I agree with the occasional smack as well. Some people will argue over it vehemently, but dogs are physical by nature and learn their lessons when they get a good teaching from the pack leader. Think of what happens in a pack of wolves when a lower ranking member of the group steps out of line.
We've had our dog, Simba, for just over a year, an extremely high-energy pit bull that we rescued from a kill shelter in Manhattan. He had been surrendered and adopted out twice to two different families who both brought him back after they couldn't handle him. We saved him on his last day before the needle, and brought him back to a nice rural setting with a huge yard and acreage where he could finally get some of his energy out. This is not a dog made for a city apartment!
I had no idea what to expect from him in terms of his behavior towards the birds (chickens, turkeys, and ducks). I was expecting to lose a bird or two before he learned. I kept the birds in their pen when I had him out the first few times, and played with him next to the pen. He showed some interest in the birds, but cared more for the ball/frisbee/half-a-tree that he would carry around.
After about a week, my first test was to play with him and then stealthily let the two ducks (pekins) out. When he actually noticed they were free and out of their pen, he ran right at them, but not in an aggressive way, more of a, "hey, what are you? let's play!" way. Thinking I was about to witness the worst case scenario, I gave him a good hard kick as he ran past me toward the birds, which stunned him a bit. I think my message was clear, the birds are paws-off, and ever since then he is absolutely great with them. We never had any incidents (except for an accidental collision or two during crazy-sprinting-zoomies time) and he actually herds them a bit and runs to check on them when anyone alarm calls. As seen in the pictures earlier in the thread, he is also very protective of the chicks and poults that I hatch, and they are easily within his reach in various brooders without lids, but he only watches them and sneaks a lick in here or there.
Don't get me wrong, he still loves to antagonize them from time to time. He is very intelligent and I suppose he gets a kick out of seeing them panic a bit. Nothing mean, just going out of his way to run a *bit* too close on his way back with a ball, or slowly walk-stalking the ducks relentlessly around the yard. Sometimes he will sneak up on a scratching hen to smell her butt when she's not paying attention, the closest he can get to getting a good whiff of chicken, before she looks up and freaks out. It's all quite funny to watch.
I suppose we might have lucked out a bit with Simba, but I believe that all dogs can be trained to accept a flock of birds. They just need to be around them long enough to lose interest. If you keep them separated, it will only make it harder.
Edited by Yrat - 4/7/16 at 7:12pm