I’m just going to get this out of the way. And I’m sorry ahead of time. Here goes…
It’s your fault. It’s 100% your fault! All poor behavior with your dog is a reflection of you and you alone. There is no such thing as a bad dog because a dog will ALWAYS be a reflection of its owner. I’ll explain below, but first go apologize to you poor puppy. I’ll wait…
Another thing I feel obliged to say and many people don’t like to hear; your dog is not a person. It’s not your child, it’s not a human. When you treat a dog like a human, you’re messing with it’s head. Messing with a dogs head is animal abuse in my book. Dogs have evolved rather quickly compared to other animals. That’s why there’s so many different breeds. They are genetically pliable. The will never, however, be anything other than a dog. You want to have a baby, then go in the back room and get busy;) If you want to have a dog, then learn about that animal’s behavior! Treat dogs as if the were, well, dogs. I loathe people that over anthropomorphize animals. I find it insulting to that animal. Each species is perfect just the way it is, don’t demote it to a simple human being. How base and vulgar.
I’m out there in the world people. I’m watching you. If I see this behavior, you will receive a tongue lashing!
Okay, I’m calm now. Shall we proceed or have I lost you? Don’t go, come back, there’s so much to discuss…
Before I get into methodology, we need to cover some basics that will change your life with a problem dog. Follow these rules and your problems will be over in an instant. It only takes moments to realign negative behavior in a dog. Another important point that should be made here is that these methods will work for ANY behavioral issues you’re having with your beloved dog.
Part I: Seven Tips on Achieving Good Behavior.
1) Be the Pack Leader:
This is, above all else, simply the MOST important step in any form of behavior modification work you do with your dog. Without a pack leader, your dog will gladly take over as one in an instant. This can happen as soon as you get your dog or any time during their stay with you. You flip that switch that you’re taking a demotion, they will fill your shoes in an instant.
So, how do you become the leader? You simply will it to be so. You say to yourself, “Hey, I’m in charge here damn it!” and you believe it Jack! You straighten your back up, keep your shoulders wide and your head held high and you look at that dog and emote leadership. That’s all.
They will read your posture, your face and your voice. If it’s assertive and certain, then they say, “Oh, okay, so you’re in charge! Got it”. Any time that they seem to forget that, you remind them. I can get my dog in order with a look now.
A good way to solidify this concept is during a walk. When packs of dogs or wolves or dingoes or coyotes are in the wild, the dominant pack leader always determines the direction of movement. Every member of the pack is always, and I mean always, keeping at least one eye on their pack leader. When you walk your dog, who’s in front? Who is leading who when you walk? If you answered the dog is, then you need to fix that. The dog should be either behind you or next to you. If they do wander in front, the leash should be slack and it should only be for a moment.
If they refuse to listen, make a noise that startles them. This resets their inner clockworks and forces them to change their attention from the world of scents around them to you. Then, just have them sit and calm down before proceeding. It may take you longer to get around the park, but once they figure it out, you won’t have to do it again.
Walking is the best exercise when it comes to establishing the pecking order.
How do you maintain pack leadership? Three words…
2) Consistency consistency consistency:
Some folks are just plain wishy washy. They change their moods and behavior more than they change their undies. There’s a language barrier with dogs so all they have to go on is your tone, body language and demeanor. If a behavior bothers you and you get mad sometimes and let it slide other times, it’s 100% your fault when they slip. You’re a dog owner, so take ownership!
If you don’t want the dog on the couch, don’t ever let it on the couch. Don’t give in sometimes because you don’t have any fight left in you after a long day. If you stay the course, you’ll never have to correct them again. It just takes a little time and patience, and then they got it for good.
If you don’t want your dog to beg for food, don’t feed it from your plate. Ever. If you slip and give them something, you’ll have to start all over again.
If you don’t want your dog to be aggressive with your chickens, don’t ever allow it to escalate to that. Always remember that YOU are the pack leader.
Consistency might seem like you’re being a tyrant, but to a dog it actually gives them peace to know the boundaries. Peace makes them not worry about life. They are happy and content and all is well with the world. When you alter those boundaries, they get confused and stressed. Stress leads to bad behavior. Stay the course!
One of the most important things to do is to trust in your dog’s good nature. If you are worried that your dog will attack, your dog will actually sense your tension and then feel tense. When a dog is tense, it tends to get aggressive.
9 times out of 10 a dog acts out not because they are a bad dog, but because their owner is not calm. I would even go so far as to say that there’s no such thing as a bad dog, just inexperienced owners not realizing that the dog is picking up every subtle emotion the owner is feeling, even if the owner doesn’t even know it. Dog obedience schools should only allow people to attend. And if you send your dog to an obedience school and don’t go to work directly with them every time, then good luck getting those lessons to stick!
Dogs are specialized in reading us due to the language barrier. They also have way more heightened senses than we do. You know how you can tell when your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse is upset despite how skilled they are at masking it? You can sense it because of subtle hints that they give off. Now imagine you have the heightened senses of a dog. They don’t even have to look at you to know you’re tense, nervous or anxious. They often know before you do in fact.
So while you’re training you dog to not see your chickens as food or the worlds most realistic squeaky toy, remember that a dogs number one priority is to make you happy. That’s it, that’s all a dog wants in this world. Dogs are the bestest animal ever invented! So just trust in them to do what they do.
Another huge key in getting this, or any other, training accomplished is making sure you are only working when the dog is in a calm passive state. Don’t push things if the dog is clearly excited. Take a time out and try again once he or she is ready. Otherwise, you’ll get annoyed and then the whole practice does more harm than good. When you are calm, it’s easier for your dog to be calm. Just wait it out or leave the scene and then return to it a moment later.
I’m beginning to feel like I’m writing a article about how to be a better human instead of how to train a dog to not eat chickens. But the two do go hand in hand.
5) Make Observations:
Get to know how your dog ticks! You need to be at least half of the mind reader that your dog is. They have thousands of subtle signs that they demonstrate to you constantly. Study them and learn what they mean. These signs will show you if they are receptive to constructive training or not quite ready. Or, for dogs you’ve just met, these signs tell you if they want to meet you! Observations like this can help you avoid a nasty bite. Which, by the way, is also your fault.
Now these are some obvious observable signs of Sasha’s mood. I use this as an example. Notice the forward facing ears on the happy shot as opposed to the unhappy shot with the ears back. Dogs are constantly telling you how they feel by how they hold their bodies. Some are very subtle. The best way to learn is to simply study dogs. Go to a dog park and see what dogs are displaying what when interacting with one another. The tail position is a huge one! When a dog is aggressive or scared their tail is clearly not wagging, but is tucked under their body. Fear and aggression both mean trouble. This would be a situation where you just stand there and look at something else until the dog approaches you. Then you just ignore it. If you’re calm and disinterested, the dog will relax right away. Always look before you leap!
6) Positive Reinforcement Vs. Negative Punishment:
Negative punishment will never ever ever work! Ever. It confuses the dog into thinking that you want the opposite of what you actually want. It solidifies anxiety and aggression. Positive reinforcement will do so much more in such a shorter amount of time. Never spank your dog, even with a rolled up newspaper. Don’t yell at your dog excessively. Don’t rub your dogs face in its poop when it has an accident. Unless of course if you want them to continue doing what makes you so mad. Then, by all means, continue being a total jerk. Ya jerk!
So what do you do when a dog in pulling the leash trying to scare the living hell out of your chickens? You calmly walk him/her away from the scene and wait for them to calm down and then try again. When they show ANY signs of improvement, you reward them with praise.
Look, I know that it’ll get frustrating sometimes. Believe me, Sasha had tons of separation anxiety when I first rescued her. Life was hard and I wanted to scream my head off most days. But you can’t do that if you want to see results. Only positive reinforcement will get you lasting results.
Think about it for a moment. If your animal is acting out because they have anxiety, what do you think yelling will do? It intensifies that anxiety of course. Which solidifies the bad behavior. Do you see the pattern?
7) Treats and Bribery:
Now this is just me. I very rarely use treats. And never when training. Don’t get me wrong, I do give Sasha treats every day, just not a whole lot. It sounds crazy right? Trust me when I say that dogs much prefer your praises and scratches than they do treats. Treats are over in a matter of seconds after a dog wolfs it down. When a dog feels loved, that lasts forever.
I know what you’re thinking, “Not my dog”. Yes, your dog too. They may be used to the food based training and appear to be hooked, but they can be weaned from that thinking. And should be! Part of keeping a dog happy and healthy involves keeping a healthy weight for the animal. Food dependent obedience is not true obedience. Its bribery. Please do your best to attempt using physical contact and verbal praise when training your pup. Remember, they love to make you happy!! Even more than they love to eat.
Okay, that’s enough of Uncle Jim’s rigid laws of dog ownership. I’m just really passionate about this and hate it when I see people being jerks to their little babies. Now lets get to the reason you’re here. How to keep your dog from eating your chickens!
