Australian Shepherds and ducks

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by Dances with Ducks, Jan 13, 2011.

  1. Dances with Ducks

    Dances with Ducks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Anybody have both?
    I am considering getting an Australian Shepherd to hang with my ducks while they free range. I've seen photos of them herding ducks as part of training for sheep herding, so it seems they can be taught to be safe around ducks, but I would like to hear other people's experiences with them.

    I would need to learn how to properly train an aussie and wonder what the best way for me to learn about that is?
  2. jack & mommy's duckies

    jack & mommy's duckies Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 24, 2010
    I have both......but my story is not good...not good at all.

    I've had Tex since he was just a pup....and all my birds since day olds. I always made sure he was supervised with my birds and came with me in their pen to lock them up. As a pup he sniffed them but never chased them. As the Tex got older and the birds got older....He still was out and about supervied with them. We we were not able to supervise them Tex has the yard and the ducks, geese and chickens have their pen.
    Wellll.....Once in awhile a bird will make it over a fence....and Tex will chase it and chase it till it stops...then he plucks feathers and jumps back in hopes it will run again....and slowly but surely he plucks feathers and eats the birds while they are still alive. Then by the time I find them it is too late. And birdy is either dead or needs to be put down. I have 7' high fencing on my pens...and i'm never sure how they get out. And ducks that can fly have clipped wings.

    At this point I trust no dog, or animal with my birds at all.

    Sorry my story isn't good.
  3. BlacksheepCardigans

    BlacksheepCardigans Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 11, 2010
    Southeast NH
    Australian Shepherds are NOT flock guardians. They are herding dogs. They want to move the animals, not watch them. You never leave a herding dog unsupervised with animals or they will (as above) move them until they finally drop from exhaustion, and then they will bite them to try to get them to move again. And if they DON'T move them until that point, they're not very good herding dogs!

    I let my dogs (Cardigan Corgis, which are appreciably less "drivey" than Aussies) move the chickens into the barn. The dogs will do that, over and over again (as soon as a chicken walks out the door it is shooed back in again) until I remove the dog from the pen. If I left them alone they'd exhaust the chickens at the very least and hurt them at the worst.
  4. pardygwyn

    pardygwyn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    Aussie pups can be really high-energy and it can be rough on your ducks. Do your homework and find a breeder of mellower Aussies to give yourself a good chance of success, then follow it up with lots of controlled exposure without leaving the dog alone with the birds until s/he is of a responsible age - usually around 1.5-2 for most members of the farm collie landrace, though it may take longer. You can also possibly look into English Shepherds or Old Time Farm Shepherds. Again, research bloodlines because there's a lot of variety in working type throughout all three of these breeds.

    For the record, it IS possible to find an Aussie with guardian instinct. Not as common as in the other two breeds I named, but they do exist. Any dominance-based herder with the proper training can be good with poultry, but you must raise them carefully! It's a lot easier to do it right the first time rather than fix a royal lapse of training on your part. There are plenty of helpful forums out there... my two favorites are the farmcollie listserv and AWFA's Yahoogroup.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2011
  5. duck_shepherdess

    duck_shepherdess Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 7, 2010
    My herding trainer teaches his dogs not to work stock without his permission. Sometimes his dog is allowed to watch the lessons and he's scolded if he attempts to work the sheep without being asked. The key, he says, is for the dog to be respectful of your ownership of the ducks, not merely obedient to your commands. The type of herding I think you're thinking of is called boundary herding. AKC calls it C course, for what thats worth. In competition no one uses ducks for C course.

    Alternatively, I know aussie agility dogs who have been trained specifically to ignore sheep (the agility barn is on a hobby sheep farm.) I think the same principle would work for ducks. Scold the dog for looking at the ducks, praise and treat for ignoring the ducks. It would also help if you could train the ducks not to worry so much about the dog. Ducks making a commotion is basically irresistible.

    Either way you're talking about years of constant vigilance, IMO. Harassing ducks is a very rewarding activity and a tough habit to break once it gets going. If you just want to guard the flock, maybe a goose or two? If you want something that will help you herd the ducks in at night you probably want a mellower breed. A bearded collie or something. All that being said, I haven't gotten my ducks yet so I'm only speaking from what I know of the high drive herding breeds and what I've watched at herding trials with ducks.
  6. helios

    helios Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 30, 2010
    Bureau County, Illinois
    I'll reiterate a few very important points above:
    Aussies are not flock guardians--they want to chase--and should never be left unsupervised with access to your ducks/flock
    Aussies should only be introduced to your flock when under your control, i.e. you must have a very well trained dog who has immediate recall and will leave even the most interesting animal alone at your command...Aussies are generally not of a temperament to handle this kind of discipline until they are 18 months to 2 years old.

