sheep. 

We are talking here about the many herding breeds. Border collies, Shelties, Australian Shepherds etc. 

These dogs breeds' predatory sequences has been truncated so that they only eye, stalk, and chase, and not attack, harm or kill the animals they are herding.

It could be that these dogs have developed a natural aversion to lamb meat, but of course, this is just speculation. 

An Unusual Aroma

But wait, there's more! Interestingly, a study on lamb meat cooking has revealed some interesting findings!

According to the study, published on the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture, when minced lamb obtained from 12-week-old ram lambs and wethers were fried in the absence of added fat, special components of sheep meat aroma were released.

One of these, in particular, 4,6-dimethyl-1,3-oxathiane, has not been previously reported to be released by any meat.

The aroma of such unique component has been described as having a ‘stale/wet animal’ odor. 

It could be therefore that dogs are reacting to this peculiar aroma that is unseen in any other types of meat. 

 How to Help a Dog Who is Afraid of Lamb Meat

Do you have a dog who acts fearful when you cook lamb? If so, you may want to know what to do about this behavior. Some dogs may even refuse to eat lamb meat after all the negative associations. Following are several tips.

  • Have a person walk your dog when you are cooking lamb. This way your dog is spared from the whole sizzling and smoking event. 
  • Keep your dog in a different room with a helper. Your dog may still smell the lamb, but at least he's not fully exposed to the full-intensity situation. 
  • Distract with something tasty. If your dog's fear of lamb meat is mild, chances are, he'll be able to become distracted if you offer him something tasty like a Kong stuffed with goodies or a bully stick. 
  • Open all windows and doors. This way any smoke will escape and not trigger your fire alarm.
  •  Use the silent button. If you have a standalone smoke detector, press the test/silence button. Usually, after silencing the smoke alarm, a red light will flash every 5 seconds to remind you it's in silence mode.
  • Remove the battery from your smoke alarm. Remember though to put it back on once you're done cooking! Have a person remind you just in case. 
  • Train a let's go outside, cue. I used this with my Rottweiler. I trained her to respond to a let's go outside cue, the moment there was smoke in the house. This behavior is great as a fire drill as it could have come handy in case of a real fire!

References:

  • Gkarane, V., Brunton, N.P., Harrison, S.M., Gravador, R.S., Allen, P., Claffey, N.A., Diskin, M.G., Fahey, A.G., Farmer, L.J., Moloney, A.P., & Monahan, F.J. (2018). Volatile Profile of Grilled Lamb as Affected by Castration and Age at Slaughter in Two Breeds. Journal of food science, 83 10, 2466-2477 .

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