Part II: Teaching Your Dog to See Your Flock as Part of the Family and Not Dinner.
I had my husky/lab Sasha for about a year and change when I got my first one day old chickens. At that moment, I knew I had my work cut out for me. She was too excited about these new amazing squeaky toys I brought home. Way too excited!
Newborn chickens, as you may well know, require some time to live in a brooding box before going out into the cold dark world. Mine was stored in the spare room. And Sasha was curious as to why I would close the door to the room now when clearly her new toys were in there waiting for her to chew on. “What gives human?”
I began training on the first few days in the simplest of terms. I went into the room with Sasha on her leash and just got her used to the peeps coming from the box up on the table out of her view. When she calmed down, I gave her praise. When she got over-excited, we left the room.
My most used command with Sasha is simply “gentle”. I use it all the time and it means to her, calm the hell down. I say it softly and repeatedly until she can calm herself. If she begins to get to excited, I’ll say “gentle”. If that doesn’t work, we move away from what is exciting her and approach again after a brief pause. Amazingly effective.
After a week of this, we moved on to her being in the room with the brooder on the ground and the lid secured. Now she could actually see what was making the noise. I continued with the above mentioned methods. Too worked up meant leave the room on the leash and try again. Calm and reposed meant she could stay and watch and I could give her praise.
The following week, we tried the lid off. A big step and the chickens were hopping all over the place getting used to their wings and newly forming feathers. A lot of stimulation for our poor Sasha. And now she could reach her head all the way into the brooder and snatch a baby if she so chose. Remember when I was talking earlier about trust? Well, this is what I had to do. But actually trust her. Not hope she would do well, but believe she would. Easier said than done, I know, but not impossible. And she did great. When her tail went nuts and her ears moved forward, I would sooth her and say over and over, “gentle Sasha, gentle”. She got worked up once or twice and we left the room for only an instant and right back in again. This was enough for her to understand a basic concept; you want to see these critters right? The only way is when you are calm and gentle.
The week after that, we did a repeat of this but this time, no leash. Now it would be even harder for me to stop her if she gobbled one of the chicks down. But she had already figured out the routine. She’s a dog, and dogs are mind reading geniuses. Yes, even when they eat cat poop. They’re better at reading other animals than you and I are, and I think that’s pretty genius.
In week four, the chickens were able to jump onto the edge of the brooding box when the lid was off. This gave Sasha much joy to see and hear such a cacophony. I continued teaching her when her excitement was too much for the situation. “Gentle Sasha, gentle.” And if she wouldn’t calm down, out we went.
I would hold the chickens as a way to get them to trust me as well. And when I did Sasha was always close by. I’d lower them down to her level so she could sniff them. Which was a little bit nerve-racking, but it was a step that needed to happen. This is all to dilute the mystery through continued exposure. It’s a form of operant conditioning, but not as cold and calculated as Pavlovian control. There were also no bells present.
By week 6, the chickens were ready to move into the coop. They had to spend a full week in the coop before I could let them out in the run so they learn that the coop is home base. Not much dog training went on then other than to get her used to the critters being outside and in full view. Again, exposure in a calm state.
If she got too worked up, or tried to paw at the wire, I would move her away for a bit or tell her to lay down. She did very well at this stage so it wasn’t often when this came into play. But for illustration purposes, here’s one time…
There was even time for Sasha to train her friend Noe on how to not freak out the flock. With some success.
Week 7 meant that the chickens could now venture out in the run at their leisure during the day and this is where the training commenced. Now Sasha could interact with them fairly directly and they with her and I could just watch and correct bad behavior. She couldn’t touch them due to the fencing, but if she was getting overly playful I could easily calm her down. Which I didn’t have to do too often. Maybe four times. She was just extremely curious and at worst playful chasing behavior. Never any sign of aggression or malice. She had learned that I was trusting her and she wanted to maintain that trust.
I also wanted her to get used to the smells of the inside of the run. I didn’t want the run to be this untouchable area which would only prove to intensify her curiosity. I wanted her to remain calm always when the chickens were around. I began leading her into the run (which wasn’t hard) and just resting with her in the hay. The chickens were safely in the coop above us so this was an important step. She could simply look up at any time and see them and get worked up. Eventually, I was able to get her to just BE in the space lounging with me and the chickens above. I didn’t use any other command other than gentle, and I didn’t try too hard to get her settled. I just waited and when she did settle, I used positive reinforcement. I let her learn how to get rewards. Subtle, but extremely effective.
Week 10 was the first time I allowed the chickens to come outside of the run and wander where they wished about the yard. The first two times, I left Sasha inside with the door closed.
Then twice with just the screen door closed so she could watch.
Then we took the major step. The big “sink or swim” moment. The chickens were free ranging in the yard and Sasha was brought out. No leash at all! Again, it was time to trust her. She had been showing no signs of anxiety or aggression since the chickens were indoors and little babies so I skipped the leash stage for this critical step. You may wish to use a leash now until you are certain that your dog will not bite one of your flock. Your call completely. Just know that at some point, you need to let them do what they are going to do.
She definitely made a b-line towards the birds, which were now big enough to at least defend themselves a wee little bit. Or at least run away while making a lot of noise. Both the chickens and Sasha kept a lazy distance from each other! The chickens pecked and scratched (as they were already used to the dog being nearby) and Sasha laid down or sat and watched. I kept cooing the words “gentle” and “be a good girl” when she seemed to be getting too excited.
100% success!! She behaved so well that I felt that we were finished with the training. A few more times of observed interactions and I even felt comfortable enough to go back in the house and leave them alone together. Only for a short while and I kept my ears turned to the back yard with earnest.
This last weekend was the big final test. How would she handle little defenseless Piper? Piper is a little bit stupid. Well, a lot a bit. She is slow moving, very tiny, half blind from fluffiness and also the most squeak-toy looking chicken I have. On Sunday I tried to let only her come out to walk the yard with Sasha. They did so well I couldn’t believe it! If Sasha got too close, Piper would yell at her and scamper away. Six inches away…but to her less-than-smart ass, it was a safe distance.
Sasha took the hints and would just lay down and stare. I couldn’t have been more proud! Just feast your eyes on how my methods worked!
It was all relatively easy to accomplish too. Just remember all that I’ve said above about dog behavior and what works and what doesn’t work. Also, don’t proceed to the next step until the previous one has been accomplished! That’s really important. You have to walk before you run. Remember also to always be the pack leader in all things. All things! If you are assertive, confident and strong, your pup will follow your lead. It’s really that simple. If you get stuck, send me a comment and I’ll help you out!
Interested in following the adventures of Sasha the wonder dog? Check out her fancy schmancy webpage! She’d love your visit!
Now tell me something about you…
110 Replies to “How to Train Your Dog to Not Kill Your Chickens”
Thanks for the tips. We have two sweet dogs (will try your techniques on them) and one quite lethal cat (lethal to small creatures and wrestles with dogs, but no exposure to chickens quite yet)…
Anytime Daphne! I can’t vouch for cats. I’ve had many and they are untrainable when it comes to bad behavior 🙂 If you do get chickens, this will work for you. If you don’t, this applies to anything you want them to do. Or not do for that matter. Maybe you can train them to train your cat? Or train them in martial arts to protect themselves from your cat!
I am not a dog fan, in general, although dogs like me. My son-in-law considered his Jack Russell terrier to be a genuine threat to other people, and was in dire fear that the dog would bite me when it was necessary for me to be in his proximity. Jack and I had a mutual “no bite” agreement.
Ahh, that’s exactly what I mean. If your son-in-law has that fear then the Jack Russell will go out of his/her way to fulfill it. They amplify and project our feelings and we often don’t realize it. I like that your agreement was mutual! I’d imagine Jack Russell might leave a bad taste in your mouth were you to bite back.
Jack never took that chance. Hey, did you ever see that cartoon (maybe Gary Larsen) where the two guys are in Hell and a dog is all stretched out on a rug near the flames. One says to the other: “I don’t know…maybe he’s just a bad dog.”
I actually do remember that one! Far Side was my favorite comics of all. Love Gary Larson’s sense of humor, right up my alley.
What a great detailed article! Don”t have dogs or chickens but do have 3 young kids and a lot of the principles are the same! A lot of lazy undisciplined parents would benefit from this dog advice 🙂
Thanks my man. That’s right, never let ’em see you sweat pack leader. Just like kids, just like plants and just like love, it all takes the same thing. Time and attention. Cheers!
Great insights into being a proper dog owner. My dog-owning dats are past, but everything you mentioned is something I should have done!
Thanks Dan! I’ve always loved dogs, but also always had apartments. I refused to get one until I could provide a yard. I adore my pup, we gel together very well. Cheers!