    I have two miniature Aussies and ten Cayuga ducks. I actually got the ducks with the express purpose of giving my Aussies a job--herding the ducks in for me at night. That said, I will start slowly this summer with the younger dog who is by far the more obedient of the two. The ducks stay at the pond across the road from our house and the dogs never go over unsupervised (we have an invisible fence to contain them in the house yard). In the summer, when we take the dogs over for a romp around the pond (and frisbee next summer [​IMG], they make a bee-line for the ducks' usual sunning spot, hoping to catch up with them before they retreat onto the pond. I'll be putting this in check as I start training with the little one in spring--she's even jumped out of the boat to try to catch them on the pond! As of last fall, she will stay at a distance while I feed or herd the ducks and will stay away from the duck house area on my command. Just before the pond thaws, I'll start letting her help me herd them in at night while on a leash.

    The big one is a bit stubborn (he's got myriad behavior issues for various reasons)--for example, a couple weeks ago, we had a sunny, snowy weekend day and decided to take the dogs over to the pond for a little fetch with the little one. The big one usually noses around the shoreline, as he's never been interested in fetch--or obedience [​IMG] All of the ducks were in their house, but the door was open. I looked over and somehow, he was standing in front of the duck house peering in. I gave him a few stern "no's" as I approached, but he looked over and saw that I was about 100 yards away, and leisurely walked into the duck house (he was constantly in there over the summer sniffing around and nibbling their food. He didn't come out until I looked into the doorway.

    Most Aussies will chase an animal and may nip at them, but won't generally bite to harm--they want the animal to run. Tex's story above is a sad one. My stubborn Aussie will probably never be trained to herd properly, as he has poor impulse control. He's never harmed a duck, but he's also never been close enough to one with or without supervision for more than a minute, and I wouldn't trust him not to. He's not allowed to play with the cat, as he tries to stomp next to her to get her to give chase, and he's definitely a nipper [​IMG]

    I've got some research to do on starting out, but there are a few books on herding that I've seen recommended for beginners. Detailed online advice is hard to come by. I'll try to repost resources here as I find them myself if you're still going the herding route, but if you want a flock guardian, please go with another breed. There are several breeds that will require little to no training to protect all your little farm critters.
  7. Dances with Ducks

    Dances with Ducks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thank you ALL so much for your thoughtful responses. The depth of knowledge people have here is amazing.
    I'm glad you set me straight about how a herding dog deals with it's subjects, that instinct to nip in order to keep the duck moving is kinda scary. Having read this I wonder if I am looking at the right breed for my purposes.
    I don't actually need a herding dog, I am just hoping to find a dog that would be safe with my ducks. The training I want is just about being sure I can trust the dog in that role.
    We live in town on less than a quarter acre, so I was hoping to find a breed of good temperment but not too large.
    Thanks again everyone, and if someone has any better recommendations on a breed I would love to hear it!
  8. pardygwyn

    pardygwyn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    I think many dogs could learn to leave birds alone, but there's a definite sliding scale of how much work their humans would have to put into it. I'd put the average Aussie pretty far up there in terms of training work, but they give a lot back, as well. Can't say that about every dog out there. ;D It could be your best bet is to start looking at individual dogs, rather than breeds. Maybe an older rescue (4+)? There are some great laid-back older dogs in shelters right now because of owner money troubles, and as long as you're able to forge a good bond and some solid obedience training with them, learning to leave the ducks alone shouldn't take as long as it would with a new puppy.

    Oh, and I meant to add... a small dog isn't necessarily easier to keep or train. Just sayin'. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2011
  9. Dances with Ducks

    Dances with Ducks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks Pardygwyn, I am thinking an older shelter dog might be the way to go. There is an Aussie at the local Humane Society I should go meet, not sure how to make a decision under those circumstances. I do want to have an idea of breeds with a better chance of being laid back around ducks and breeds that are a definite no no.

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