Best Way To Train Dogs?

dsegel

In the Brooder
12 Years
Oct 24, 2007
26
0
22
Hi, I've been reading all the threads on problems with dogs and chickens. We just got chickens a couple weeks ago. They are pullets and laying already. I have two small dogs--13# and 23#. We kept the chickens in a run for a couple weeks and then when we started free ranging them, I kept the dogs on leashes. If they paid attention to the chickens, I corrected them with a yank on the leash and a "No!". They seemed to get it. Yesterday I took them out individually and let them off the leash. They did really well and did not bother the chickens. I did that a couple times. Then in the afternoon, I took them both out without leashes and for over half an hour all was fine. Chickens and dogs were close to one another with no chasing. Well, at one point when I wasn't looking, all of a sudden the smallest dog was taking off after the chickens and wouldn't stop. The larger one stopped when I called her but saw the other one going so she pursued as well. All went running into the nearby woods, I followed and found them with one of the chickens. I grabbed the dogs and took them in the house. When I went back (within 5 minutes later), the chicken they had, was not around (just feathers but no blood). Eventually all the chickens came back but the one they had (it must have run off and died?).

What is the best way to train the dogs? Do I just need to give it more time? I am thinking of getting shock collars. Does anyone know if that works?

I am sick about this, I love my dogs but I love the chickens, too...... and I don't want to keep either of them penned up if I don't have to.
 

chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,902
686
296
Australia
Hi, I've been reading all the threads on problems with dogs and chickens. We just got chickens a couple weeks ago.

If you've been reading threads on dog training you've probably come across mine. If not, I'll give you a rehash. I was also seeking advice.

My issue was with my wildborn dingo and our family's domestics, and their interactions with our livestock and pets. Results were not great. The dingo, oddly enough, was fine, loved the cats and small dogs, no problems there, definitely wanted to kill the livestock animals but respected my orders not to; it was the domestics that were the incorrigible problems.

The dingo actually did kill two chickens in separate incidents when he was a pup; one attacked him, lol, and the other walked right under his nose, over his legs, then exploded into his face in a badly timed panic, but asides from that he was fine and left them be, was fine with the sheep too, and other animals. I could trust the dingo behind my back and in my absence, as he would not do something I'd told him not to, but not so with the domestics.

The domestics I'm referring to that were trouble were all related, and were too hardheaded and did as they pleased, but only behind our backs, using their extensive domestic cunning to get their way. (Two of the domestics we have, unrelated to the 'problem family' are good dogs, no problems there).

Since your dogs acted honestly, in your presence, though disobediently, you're already ahead of us there, since you can't easily train a dog out of something it only does when it knows you're unable to stop it.

From these experiences, I believe that with some dogs, you have to simply rely on restraining them, not all are smart enough to be trained out of it, and plenty that are smart enough simply aren't willing. At the end of the day, some dogs will just have it their way. That mentality is difficult to battle --- what can you do with a disloyal dog, except treat it like livestock and manage it? Well, people used to kill disloyal dogs, which bred it out of the domestic species to a large extent, but I am certainly not suggesting you do that. Having experience with wild and domestic dogs really puts the kibosh on the whole theory of dogs who kill livestock/pets being merely overwhelmed by instincts and therefore uncontrollable. They're definitely acting on instincts, I'm not arguing that, but the fundamental problem is that they are awol due to lack of respect for their elders/humans and self-discipline. Their instincts are lopsided, you have the 'go' without the 'stop' mechanisms. Obviously this is generalizing. If you'd gotten little dogs from someone who bred them to do ratting or whatever you might have more obedient ones, but then again, maybe not, as plenty of people let them kill under their own volition rather than training them; they're bred to have a continual 'hunting' habit, not triggered by hunger, not used to restriction by humans when it comes to their killing. Depending on your breed of dog, the training options vary. It would help you to look into what people use for your specific breed.

With domestics, many of them are basically overgrown undisciplined children, making a mess and disrespecting their elders. There's evidence that the more puppyish a dog looks, the less adult mentality and personality they develop. We've bred perpetual infantile/juvenile mindsets and behaviors into some of them. Some breeds of dogs are not believed to actually mature at all, mentally, they remain perpetual infants; the more wolfish a dog looks, the more complex an inherited body language it has, whereas many small breeds of dogs were found to lack some or even all natural instinctive body language responses for submission etc. They couldn't exhibit them, and couldn't understand them when they saw these behaviors exhibited by other dogs, which sends the risk of them responding aggressively through the roof, as they also lack self-inhibition to a large degree.

They are pullets and laying already. I have two small dogs--13# and 23#. We kept the chickens in a run for a couple weeks and then when we started free ranging them, I kept the dogs on leashes. If they paid attention to the chickens, I corrected them with a yank on the leash and a "No!". They seemed to get it. Yesterday I took them out individually and let them off the leash.

It's not very clear here how long you trained the dogs with them, or maybe I'm not understanding you. Did you let them mingle with the chooks on only their second day of seeing them freeranging in their yard/territory? Also, as no doubt you know, leash training and off leash training are two different things to the dogs' minds, and being good on leash may have more to do with the knowledge they are restrained than with your training methods.