I never had a dog, though I love them. Still I am fascinated by your advice, it does make sense, and it is lovely to see the dog and the chickens live in peace 🙂
I’m so glad that all my girls can live in harmony. I’m no good at compartmentalized love, it’s gotta be communal on my “farm”. I’ve always had a way with animals, including humans. With a little patience, all creatures are reachable. Communication takes many forms and many of those don’t use words. Perhaps I’ll test my skills with a larger animal like a tiger or grizzly bear. Maybe not a good idea.
Need a whole post on Sasha body language—more Angry Sasha, Happy Sasha, and additional photo examples please. Is the cuteness level of a dog also a reflection of its owner? Makes sense…
There was a link to her packdog site, does that count? And yes, the sum of the dogs cuteness is directly proportionate to the square root of the owners cuteness 😉
What a generous gift this is!
Well, my dog Sasha is a gift that I can’t keep all to myself. I adore that little girl. I rescued her, and then she rescued me. Thanks Aggie for your kind words.
Sasha is beautiful! Good tips too. I shall remember them when we get a rescue dog (hopefully within the next few months).
Of course as soon as you rescue one you’ll be posting photos yes? Rescued dogs will love you like nothing else ever has. As if they know that things could’ve gone the other way. Separation anxiety is common I’ve read, but pretty easy to fix if you give it some energy. Sasha had issues the first few weeks. Good as gold once she realized I am always coming back for her. She knows I’ll protect her for the rest of her days. Do rescue one! Such a gift. Sasha thanks you for the compliment. She blushes through snowy fluffiness. Not exactly certain as to how the hell I weaseled myself into this life of mine, but somehow I’ve managed to be surrounded by the most beautiful creatures ever. All my girls are breath taking and sweet as honey. Whatever it is universe, keep it coming!
Excellent post, sir. I agree with almost everything (except Noe is my smoochy oochy coochy coo baby—I know, you loathe me), *especially* #6. I just need to…get certain others to agree as well. Ahem. I’ll be referring back to this post as I work to better train my babycakes. Perhaps one day, she and Sasha really WILL be friends.
You know, last time actually wasn’t that bad. Only one fight. We’ll figure it out for sure. Noe with her food issues and Sasha with her jealousy. Yet both are sweet as molasses on their own. Perhaps a field trip together will solidify the bond… Oh and, yes, #6. That’s a big one. I’ll help from my end 😉
Only one fight, but lots of blood! Maybe it’s a catty (heh) girl thing, and after they fight it out, they’ll become BFFs.
Maybe you can talk to certain people and make him—er, them—understand #6, ’cause I’ve tried and tried and tried to no avail…
thank you for your great advice! training the dog is easy, training the family to train the dog, not so easy : ) .I will definitely be doing this method when we finally get chickens! I also use the clicker training (behaviour shaping) method which is highly effective. thanks again! Bronte.
You’ve hit the nail on the head Bronte, it all begins with the humans! It sounds like you’ve got a firm grasp on what it will take to get your pup to see the chickens as part of the pack. You’re a dog owner after my own heart! Getting the family to tow the line may be a challenge and you wouldn’t want to send mixed messages to the dog and confuse it. But it sounds like you’re the pack leader so hopefully he or she will respond to your training instead.
Thank you, I give it all I’ve got but some times it doesn’t seem enough! I have SO many questions! But I’ll just start with what your view on the tug game is? I’v read so many mixed reports
I think playing tug of war with a dog is great exercise and can be healthy play. So long as it’s not allowed to go to far. It should always be initiated by the human to help solidify healthy play. If the dog gets too excited and starts trying to bit your hand, make a noise that signals it’s not okay and walk away with the toy for half a minute. The pup should also release when told to. If they’re not, then it’s the wrong kind of play.
There’s a fine line here. You want to stimulate the dog without putting it into a predator “kill mode”. It’s like you’re taking it close to the edge without letting it get too aggressive. They put those squeaky things in toys to simulate a small animals death sounds, which is why dogs live them so much and chew them out of the toy. If it still squeaks, then it still “lives”. We must never forget their nature. They are all wolves at heart, even the tiny goofy looking puppies.
Great! Pepper loves tug, but I haven’t been playing much becaus I read it encourages aggression, and although she’s not aggressive as such she is very excitable and gets carried away,at this point I usually quit (next time I’ll try your 30 seconds and give her another chance), I quite often combine tug and fetch(with two items) witch is great for a while but often ends up with her running of with one of the toys! at this point the game is over and I have to retrieve the toy from her. this is frustrating because she has a lot of energy and fetching is fun for the whole family if only she’d get into it as much as me.
P.s should I avoid squeeky toys?
There’s no reason to avoid squeaky toys unless you have an overly aggressive dog. I love encouraging dogs natural behavior, it’s really good for them. Dogs need to be dogs before anything else! If your pup isn’t aggressive, then it’s a great form of play and exercise. My dog plays fetch the same way, she runs off with it and doesn’t bring it back. It’s fine so long as she’s getting exercise. I end up getting exercise as well chasing down her damn toys.
Pepper sounds like a good girl! And yes, taking those little breaks and then starting over again is a great way to establish good behavior. Dogs have a kind of reset button and this plays on that. If a dog is paying too much attention to another dog and you do a little grab on the other side, away from what’s distracting her, she’ll snap out of it and it’ll break the spell. It’s a great way to reinforce training.
So, keep the squeaky toys as long as they last because Pepper can then get back to her roots as a wolf in puppy clothing. I used to know a black lab named pepper. Sweetest girl ever!
thank you so much for your advice! it’s great to be able to ask a direct question, and have it answered! I’m so pleased I found you!
I’m glad to be of help! We all get by much better with some direct conversation don’t we. The one thing I wanted to do with this blog is be a real and present person for like minded people. Call on me whenever something comes up and I’ll do my best to help!!
Cheers Bronte and thanks for reading MYD!
Hello again James, Something has popped up, (something pops up every day, but I try to use a bit of restraint so not to annoy you : ) ) So… we live on a largish property that is not dog proofed, Pepper likes to wonder which is fine, except for when she wonders to the neighbours property, or goes and chases the horse in his paddock. So obviously we need a fence. Easier said than done! Time,money,and labour is needed, I am now considering an invisible fence, that is also easer said than done, theres a lot of products on the market, and of course theres the question of humanity. So as you can see I’m in turmoil! advice and or opinion would be appreciated.
sorry for the drawn out message. thanks again. B.
Good morning Bronte! No need for apologies, with every question I learn a little more and I truly am here to help and learn from my readers.
I did a little research on invisible fences when I first got my home. My property is smaller though and was already mostly fenced in, so I decided to finish the job and just built my own picket fence. It wasn’t so much for keeping the dog in, but also to get other beasts out.
As for the shocks invisible fences give, I’ve read that once the dog has been shocked a few times, they don’t go back for more. You can put little red flags (surveying flags) along the border to help Pepper know where this barrier is. Although the shock isn’t dangerous to a dog, just, well, shocking. It can cause some behavioral issues with submissive dogs when they are too young.
Invisible fences are a much cheaper alternative, but perhaps you should buy a small amount of materials and test it out before doing the whole yard just to make sure it’s a good fit for Pepper. Perhaps around a planting bed or somewhere like that. That way your not investing in a system that may not work.
I found this article that may be helpful…
It sounds to me like Pepper is having a great time over there! Adventures abound. Sasha is jealous of such freedoms and she adores horses and donkeys and cows.
I just had a thought. You can grow a perimeter fence with willow. It would take a few seasons to be dog proof, but would cost you nothing but time if you have access to a willow tree that you could take clippings from. Willow roots very easily and I’ve seen some amazing structures made from weaving together closely planted willow branches that have been rooted in buckets of water. Just a thought.
Whatever you decide, I’m certain that your thoughtfulness will prevail! I’d love to see a photo of Pepper. I feel like I know her already. You should post one on my Mind Your Dirt Facebook page!
I’m guessing by your usage of added “u’s” in certain words that you are not living in the United States. But, today is Independence Day here, so I need to go throw some tea into the San Diego harbor and then light things on fire. I know, crazy colonists… No taxation without representation!! Huzzah! Cheers Bronte.
Hi, James! thanks heaps, that article was very helpful. I love the willow tree idea for a long term project! I always dreamed of making a gazebo with willow : ) but a fence would be unreal!
Yes your right I’m not living in the US. I’m Australian, and Pepper is Border collie x Australian kelpie (mother) X maremma (father), energy to spare!!! And quite often to clever for me!
Now for another one- fear of the car ( getting in it! not chasing it!) she used to get sick but now I use an elastic band over the nose bridge, crossed across the throat end tied at the back of the head (this I learned from a Tellington touch book). Have you heard of the T. Touch? if not check it out. Sorry I don’t have any links.
Any way now when I try to get her in the car she just lies down and won’t budge, I have to carry her in to the car where she lies very still and looks at me like I’m the worst person in the world! even though we always take her somewhere fun, the beach, or park. she always seems to know before if we’er taking her or not! So any way theres some food for thought.
buy for now. B.
P.S hove fun burning things, and throwing tea! ; )
Just a minor nitpick – negative punishment is removing the reward so when you describe time outs or removing her from the chickens for getting too aroused, that is an example of negative punishment. I think possibly you meant positive punishment which is adding an adversive (collar check, swatting the dog, using an ecollar etc).
Oh tricky Pavlovian methodology! Why do you elude me so…
Thanks for the edit Kira. What type of background or experience do you have? I’d love to get your take on the matter. Also, sorry I missed your comment until now. Slipped through my radar apparently.
I got Henry when he was 4 months old. He’s been raised around our free range chickens. He’s a herding bed, so when his herding instincts kicked in and he started herding the chickens, I didn’t worry too much. If he got to excited I would scold him (I’m sure you probably disapprove, but that’s what I did) and he’d generally settle down. Henry is now 9 months old and I trusted him to be alone with the chickens. ..until Wednesday when I came home to 3 dead and munched on chickens. Any advise?
Hi Alyssa! So sorry to hear the bad news! I’m also sorry if I came off as judgemental when writing this, I didn’t mean to be. I was more so trying to shock people into seeing training differently. So, I don’t disapprove of some scolding. We are human after all.
When Sasha acts up, I also scold. But mostly with a firm “no!” or “leave it!”. My tone is enough to correct the bad behavior. What I meant was don’t ever hit or scream or flip out on your dog. It’ll only confuse it and intensify the bad behavior.
That said, I’m surprised that you dog would go so far as to kill 3 chickens! Are you certain it was Henry and not an intruder? Were any of the chickens roosters per chance? If so, perhaps Henry was foolishly challenged into a fight.
Give me a little more details so we can figure this out. I’m really surprised that for 5 months nothing bad happened and then all of the sudden total carnage. Perhaps there’s an element we’re missing.
Well, Henry has been getting more aggressive over the last few weeks, and maybe aggressive isn’t the best word, but less willing to leave them alone when scolded. Instead of stopping altogether, only stopping briefly before going back. That behavior only seemed to happen in the morning and evening when we humans are all out feeding animals and there’s more activity. He does the same with the cows. He just seems like he has ADD. He cocks his head a bit like he hears you, but is just to excited to give you his full attention. I attributed the change to his age. We have another dog a bit older who never pays a bit of attention to the chickens, so I don’t think it was her, and I’ve never seen any evidence of a varmint around. I think the dogs keep them away. We had to leave for a couple of hours Wednesday evening and rather than chicken wrangling, I decided to leave them out. I’ve done this before with no problems. When we got home H entry was munching on one in the backyard in his lounging spot. There was another carcass in the front yard lounging spot and one more in the coop. Looks like all were munched from the back end – don’t know if that makes any difference. No roosters killed, but one was chased and lost some of his tail feathers.
He just got two more. I saw him this time. I don’t know if he got into the closed coop or if one of the kids left the door open, but either way is more than I can handle right now. I have no doubt I’ll be able to find him a good home. He has good herding instincts and there are a lot of ranchers around here. Thank you for your time.
Alyssa, I’m so sorry. I wish we had some more time to figure this out, but I understand. You have to do what’s best for you family, including the feathery family. If there’s anything that I can do for you please feel free to contact me. I hope that you can get that harmony back again in short order!
Thanks for this article and reminder that most bad behavior is because of something I have left out of training. We have a 7 1/2 month old English Shepherd, Sully, who has 3 times now raised havoc with my son’s fowl. 🙁 Without going into detail, he seems to mostly want to play and maul. Apparently yesterday at some secret moment he actually got into the coop and broke some wire so he could get to the 4 month chickens and 3 guineas. One died, can’t find the guineas. I have taken him to their house (100 yards away) a few times and just sat with him next to the birds but it sounds like I should do this daily? They have previously planned on surrounding the chickens with electric wire(even b4 Sully’s arrival) so that is still going to happen. I kind of feel like we have set Sully up for failure in this AND he is a terrible car chaser which has obvious ramifications, too. We have always had Lassie collies and shelties and successfully trained them but this guy is busy, bold and bossy(….but very loving). He uses his nose like a hound and his recall definitely needs work. I remember ALL my dogs at this age going through a ‘stage’ but this guy is tricky. I will use your ‘gentle’ suggestion with him but I think at least at this age he needs to be in his fenced yard when I cannot be with him? Any other ideas? I do not want him to cause stress and animosity with son and sweet daughter in law so will rehome if that seems best…NEVER considered that before.
Hello Yirsa, sorry to hear about this strong hunter of yours. Some dogs need a little more work than others and I’d be more concerned about the car chasing than anything else.
That said, the car chasing and the chicken attacks have one thing in common, they are both examples of prey driven excitement. A very high energy level of excitement that has to be matched by you, the pack leader, in order to redirect that energy. Something easier said than done I admit, but it can be done!
I would recommend working with the car chasing first and then use the same methods on the chickens or anything else for that matter.
You may want to bring in a professional trainer who can show you ways to redirect this very intense energy without hurting the pup of course. Toys and treats won’t be enough in this case and the same goes for just sitting with him near the coop or run. He should be on a leash at all times so when he gets too excited or too intense you can immediately correct him and walk him away from the chickens. Once he calms down again, you can bring him back into the situation for another attempt.
You’ll find that eventually he’ll realize that the only way hell be able to see these stimulating critters is when he’s calm and submissive. And that will be how you get him to change his hunting behavior. I’m thinking this will take some time for you but that’s okay, it’s a key step in the process that can’t be rushed or skipped over. You’ll also look like a crazy person as you keep walking him back and forth away and towards the hens enclosure. So it goes.
If I was there to see, I could show you when he gets too worked up and the exact moment when you need to snap him out of it. Timing is key. The stare gets intense, the ears point forward and you can see when the energy has changed. That’s when you make a loud noise and kind of pinch his back (not to hurt, but to startle) on the side of him that’s opposite the chickens. Use your hand like his mom’s gentle bite if you can picture that. Then walk him away and wait for his attention to be solely on you and his calm to return. Then go back towards the coop. If he pulls at the leash give it a quick tug, make the loud noise and turn him around to start again. You have to this every single time he gets worked up.
I hope this helps, and I really think you should hire someone to show you in regards to the car chasing as that’s more pressing for young Sully! Essentially, you need the training not Sully. You have to see when and how to redirect the very instant he switches into predator mode so you can act immediately. You can and will get there though, and when you do you both will be happier and more relaxed. Don’t give up on Sully and don’t lose faith in your good boy, he’s just doing what nature made him to do but in the end, he loves you more than anything else in this world and wants to make you happy. You just need to show him how. I know you can do this! Keep me posted and send me video if it helps and I can analyze what’s happening. Maybe post it on my Facebook page would be easier…
Thank you, James, for these helpful suggestions. We worked harder on a down/stay and recall this morning. The electric fence is up around chickies so that is good, but the guineas are still wandering. I will still work on his chicken manners even with the deterrent…I am ok with looking dorky. 😉
All of our other dogs chased vehicles and we have always been able to convince them that it is not a good idea. We are hoping that Sully, too, will get it soon.
He is a good boy and we have looked forward to this great, helpful working dog for our large farm/ranch in MT after all the research I did. But he is trickier than expected. I don’t know for sure where to find a pro dog trainer around our extremely rural area…hmm. You and Cesar live in CA!
Anyway, we do have some ideas on the chasing and we are able to confine him if I cannot have my eyes on him. Keeping fingers crossed that we will have success instead of disaster.
i’ve used this technique with the neighbor’s dog. their daughter wanted a rabbit but old fido wasn’t having any of that. so, over a week or so the puppy learned and now you can see that young child out in the yard with her dog and her bunny – it is too cool.
Ah, that’s great news! Nothing beats sweet harmony! That also sounds pretty adorable, a puppy, a bunny and a kid. Cute!
How generous of you! This is a well-written and thorough post…thank you! We pick up our durst chicks in a few weeks and I will be trying this.
Thanks Mary! I’ve had some complaints about the tone with this article, so I hope you didn’t think it was to harsh in the beginning. I’m all sensitive about that now.
What breed of dog do you have? And is it responsive to other training? Oh, and can I pet it? I love dogs you see…
Great article. I have a mini pitty and have been having problems with her and our chickens. She hasn’t KILLED one yet but I’m really afraid it’s headed in that direction. I definitely get very stressed and amped up when she goes after them! Am going to start implementing your technique TODAY! Stay tuned.
Wonderful to hear! Please let me know if you hit any roadblocks and I can help in any way.
It’s very possible that your pit is reading your anxiety source as being the chickens. Our dogs are like little mind readers, even if the message gets lost in translation. She’s in tune with you on more levels than you can imagine. She just wants you to be happy so you simply need to communicate HOW she can do that. Be patient and always reset the stimuli when she gets too excited on the leash by calmly taking her away from the hens. Once she makes that connection, it’ll be smooth sailing. My husky just lays in the grass while my bantam pecks and scratches right in front of her. Even if I’m not there (I spy from the window). Harmony is such a wonderful state! I’m here if you need me.
I just got a dog from the humane society two days ago. They claim he is boxer/ german shephard and two years old. A friend with dogs doesn’t their current home)ink he’s even a year. I am totally new to dogs. He is super excited and tries to get to my ducks. After an hour or so he will stop paying attention to them. They were in a run and he was loose. He sniffed around it and I told him no if he tried to scratch, climb or try to dig under the fence. He is extremely gentle with all my kids (he’s been loose with 11 kids in about a quarter acre). They laid on him and everything. This morning the ducks were in a wire dog cage (their current coop), and one of them wasn’t scared an got near the door as he was sniffing and he grabbed her neck! I didnt think there was any danger… 🙁 He seems to sort of obey some commands, but not perfectly, and not at all when he’s excited by the ducks. I’m following some web advice on training him, but I need a plan. I’m guessing I should do the walk away and have him calm down whenever he gets excited by them? Work on better obedience, and make sure he can’t get to them? Any other suggestions, or more specific?
Hi Amanda. I hope your duck wasn’t badly injured!! You’re on the right path. But make sure you’re doing the training in a leash. So you can easily lead him away when he gets too excited.
At some point, you’ll want them to be all out in the same space without you watching. Harmony is important with farm animals otherwise you’ll always be worried about something getting out and getting attacked. That’s no way to live. The dog MUST learn that all your critters are part of the pack. Once that happens, your life will be easy breezy.
Don’t get frustrated when and if it takes a while for him to remain calm during your back and forths to and from the duck coop. Remember, it’s your patience that makes this training work.
You are absolutely wrong and I cannot believe that this page of garbage shows up first on Google. Dominance is absolutely wrong and has nothing to do with everyday interactions with our pets. I am numb setting how many people say that what you blathered on about “made sense”. Are we in a Disney movie because all of this was fictional.
That’s some passionate commenting ya got there. I especially like your lack of counterpoints, general rudeness and shaky grammar.
It is really odd that this post ranks #1 in google, because despite some valuable information (e.g. you’re to blame, pack leader, consistency, observation, don’t anthropomorphize dogs) it has a naive, pet-centric view (as opposed to working farm dog view). For example, a few paragraphs later it says: trust your dog – talk about anthropomorphization! It says to be calm (that’s usually the most naive). Note how the author never leaves the dog alone with the chickens (some trust!). How about leaving the dog alone with the chickens in bad weather, or if the dog had a light meal, or…(etc). If you want a real world discussion of chickens and dogs, read this one: http://adventuresinthegoodland.blogspot.com/2013/05/how-to-keep-your-dog-from-killing-your.html.
When I say trust your dog I mean that you need to not show anxiety that the dog will pick up on. That’s a way for you to project the right headspace to be effective at implementing change in your dog.
Also, when did I say I never leave the dog alone with the chickens? My dog is predominantly alone with all the hens. As a sheep dog would be with the flock. That’s the whole goal right? To have the dog protect the flock in lieu of seeing them as prey.
And yes, this is an URBAN gardening blog, not a farming blog. That has nothing to do with dog training though. The principles are the same.
I feel like your just reaching for criticism to push your link a little bit. This really the #1 rank in Google? That’s pretty neat. Don’t be jelly johannsen.
As for poor weather and a light lunch? My animals don’t get too stressed over things like that. Fireworks etc. Even if they did, that doesn’t mean they’ll go feral or something! Maybe I’m a naive lover of my pets, but everyone over here has their shit together and gets along so harmoniously. So maybe that’s why people like reading it. Food for thought.
Hi. I have a 6 month old half Boxer half Pitbull. His name is Super. He is the absolute smartest dog I have ever had, but boy is he stubborn. He is very well behaved when I am home. I am his leader and he knows it. He doesn’t listen to my husband or the kids like he does with me. Most of the time, all I have to do is clear my throat or look at him and he will correct himself. My chickens are a different story. Has already killed and eaten one, when I wasn’t home. My fault for leaving them out when I left. My husband has twice let the chickens out to forage since and forgotten to keep an eye on the dog. One time, he seriously maimed a rooster to the point that I had to put him down. The second time, he grabbed almost all of them and pulled feathers out, but no serious harm was done to them. All 3 times, I let him know how displeased I was with him. He hung his head in shame and refused eye contact with his ears back and tail tucked. He still watches them with intensity and perked ears. A couple of times I have caught him starting to stalk them and I stop him. Mostly, he will sit back at a distance and watch me and the chickens or make a point of ignoring them. I am not sure, but I think he knows they are mine and not his and that he should leave them. I am wondering if you have any thoughts on this. Could it just be the puppy in him, that he needs to disobey when the leader isn’t looking or not home? Or is it possible that he is just smart enough to know when the right time to attack is? I guess my question is: Is there hope for my animals to live in harmony? I desperately want to let the chickens free range all day, but right now the dog free ranges all day, so the birds only can once I get home…
Here’s hoping because I love all of them!
I’m so sorry to hear about this. I think your pooch is just a little confused. The main issue is that he sees them as prey still and not as part of the pack. His good/restrained behavior when you’re around is him obeying you as pack leader, but is only delaying the inevitable. When you’re away or no one is around, he will still see them as prey and want to chase or bite or kill them.
It’s that issue you need to focus on. Until you do, you’ll always be playing prison guard or sheriff. What kind of training have you tried in order to have the two species cohabitate? Excluding punishment after the fact of course.
Remember, when you yell at a dog it only adds confusion and stress to the dog which can actually increase the bad behavior. Hitting is way worse.
We’re trying to distract the dogs intense attention towards the chicken, not punish or scold.
Having your sweet pup on a leash like I mention in this article is the best way I’ve found to begin this training. With your dogs previous experience with the rooster and the other hens, I imagine this will take a bit longer than if you were just starting out.
My dog was (and is) perfect with the hens, but if a cat was in the yard? Look out!! Chased them like crazy and she was out for blood as well. THEN, I pick up a stray kitten and all the rules needed to change. After a month of patient training, the two of them were snuggling together in the most adorable ways imaginable.
Bottom line is, no dog (no matter the breed) is beyond bonding with another species. My rule of the homestead is complete and total harmony no matter what. And I’ll tell you something, it’s absolutely beautiful and perfect when its achieved! Cats and dogs and chickens all milling about while I walk up to the store leaving them all by themselves. Not a worry in the world. It’s well worth the time it takes to train.
So, to start off, keep your chickens in the run/coop where the dog can see them and begin walking him ON A LEASH towards the hens. The moment he gets too intense (ears forward, staring straight ahead, tail up etc.), make an annoying sound. Whatever annoying sound you like and can do consistently. At the same time, a quick tug at the leash followed by a gentle pinch on his flank (opposite the direction of the hens) should break him out of the spell.
Then have him sit. If he won’t, or he won’t break out of the spell or intensity, then you walk him out of the yard entirely. See, you don’t yell or hit or any of that. You’re teaching him that if he is truly interested in the stimuli, then THE ONLY way he can be near it if is his energy is calm and submissive. That’s the key here, the proper energy.
And you have to be able to read all the very subtle signs when his energy levels are rising. The timing here is essential. the very instant he becomes too intense, that’s when you try to snap him out of it. There are many videos online about how to redirect a dogs focus. it works well for all leash training and walking etc.
So, start there. I think it will take some time, so I won’t go into step two just yet. You never want to jump ahead with this type of training because lives literally depend on it here. Best of luck, and remember to be patient, consistent and calm. You are the key element to the success, not the dog.
Wow! Thanks for the quick reply. I have tried having him out at the coop with me and breaking his staring and intensity by making a noise and telling him “mine”. once he looks away or ignores, I would tell him “good boy” and pat him. I thought it was working until my husband let the birds and dog out when I wasn’t home… I am going to work on the leash training that you suggest. I does make sense and this dog is no dummy. lol
Oh, I don’t mess around when it comes to replying to my readers. When it comes to writing new articles lately, a bit more of a lag 🙁
I’m working on that though.
But! When it comes to comments, I’m right there for everyone no matter what!
As for your comment, I think maybe you guys skipped ahead a little and he back slipped. Not a problem, just go at it again. While undergoing that training, read up or watch videos about proper leash training. It’s all tied in together.
You’ll get there! And I’ll always be here to help 🙂
YOUR DOG’S BEHAVIOR IS ALWAYS A REFLECTION OF THE OWNER. Wrong. You said always. What about an otherwise extremely sweet rescue (11th rescue dog to date), who by week 2 had proved to be trustworthy with other dogs, cats, chickens and children….with full hands-on training and by-the-book acclimating to new environment, who then on day 17 massacred three (would have been more) chickens just for fun. No intention of eating them. She was so happy and couldn’t wait to show us what she had done. She had no idea what she had done was bad, but it was obvious that she had killed before. Don’t you dare tell me it’s my fault.
But I already have told you that. So I can’t take it back now. Was your dog trained with your chickens? And to what extent? Elaborate on “proved to be trustworthy” please because the evidence speaks otherwise.
Let’s continue this communication a little less combative so I can help you to make sure this doesn’t happen again okay?
I went to your blog to seek help, and was stunned that I and all readers were being chewed out in paragraph one. Your condemnation of all dog owners who have problem dogs was stated as an absolute, and those statements will never be true. You could take it back. If you don’t, I myself am much too indignant to find you credible, and will seek advise from someone with tact.
My opening remarks are intentional and deliberate. It’s to shock people into seeing how much their own behavior impacts the behavior of their dog. Not many people give that enough weight. You have to get past this though to get to the crux of your issue. Also, chewed out is a bit disproportionate.
Again, if we can move away from being combative we may be able to find a solution here. You are mildly insulted, I got that. That has nothing to do with my credibility however. Tact doesn’t make something true or untrue. And I do stand by that statement. And many people comment about how helpful this article is. Take ownership that I’ve rattled your cage, but ask yourself why you’re so angry about it.
I’m here right now ready to help you. I’ve been nothing but civil and polite here and on every single comment or email on this entire blog. Always. Are you ready to figure out what went wrong with your sweet pup and your poor chickens?
James, I am very impressed with how you respond to commenters on your blog, especially the ones who take issue with the tone of your opening paragraph. I came here looking for advice on training my dog to be calm around my new chickens and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure you were going to get to that given the lengthy admonishment of dog owners who fail to be effective pack leaders. That being said, I completely agree with your opening points, especially when it comes to walking on leash.
I adopted my lab/pit bull cross from the Humane Society when she was about one year old. We had a cat at the time and the way I trained her to accept the cat was very much like the method you describe for chickens: frequent exposure, on leash, with lots of praise and pets for calm behavior. After about a month I could trust her completely and her and the cat got along great. It helped that the cat wasn’t a “scaredy cat” at all and swatted her once when she got too “friendly.” She had other issues like separation anxiety, leash aggression, and pulling like a sled dog. I absolutely cannot stand an urban dog with bad leash manners. It took me nearly a year of consistent work and some painstakingly slow walks around the block to get her to consistently walk by my side, but now I get compliments on how well she walks on leash. It drives me crazy to see people being hauled around, arms extended and tripping over their dogs. I think ‘There goes a person who is too lazy or wishy-washy to take charge.’
Good morning Kelsey! Thank you for noticing that. The last decade I’ve been trying so hard to be as civil as I can with any online communications. There’s far too much slanderous friction when someone is relatively anonymous. People have a lot of strong feelings in general and when you’re basically scolding them in regards to raising children or pets, these feelings intensify dramatically. So I do my best to diffuse that with civility and a big open heart.
The beginning paragraphs were intentionally written to shake people’s foundations about dog behavior. To get people thinking about their individual impacts. But mostly to just help them be happy with their perfect pooches.
I can often talk them down so we can have a productive conversation, but not always. And when I can’t, the failing is solely on me.
I agree with you, I’m always watching dogs with their people and when I see a dog as the pack leader it makes me sad. That’s a lot of pressure for a dog and a lot of grief for their human. Sounds like you’ve got your situation well in hand! Well done!
Thank you for your comment. And for visiting Mind Your Dirt!
Your opening comments were rude. I KNOW im an inexperienced dog owner, never had one before. That’s why im looking for advice, just didn’t expect something like that when I just need some help.
Yes, I get that a lot with this article. Were you able to work past the first paragraph and glean some helpful advice despite being hurt? I hope so.
Whenever anyone says anything negative about someone else’s parenting (be it furry or human) the defenses often go up quickly. In this instance I intentionally wanted to shock the reader into breaking bad habits.
Fact is that it’s worked more times than it’s insulted so I stand by what was written. Sometimes in life coddling can do more harm than good. In this instance, literal lives are on the line.
So I truly hope you can work past one blunt paragraph and take away from this the information you need to solve your problems.
My friend lives in quite a remote house, so her dogs can run more freely away from roads and other houses. She only has a small yard, which isn’t secure enough to keep them from getting out. They’ve grown up being able to run free and have had little training. Last year her 2-year-old dog was poisoned. That same night 3 other dogs in the area died from poisoning. I’m living in the Philippines and it’s not uncommon here. It’s more likely to happen in the towns, which is also why she moved somewhere remote. The other day she came home to her other dog chasing a half dead chicken around outside the yard and an extremely angry neighbour. He said that her dog had killed his chicken and if it happened again he would kill her dogs. The dog has grown up being able to run free, so it’s hard to keep him in. If he knows he is going to be locked in, he senses it and won’t come, even for food or treats. If she tries to secure the yard he still manages to find a way out. She also feels bad trying to lock him in the yard as he is used to running free. He can’t be left locked in the house while she’s away at work, especially as she works long hours. She doesn’t keep chickens or other pets and wild birds don’t really come into the yard or area outside. She can’t really follow your method above, but perhaps you can offer some other advice? Any would be appreciated. The dog that killed the chicken is a boy, 3 years old now and has been neutered. She also has a female dog around 3 years old that has been spade. Thanks
Good morning Lui, I can definitely understand the frustration on both the dog owner and the chicken owner’s parts here. A dog that’s allowed to be fairly wild will do what comes naturally and that’s hunt.
Being both a dog and chicken owner, I can understand both sides here, but this all boils down to one simple issue. Your friends dog is going to get killed if something isn’t done.
So they have to do something to reign the dog in, even if it means curbing some of his freedom. Being free but dead is worse than slightly restricted and alive and happy. Has she looked into invisible fences at all? That way she can set the perimeter further than the yard but not so far that the dog will hunt on land that’s not his.
That’s the best solution I can offer in this case. It would go a long way in convincing the neighbor that efforts are being made as well which could keep them from trying to do her dog harm.
Hi James, I agree with your method and follow pretty much the same, but have run into a problem. I’m all about operant conditioning and use techniques from the book “Don’t Shoot The Dog” by Karen Pryor, which I think all pet owners should read. I have an 8 month old dog who was raised since she was 6 weeks old to treat my mixed free range flock of ducks chickens and geese as family. I would feed her every evening at the same time with all the flock and she always walked among them as if they were part of the pack without issue, whether I was around watching or not. The one behavior I didn’t stop was when the ducks would fly into our swimming pool, she was right there beside me helping to chase them out without attacking them, so they would fly back into the garden which contains their own large ponds. This did excite her, but she never attempted to bite them.
Well, I came home yesterday to find two dead/eaten ducks near the pool area. I’m afraid now that she got a taste for them she won’t stop, though being with her among the flock today she seems totally normal and calm. I guess my next step for now will be to contain her in a large pen when I’m at work and try to dissuade her from helping me chase ducks from my pool. Any other suggestions are welcome. Thanks.
Good morning David, or afternoon for you. I’m so sorry to hear about this sudden change in behavior. The only thing I can imagine happening is maybe the ducks or duck stood their ground this time when being chased out. Was one of them (or both) male by chance? I can see an aggressive response ending in a battle in a situation where the ducks tried to fight for their swimming rights.
I can’t imagine your dog just switching the script without some provacation. I think your ideas are prudent at this point. Although, it’s unfortunate to have to pen her up during the day. But I don’t see another way here.
I have to ask, you’re certain it was her and not another animal that attacked right? I’m not sure what island your on and if there even are predators to take down ducks/chickens.
There’s also a part of me (and this is probably bad advice) that wants to think this was just a fluke and it won’t happen again. Perhaps if you just observe for a while and see if she’s getting too excited when you’re not in the immediate area but close enough to step in if needed.
I would definitely adjust the duck chasing game to a much calmer event. Or find some way to keep the ducks out permanently. I’m sure if you had a way, you would’ve done that already though.
This is a tricky one David. I wish I had some wonderful bit of advice for you here, but I think your ideas are the best. I’m very much invested in this now and despite my jealousy of you living in Hawaii, I’d really love it if you gave me an update or two. Would you mind?
Best of luck to you and your critters! Fingers crossed that this was an isolated event.
Thanks for this. I hadn’t heard of invisible fences. I’ll look into it. At the moment, she managed to get the yard secured. She keeps them in during the day and only out at night, when the neighbours chickens are locked up. Surprisingly they seem to have adjusted to this pretty quickly!
Well that’s good news! It’s always good when neighbors make adjustments for the common good of the community. And that’s not always what happens.
Thank you for the update! So many times I never hear back from commenters and am left wondering how things worked out. I appreciate it.
Hi James, thanks for the response. I’m on the north coast of the Big Island and trying to create a food forest farm. We have a whole menagerie of animals. The ducks that were taken were dwarf call ducks and are the ultimate little squeaky toys. I never thought much of my dog chasing them out of the pool, since she is a herding breed. I think it’s somewhat of a leap from herding/chasing to killing, and now I have some doubt that it was her, but still can’t be certain.
