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Originally Posted by HnkyDnkyZZFarm View Post

Anybody with terrier in them is going to have a hard time leaving a prey animal alone.  They are working dogs bred to tenaciously exterminate vermin and to them, chickens are vermin.  In a pack, once someone has a high value treat (chicken) the pack order will kick in and they will all want that treat.  You're fighting two sets of instincts, pack drive and prey drive.  That's a seriously uphill fight.

You may get them to behave while supervised, but enhanced prey drive will always be there, whereas you may not.  Training involves more exposure to the chickens, learning about the chickens, observing their housing and thinking about the chickens.  If you have fence jumpers already - they don't respect fences as boundaries and are working to out think the shock collar - testing its limits, that isn't a good thing because if they have had a lot of interesting activity near the chickens, then that will be the first place they go when they get a chance and it's already established that boundaries are negotiable and dependent upon circumstances.  You've taught them where the chickens are and they've observed that the chickens behave like prey. 

What I notice with our dog is that if I am holding an animal, it is "my kill" in the dogs perception, so it would be out of line to misbehave and be seen as challenging me for my kill.  No bark, no surging, no predatory behavior.  If I put the same animal on the ground and step away, it's free game and the dog will behave in a predatory way towards it.  Based upon this, I am of the opinion that training the dog not to eye/stalk/chase chickens by handling the chickens in front of them does no good, because the rules don't apply when you don't have direct physical control of "your prey"  The dog recognizes you as the pack leader with a kill, rather than the chicken itself being off limits. 

My best advice would be to watch the dogs for "eye" as that it is the first step in the predatory cycle.  You'll see them focus up and get still, ears forward, Stop them at eye because once their arousal level goes up, their recall naturally goes down.  Each time they get farther into the cycle, they get more comfortable and more likely to follow through to the next step.  (eye/stalk/chase/bite/dissect/consume) At chase, the genie is out of the bottle.  Especially if there have been other opportunities to rehearse the behavior, like fence running after the big dogs with the wheels and humans inside them.  If I had it to do over, this is where I would have been more firm in boundaries with my dogs before we ever got livestock or chickens.  I would have crated at all times when we were not home to try to slow the progression by avoiding unchecked fence running after cars without consequences, since no matter how often I stopped them when I was home, there were ten times or more a day that they were able to notice, come to alert and chase, even if they never caught the car and it was rehearsal for chasing things that move, solidifying the pattern.  When the next step came I was caught totally off guard because I figured chase was self limiting.  That's like saying that going through the drive through is okay so long as you never order anything.  Yapping was the other give away.  It's a high pitched excited bark.  Scenting is another uh-oh sign and I actually still give corrections when I see it because I know it's the early stages of eye and arousal of the nervous system.  At this point, we need to get the dog listening to commands rather than to its instincts, which are saying, what is that intriguing smell!  Lets go find it!

Long story short, I would focus on the fences, get them as dog proof as you can, I would do a covered run personally, and bring all fences to 6 ft.  Jumpers would be crated or indoors when you're not directly supervising and do your best to keep the two completely separate and the dogs as unaware of the chickens as possible.  I would try to make the fence a visual barrier as well as a physical one and if you have the resources to do so, electricity is a great idea.

We have a goat who lost an ear and got a good story when our dog that I THOUGHT respected fences saw an opportunity and took it.  The devastation to the relationship with the dog is akin to having your spouse cheat on you - maybe not that bad, but you know what I mean, the trust will never be there again - and shouldn't be.  Keeping everyone safe and safe from their own impulses is #1.

Pardon the rant, but I've been there, and said the same things, right up until I got seriously surprised and realized that had I not been home when it happened, I would have lost every animal in the pens and been putting down the dogs.  I can't trust them, but they are alive.  We thought we had the dog who got the goat trained to leave the goats alone by giving a down command when he approached the fences and his response was fairly reliable.  He is a very smart dog.  He was actually observing the fence line and waiting till he could catch the goat - and me by surprise.  It was close to a year out when he took his opportunity.  Boy were we surprised.

Thanks for the advice. The dogs don't even look at the chickens. They couldn't care less, even when the chickens are squawking and flapping their wings. They stay at least 10 feet from the fence at all times.