We've trained our dogs to high standards, they're certainly smart, but some just made up their minds about certain animals and eventually they got their way. Interestingly, they all inherited their predispositions towards disobedience. The wild dog had none, probably because obeying your elders is a strong wild instinct, but the trouble domestics all inherited their particular predispositions against obeying on certain subjects. Small dogs was one domestic's hate, (my first dog, Shepherd-Lab mix, otherwise a brilliant dog) and chickens and sheep the other family line's choice; being raised with both species had no impact on that. They made up their minds, noted our opposition and decided to ignore it, and that was that.

They did really well and did not bother the chickens. I did that a couple times. Then in the afternoon, I took them both out without leashes and for over half an hour all was fine. Chickens and dogs were close to one another with no chasing. Well, at one point when I wasn't looking, all of a sudden the smallest dog was taking off after the chickens and wouldn't stop. The larger one stopped when I called her but saw the other one going so she pursued as well.

Sounds like you have a ringleader and a follower. This will have some impact on your training as the dominant dog is telling your other dog what to do, rather than both listening to you.

If that's the extent of the training you did with them and the poultry when the poultry were freeranging, it's not enough, particularly with small dogs which often have strong hunting drives. For some dogs it's enough, like the dingo (go figure) but for domestics of certain family inclinations, their overriding program is louder than your training, if that makes sense? They have more generational exposure to ignoring a certain stimuli, this being the leadership of their superiors/alphas (human training), whereas the dingo's overriding program is to obey his elders because disobeying gets him bitten, whereas with small dogs, disobeying gets them a scolding. They lose the instincts to obey without question. Not that I'm recommending biting your dogs or anything like that, lol!

I personally would have introduced the dogs to the chickens by holding one and letting them meet under very controlled circumstances so the dog could smell it, see it closely, and learn to not respond to it as prey. You can still do that but I'd let them 'cool off' for a few days, probably. With some you strike while the iron is hot but with others let them forget. It totally depends on the dog. Generally speaking, if there had been no previous mauling incident of livestock, I'd only do introduction after at least a week of them being restrained and supervised when the poultry were out and about in the yard.

That said, that's no guarantee of anything, so very much depends on the dog and how much it's willing to respect you without you forcing it to do as it's told. I won't bother with unwilling dogs again. Been there and done that, not that it's helpful to someone with pets they love who have to try to make it work as it is. How much they respect you on any commands or rules you issue, in general, is a very good measuring stick of how likely they are to respect you on this.

If they consistently disobey you on anything else, they may just continue to have their way here too.

If they consistently obey you, especially about things that really excite them, then you have a good shot.

It's only early days, though it's unfortunate and a bad start that they were able to kill in the first place. Preventing that first kill can sometimes make all the difference, but not always.

All went running into the nearby woods, I followed and found them with one of the chickens. I grabbed the dogs and took them in the house. When I went back (within 5 minutes later), the chicken they had, was not around (just feathers but no blood). Eventually all the chickens came back but the one they had (it must have run off and died?).

Possible, but also quite likely another predator saw the commotion and took off with the chook. She may still be out there alive but hurt, too, hiding as infection sets in. Not a nice situation, but not uncommon.

What is the best way to train the dogs? Do I just need to give it more time?

More time and training for sure. But despite all the advice out there about dogs and other animals, everyone has to find their own way, because the dogs are individuals too so what works for one isn't guaranteed to work for others, and you have a large impact on them and the training too. It all depends on the unique dynamics of the situation. I found basically no relevant information about keeping wild dogs, even from others who keep dingoes, I had to discover it all the hard way. Thankfully he's a loving and loyal and very willing animal.

I am thinking of getting shock collars. Does anyone know if that works?

For some dogs it's the best option. For others it won't change their behavior, and for some, it will make them worse. It depends on the dog, and on you, and how you use it; you have to work according to your knowledge of the animals.

A shock collar, or an e-collar/electric training collar, doesn't need to do harm to work. If it does need to hurt them to make them listen, then you may want to consider all other methods first and it may not work in the end either, if all else has already failed. Clicker training is one thing many people are very keen on, they reckon it works wonders. Personally I haven't tried it, don't need to, but if nothing else works it could be worth a go before you try an e-collar. There's much to be said for some old fashioned training tips too like making sure they are either empty when they go for a lesson, if they work better that way, or making sure they are stuffed to the gills with their favorite foods when they go for a lesson... Whatever works for the dog in question. Some won't learn when full, others learn better.

If I were you I'd try to train them without the e-collar to begin with because in most cases it should be a last resort, unless they're actually quite timid dogs, which ironically are the sort of dogs who respond best to the e-collars if they're used on vibrate or noise, not shock, because very timid dogs often can't learn when trained by people because all they're thinking of is the direct confrontation, as nonconfronting as it may actually be. Some dogs can't learn under any pressure, they 'need the universe to teach them', is the joke --- meaning they need external and impersonal stimuli to distract and prevent them for best results.