I saw a little intact jack russel/beagle looking dog in my yard today playing with my dog. I’ve seen this dog in the past down the road, and I think it belongs to a family about a mile away. He took off when he saw me and this little guy just slid right through the hog-wire fence that surrounds my property. Since the killing, I’ve watched her far away with binoculars as she sits and wanders among the ducks and other birds and everything seems back to normal. She barely pays attention to them as they walk and feed inches from her. However, I’ll continue with my plan and work with her among the fowl and watch her when she thinks I’m not watching. If my dog is penned and ducks are still being killed, I’ll have to go visit my neighbor.
The plot thickens! This is like the ultimate game of Clue. If that jack russell has a candlestick…
That is a breed that likes small game. I’ve seen Jack Russells take out hundreds of large rats before cleaning out a farm. It was precision assassination. This coupled with your herding dog being chill today makes me wonder even more if she’s innocent. You’re plan seems like the only logical course of action though. I hope there are no more kills, but I also really want your dog to be proven innocent.
Your farm sounds absolutely delightful David! A food forest in Hawaii is a dream! Please continue to keep me updated good sir. I am emotionally invested.
Hello, thank you foe the solution I’m definitely going to do this, i don’t know what happened to my female gsd,she nearly killed our duck,before that she was good with them,but suddenly one day she caught our ducks neck and almost killed her.And she is acting very weird for past couple of days ,she has been more aggressive and possessive of other dogs we have.i don’t know what is happening to her.
So sorry to hear Nashita. I wonder what’s gotten into her? Are there any changes in the household? Something she could be stressed about? Is she eating normally?
The sudden change concerns me. Has she had a checkup at the vet lately? Or maybe a new medicine or flea medication?
Maybe a call to the vet might be in order. See if there’s anything medical going on before trying behavioral modification. I’m stuck on the sudden change aspect here.
I hope things can get back to normal! I’ll be thinking about you and your flock (be they feathered or fluffy). Please keep us posted!
She just had a litter of pups,and they are gone except one,we kept one of them,but it happened a month ago,after that she was doing good.
And she is in heat now, so maybe it is because of that, I don’t know,i cannot figure it out,she is changed,she don’t even let us touch other dogs, she wants all the attention.
Is she still nursing the remaining puppy? I’ve never bred a dog before but I can’t help but think that this is related. Even if she was better a few weeks ago and then flipped the script. Like a post-partum depression? Or simply an emotional reaction to her litter being so reduced?
I really think that this merits some looking into. And again, perhaps the vet might have some answers in this regard. In my mind, this would fall under the category of a big change that I was asking about before. I’m even more so convinced that the issue isn’t behavioral modification as much as it is an emotional reaction. I’ll do some searching to see if there’s any precedent here.
What’s her name? And you said she is a German Shepard right? I think we may be on the right path here. And if it is related to the litter she just had, then I feel she could be brought back into the fold. There’s a way, and we’ll find it Nashita. Hang in there!
The puppies were 3 moths old when they left, and the puppy we have now is 4 months old, and this is her first heat period after her delivery.
And her name is jenna,and yes she is a german shepherd.her behavior changed almost one month after the pups left.
And thank you so much for helping:).
I’m still looking around, but I have been finding some articles touching on the subject of changes in behavior after having a litter. Here is one of them…
I’m still leaning towards this direction based on what you’ve mentioned above.
Thank you for your help, I really appreciate that.:-)
Hey, there; helpful article. Agree with your first paragraph, with the small addition that it takes a lot of work to undo other people’s bad training. I’ve just adopted my first shelter dog (half retriever, half husky, male, 11 months). In some ways he’s great: affectionate, semi-obedient, funny. But he was clearly treat-trained and did not recognize his owner as a real alpha; more as a person who could be manipulated with cute pawing motions, tricks and whining. (I am myself not immune to slightly melting when he lifts his paw hopefully but I will die before I show him that.) My last two dogs were pups (large GSDs) when I got them and this is a whole new world of crazy. Cats and chickens and ducks are simply not safe at this stage. And I made a massive mistake and let him grab a chicken his first day here: basically, I tripped and wiped out, the chickens scattered, making delicious chicken sounds, and he ran and grabbed one. I got his jaws open quickly and the bird is okay, but it is HARD to replace the wonderful excitement of that moment for him with… my calm praise and training. I think of that dorky magnet people put on their fridge: “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” Or, in my new dog’s current mentality: “Nothing feels as good as a chicken in my mouth feels.” But I’ll keep striving. Thanks again!
Thanks for you awesome comment Mac! I’ve been recently helping a friend with her German Shepard puppies. They are unbelievably sweet and unbelievably large and clumsy and untrained. A force to be reckoned with!
Personally, I rarely use treats for training and focus more so on praise. My husky needs to keep her weight down so that’s the main reason. But, I also don’t like bribery as a methodology. When a dog comes around because they want that sweet praise, it somehow seems more legit to me.
Your husky sounds adorable! It’s so hard to put on the strick face when they’re so damned cute isn’t it? But we must be strong and stoic stewards or risk all manner of fuckery. Consistency is a warm blanket to pups.
Was it the husky mix that grabbed the chook? Sounds like you have a firm grasp on what’s needed to sway that momentary lapse in judgment. I’ll say again, once the dog sees the hens as part of the pack, those prey drives go away. My hens can now run and jump and flap all over my husky and she just yawns. If anything, I have to keep the hens from hassling my pooch, not the other way around. A good place to be for harmony methinks.
Do me a solid and post some photos on the Mind Your Dirt Facebook page please! I’d love to put a face to this story. And thanks for visiting and commenting!
I have a 4 year old husky/border collie mix that has been a challenge. have a grown duck that free ranges and she does fine with, she was a puppy when she met my adult duck. I got 2 new ducklings and she killed them. They were about 1 month old. I was carrying them out of their pen to go into the house and she knocked me down to get to them. Killed them right in front of me. I know have 2 more ducklings about 1 month old and they have just been moved outside to the pen to live. The dog goes absolutely nuts when she sees them and I am at my wits end. I’m petrified she is going to hurt them. She barks like a crazy dog and paces the pen like a rabid dog. I know she has a strong prey drive and understand they look like chew toys to her but is there a way to make her accept them? My other 2 dogs accepted the ducklings right away.
Good morning Jennifer. That must have been extremely traumatic for you! As well as for those poor ducklings. It’s going to take a lot of work to flip that switch back now that she’s killed. And she clearly is out for blood with the new ducklings.
It’s going to take some patience and training to bring her back into the harmonious fold. The methods mentioned here should work provided you don’t jump over any steps and remain consistent and patient. Keeping her on a leash when the ducks are in sight so you can better control her is going to take more time than usual. If you’re able, you might want to employ the aid of a professional trainer in order to make this work as efficient as possible. If that’s out of you budget range (as it would be for me), then you have some work ahead of you.
We need to get that intense reaction to mellow out first and foremost. How is she on leash training? Is she cooperative in walks?
Wow. Don’t know dogs all that well, do you? Dominance is EVERYTHING with dogs, and it can be subtle or overt, depending on what the dog in question requires. I’d bet you don’t train your pets, and that they rule the roost with you. Surprise! That’s dominance, too–on their side. And they know it, and that means you have problems even if you don’t like admitting it.
This post/page is VERY useful and quite accurate in my extensive experience as not only a lifelong pet owner but as a veterinary technician who was always in demand because the animals rarely if ever gave me any guff. Dominance again, keeping them safe and calm this time.
It’s an old saying, but a good fence is worth its weight in platinum. ESPECIALLY for chasing/roaming dogs! Also… Some of these guys need a bit more ‘oomph’ behind the alpha thing to impress on them that there is NO alpha but you, period end of sentence. Not physical, but mental with just a touch of physical dominance, like in doing a lot of basic obedience and absolutely insisting that it works YOUR way, not his.
Best of luck!
I told my dog “gentle, gentle” and she gently ate the chicken.
Just kidding. Thanks for the info.
Hahaha, well at least she was civilized about it. Very classy. At the moment, I’d feed her my broody hen. I was just fighting her for eggs that she didn’t even lay. Little jerk. Send your girl over here to gently chew her butt off please.
Hi, a little late getting in on this conversation, but should this same technique work with a 12 week old puppy? A couple times a day, she gets pretty mouthy (wanting to bite anything and everything, and the kids seem to be a favorite) and it seems to escalate quickly, which unfortunately brings an end to my calmness, which perpetuates the problem.
We’re wanting to get her calm and comfortable around our flock, but aren’t close to a point where we can leave her outside off-leash.
Hi Deryck! Never too late to get in on this convo. This training is great if your puppy has passed some other beginning training. Like leash training, sit, and stay. She seems a bit too young for chicken training as she may not be listening to anyone at this stage.
I’d recommend starting out with the basics and then introducing chicken training. Not sure what breed or how big she is, but some chickens would attack a smaller puppy. Which may do more harm than good by instilling a fear of the chickens. Fear leads to aggression. Just like Yoda said.
How is she on a leash?
Thanks for your quick response! She’s a German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix and right now she is about 15 pounds, our rooster is a bit bigger than her for now and he is very protective of the flock, but hasn’t gone after the puppy.
I take her on a 1-1.5 mile walk in the morning and she stays right behind me the whole way until we get about 100 yards from the house, then she tries to get a little ahead. So I’ll stop, reposition her, have her sit, then continue. Sometimes a few times. And once we get on the driveway, she pulls, so we stop a few times on the driveway. Trying to figure out a better way to wrap up the walks!
I was not looking for advice when i stumbled upon your article, i decided to read it just out of curiosity. I figured I might get a laugh or two out of the silly nonsense written here, like i do with so many similar postings. Boy was i surprised. My animals are all trained already, in much the same way you have outlined here. Minus the leash.
To the haters commenting, i say “look in the mirror” because there is a reason this article angered you.
I have dogs, chickens (hens and roosters), goats, cats, and the hardest of all to train, grandchildren. Everybody lives in harmony on our little farm. They all hang out together, eat together, and are protective of one another. If youve never seen a dwarf goat chase off a turkey vulture thats circling the chickens, its quite a sight.
Or how about a big tom cat (that is an amazing hunter) sit and share corn on the cob with 1 month old chicks.
Would love to share pictures of this glorious life but dont see a photo button.
Im now a MYD follower.
Aw Heather, this just made my morning! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. You can always email me photos at email@example.com! I’d love to see all your amazing critters.
And it so true about cross-species harmony! There’s nothing more magical than seeing a completely harmonious homestead. And it’s true, they do all look out for each other. Really makes you think about the advanced emotional depth of animals. They aren’t slaves to the predator/prey roles they’re designed to fulfill.
I think a lot of the conflict from previous comments is just misguided frustration. My opening sentiment that “its all your fault” kinda helped fuel defensiveness I’ll admit. But I was trying to shock the reader a bit. Just enough to get them to unlearn bad habits.
So it means a lot when I get confirmation from other success stories! Thank you again, and double thanks for following Mind Your Dirt!
We have an Australian shepherd mix rescue, Remy. He has a perimeter collar to run the farm within reason…but it encircles the goat/chicken area right now.
I have 3 questions
1 – can Remy follow 2 pack leaders? I’m definitely THE leader, but my husband comes in close second
2 – our chickens are older and he’s already “played” with 2 that didn’t make it. Will this still work on older chickens?
3 – should I train acclimate Remy to the goats and chickens separate? Or together since they share a space?
Hi Deborah. Firstly, all of your human family should be leaders. And friends that visit etc. There can be more than one, just so long as the people are the boss and the dog is the adorable assistant.
Secondly, did he kill the two chickens? The age of the chicken doesn’t matter. They will stop acting like prey once the dog is calm. They’ll almost always keep a little distance, but eventually the hens will warm up to the dog, or ignore them altogether. Which is good because that state doesn’t get the dog into predator drive. The chill vibe spreads to all the critters.
Thirdly, yes I would have Remy get used to the entire “flock” goats included. Just keep bringing him on a leash to the pen and remove him of he gets too excited. Observe how all the animals react to one another and see what triggers still exist before moving to the next step. That’s the trick here, without scolding or adding anxiety, train the dog to be kinda sleepy and disinterested in your animals. You’re trying to remove that chase drive though repeated exposure.
Our puppy is doing great with the chickens and even the chicks! Thanks again for your article!
I’m actually using her to herd the chickens when one gets too far of by itself or out somewhere they’re not supposed to go!
Perfect Deryck! That’s exactly what you want, harmony and a little assistance when needed. Really great to hear! Kudos.
Great article Jim! Read a similar one (technique wise) to this, but your’s is so much more detailed and helpful! We were already doing some of it, but the key components are clear to me now, thanks to your article. Josey is already so much calmer around the chickens and we will use your advice on the positive reinforcement and the swift removal once she gets too excited. I believe in our sweet mutt (thinking Jack Russel mixed with Cairn Terrier?)!!! She will be a great chicken dog. Always enjoy reading about your homesteading adventures and the amazing job you do!!! We will be going back through a lot of your blog posts to learn and follow your lead. Got some hügelkultur going and prepping a wetland area. Very Sepp Holtzer permaculturish direction on our little plot! Best, Tiffany
Hi Tiffany! I’ve always wanted to try a hügelkultur garden! I’ve just run out of room to do one. Plus logs are a little hard to come by here in the city, and without a truck. One day.
I’ve been watching your progress out there through Cassandra’s posts. And I’ve been loving it! I’m gonna have to come visit soon. Once the world returns to normal that is…
Good to hear from you! All my love to the family!
Hi James! Just read your post while researching on Pinterest how to train dogs to be around chickens since we have 2 week old chicks and want their coop to be in our yard and for them to free range (even though we have 18 acres, we think our fenced yard where the dogs are would be most predator resistant). So my question is, we have 2 dogs. Both definitely prey driven. Should we train them together or separately? Also, I have had people suggest to me that shock collars would be a quick way to teach them to leave the chickens alone. What is your take on this?
Hi Michelle. If it were me, I’d start training them separately and then bring them in together on the leash again to be safe. Sometimes dogs will act up when they have another dog there to get them riled up.
As for the shock collar, I’m not a fan at all. While it may be effective, it is cruel. Plus, you want your dogs to behave when there’s nobody around and that defeats the point of the shock collar.
Remember, you don’t want to punish the dog, you want to simply teach them to remain calm. They’re not misbehaving if they’re following instincts. Positive reinforcement is the more lasting training. So ditch the torture devices!
Hi James! I have a super sweet, well-trained pit. He’s great with humans but doesn’t get along with other dogs or animals. He’s always been pretty aggressive towards them, I do blame my boyfriend for that, he never socialized him as a pup. He’s gotten ahold of a few critters in the yard and it didn’t end well for them. He is 10 years old now and I fear he is set in his ways. Is it even possible to train him when he is so aggressive toward other animals? I’ve always wanted to have chickens and we finally just bought our own home with a yard so I was looking into getting some but I know Jackson will claim the yard as his and kill anything else in it.. You mentioned making the chickens a part of the pack but what if he doesn’t accept that when we are not looking. He would listen to us if we yelled at him but I think if we turned our backs he would definitely kill them.
The old dog new trick routine. A classic! But I don’t believe any dog is beyond behavior modification. And put bulls have a huge nanny-like capacity and can be so sweet and protective.
It may take longer to adjust, but so long as the chickens are safe in the run and he can’t get to them, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to flip that prey drive switch with him.
Just make sure your chicken run is solid. Baby steps until free ranging is possible. My husky has killed rats before when she was young. Now she is trained to just corner and alert to any animals she doesn’t know. I come out and assess the situation. But she knows the difference between familiar chickens and random critters. With the hens, she just looks at them sheepishly and bored. Which is what you want.
You don’t want the hens stressed out or they won’t lay at all, so just focus on the first few steps of training. Use that leash to remove him from the scene when he gets too excited. He’ll figure it out eventually and then move on to the next step. With his track record, it’s important to not move on to the next steps until he’s got the previous one down pat.
But I have faith. He is the goodest boy ever after all.
My two mini doxies killed a young male duck and I was livid. My husband on the other hand wasn’t that up set and continued to put the dogs out while the ducks were in the yard. We argued about this over and over. Then he decided to feed the ducks on the other side of the fence so they would not come into the yard. OK, thats fine, but the other day he said the ducks chased after the doxies trying to nip them. OK by me since they did kill one of their flock mats. Well, he said thats not right and the ducks probably did that to the dogs when they finally went after one and mauled and killed it. The dogs and ducks were good for 6 months together and suddenly, bam!!!!!! Trouble!!!! I never saw the ducks go after the dogs but since they killed their flock mate I think that was retaliation for what they did. Am I so far off that this couldn’t possible be the case?! Please advise. S. Romanik
Hi Sandra. I’m so sorry that there’s currently a dachshund/duck war going on in your garden! That must be very sad and frustrating for you, the ducks, and the dogs.
I suspect that the young drake was attempting to show the dogs who’s boss around the ladies and the dog didn’t back down. Regardless of who started the war, the trick is how do you end it. And it won’t be easy now that blood has been shed when all parties were watching.
Unfortunately, you’re going to have to contain one of the two fighters before any progress can be made. Either the ducks or the dogs will need to be separated by a fence of sorts until trust can be established again. Is that possible in your yard? During training it’s essential that the two species are safely separated or else it’s just a matter of time.
Do you have more drakes in the flock? Males get very protective and multiple males mean a while mess of aggressive behavior can occur. Tell me what you have exactly.