I say it should be a last resort in most cases because if they're responded to other training in the past, they should continue to do so, and if you use it and it doesn't work like you hope but rather exacerbates the problem that can make a bit of a dead end and cut you off from further options.

If you routinely fail to gain respect from them, or have no confidence in them or yourself, then that needs addressing before anything else as that will corrupt and ruin all attempts at training with all but the most exceptional dogs. If this is the case with you, then not working on them with the chickens would be a better start, making sure they are solidly respectful and obedient before you tempt them with a serious challenge.

I am sick about this, I love my dogs but I love the chickens, too...... and I don't want to keep either of them penned up if I don't have to.

Well then, here's hoping your dogs are willing and flexible. Many just aren't, and you can't do anything much except restrain them if that's the case. But from the sounds of it you didn't have earlier issues like with them smashing themselves into the cage walls to try to get the fowl, so there is at least some inhibition/ self restraint present, and all going well you can build on it. Positivity is beneficial. :)

Wish you all the best with it. I know what it's like to live with a dog that refuses to obey regarding other animals. Thankfully I no longer have to.
 

chfite

Songster
8 Years
Jun 7, 2011
2,171
123
214
Taylors, SC
In that particular case, you need to work on improving the dog's recall. He should come every time, immediately when called.

My new Australian Shepherd puppy thought that chasing hens might be a good idea, until the rooster put a beating on him. Now he observes respectfully.

Chris
 

kimdvm

Hatching
5 Years
May 3, 2014
4
0
6
There is no rock-solid answer here, but I'll share some thoughts relevant to dog behavior.

First, dogs are predators and chickens are easy, fun prey. Even dogs who have never killed another animal often enjoy the chase. The hunting and terrier breeds are almost certain to do this; sometimes the working and herding breeds might back down once the "sport" is gone (ie if the chickens don't run from them).

Sometimes raising dogs with other (potential) prey animals causes them to have a different view towards those particular animals. My Labrador mix, who has caught rats, mice, rabbits, birds, raccoons, groundhogs, and possums outside... has lived peacefully in the house with both cats and rats (though she used to be a bit aggressive with the cats). The time quietly laying next to the other pets helped her adjust. In short, introducing adult dogs to chickens is going to be more tricky than with dogs who were around these flocks as puppies. I'll never be able to trust our lab mix with our chickens. She stalks them, snaps at them, and literally drools when she looks at them. Our Shepherd, OTOH, adapted pretty quickly. She had "too much fun" with the little rooster who ran from her but they all quickly quit running once the dog obeyed the "leave it" command. And that point, the Shepherd had no interest in chasing them and now she ignores them or lays nearby them. But the Sheperd isn't much of a hunter anyway; they prefer to herd and have the humans get the food :)

I'm going to advise you NOT to do the sharp correction and jerk the dog chain. First, if your dogs are truly interested in preying on the chickens, they will still do so when you aren't there. All they will learn is that YOU will yell or jerk, or that those darn chickens are getting them in trouble.

It is always more effective to teach a dog "what to do" than to teach it "what not to do". Before you introduce them to the chickens, your dogs should have solid training in "leave it" and "come" and hopefully even follow a "down" command when you are away from them. "Leave it" is actually pretty easy to teach. I won't go into it all here, but it starts with "trading up", so the dog's brain thinks that "leave it" means he is getting something even better, and the dog learns to automatically resist grabbing/biting when you tell him to "leave it". If you haven't done this before, elicit the help of a trainer (CPDT certification is a good place to start when finding a basic dog trainer).

If the trained dog starts to run or bite at the chicken, and you say "leave it", they should stop the chase and look at you. At that time you can reward them with a favorite toy. If this goes well multiple times, now those chickens are the source of "I get good toy for sitting here" instead of "I get my neck jerked and I get yelled at when I see chickens. I sure feel worried when I see chickens." Further, if the dog hasn't gotten to start the chase, the chickens are remaining calm , so you are on your way to the species potentially getting adjusted to each other.

Even if things start to look like a happy family, be very wary and remember the canine instincts. If you think they are ready to be alone outside with the chickens, it's probably best to do it when the dogs are full and have had exercise.

Also, don't try to adapt more than 1 dog at a time. The pack behavior of chasing prey is far more likely to occur from both, if even one of them starts barking or chasing.

One last tip: don't put food out that both the dogs and the chickens like. That just gives the dogs one more reason to chase/bite the chicken.

Now that our Sheperd is adjusted to the flock, I leave her out for longer periods with them. Her presence is very likely to deter other predators.
 

ChickMagnet098

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 22, 2014
34
3
26
i have 2 aussies. when they were puppies they were convinced that chickens where the best toys in the world. my training collar took care of that. i did not shock them when they went up to the chicks. only when they chased them. this teaches them that chickens are good, chasing is not. now they follow the hens around the yard, which makes me feel safe, don't have to worry about anything getting at them during the day.
 

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom