chicken-trained dogs


In the Brooder
8 Years
May 22, 2011
Any suggestions on getting my dog to tolerate the chickens? My dog is usually pretty easy-going (she puts up with our cats) but when I tried introducing her to the chickens she snapped at them. This isn't matching up with my dreamy ideal of chickens and dog playing in the backyard together. Maybe I need to wait until the chickens get a little bigger?

I think as they get bigger, the dog will mellow out, but it might depend on the breed of dog. My border collie mix was obsessed with the chicks at first- had to be near them at all times. But, i gave her lots of treats for calming down around them, looking away, walking away, ignoring them when they squawked or flew past and now she's ok with them. They hang out in the back yard together like pals (or maybe cordial acquaintances...) and she only gives them trouble when one gets isolated from the pack- then we have to tell her to back off.

Interestingly, we just got two new 5wk old chicks, and she's obsessed again! I don't know if it's the newness or their size (the older ones are 2 months big now), but she wants to be near them, snuffling them, eating the grass they've touched, and she protects them from the other chickens and the cat! Shrug.

Try starting at a distance and rewarding your dog for looking away from the chicks or ignoring them, then get closer and closer (over a few days) and reward her again for being calm/not drooling over them. If you can set up a little fenced in pen for them in the yard that the dog can approach and circle but not get into, then you can have the dog off leash and reward her for being calm and ignoring the chickens. At first, it's just the smallest things that you reward for- one second of not staring at the chickens, relaxing the shoulders instead of being ready to pounce, panting instead of being ears-forward intense. Then you can reward for bigger and better things, like walking away and ignoring the chickens, laying down and looking bored, etc. I also found it helped to practice other tricks my dog knows near the chickens, so you can train the dog to pay attention to you (ie, eventually listen to you telling her to leave the chickens alone) even though the chick(ens) are right there next to her. The hardest part was when the chicks would run or fly past- then instinct kicks in- so keep the dog on a leash where it can't reach the chickens, and give lots of treats for not lunging at them as they run or fly past.

Good luck! You can't do too much training!
Thanks for the reply. Your border collie sounds downright sweet compared to my lab/husky. I swear she wanted them for breakfast. Looked like pure instinct to me, which makes me worry about the success of training. I'll keep at it and hope for the best.
My dogs look at the chickens like I look at an all you can eat buffet. I have tried all kinds of things to get them to not kill chickens, but so far nothing seems to work. And NO I will not get rid of the dogs.

What I mean is I wont get rid of some of the dogs. Most are up for grabs to a good home.
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My dogs have about a zero prey drive so they leave the full grown ones alone. In fact, the chickens chase the dogs away from anywhere they don't want the dogs to be. Now chicks are different. They have the high pitch chirp that excites them. They are not allowed around the chicks. When they are in the brooders and the dogs are too intent at staring, they are told to "leave it". That is the most important command they learn here other than come and stop.
We have an 8 year old ex racing greyhound, Sabi who has a very very keen prey drive - she's already had one of the neighbour's cats, which luckily got away over a small wall we have in the garden without too much damage to it or the dog. Amnother time she chased it and hurt herself by running into our big tow a van trailer.. she sees thing miles away and I dare not let her off the lead when outside a fenced area because her prey drive rules her head completely -I guess that's what 4 1/2 years of racing round a track after a stuffed hare do to you..

So, when we got our three chickens at about 16 weeks old, I knew that we were going to have to force the issue if we were to have a harmonius relationship between dog and chickens. Sabi, as they do with all ex racers, was supplied with a muzzle when we got her from the rescue centre, so on that went, and she was also put on a short lead, and I went into the chicken run with her, along with a jug of stale bread which had been soaked in water.
Her first reaction in the excitement was grab a chicken, but the short lead and muzzle and a sharp 'NO' put paid to that. Her eyes were on stops and she thought that heaven for greyhounds had arrived

The chickens had already learned to associate me tapping on the jug as a sign that there was a treat to be had, so they were around and not running away even though they were understandably disturbed by the dog. Anyway, I fed the chickens the bread, holding tight onto Sabi and telling her in no uncertain terms that she was to leave them alone. A couple of days of that, and then I tried her without muzzle, but still on the lead, and this time with much caution she was able to share some bread with the chickens. Two more days, and I dropped the lead, but kept a very wary eye on her. Within a week she was eating one end of a piece of bread with a chicken eating the other. Now I can say that she is completely chicken safe - if anything, having been pecked a couple of times she is a tad scared of them.

It can be done, with any dog, but much more difficult with more than one dog as they will work as a pack. It depends how much control you have over your dog, whether it respects you as the boss, and I certainly wouldn't try it with tiny chicks - they're just too tempting a morsel for any dog.. You need to muzzle the dog and have it on a lead so that it is unable to grab a bird. You must also be very firm and be prepared to take the time to train the dog over a number of days, or weeks - how ever long it takes. If a dog has already sinned and tasted chicken - I suggest you have a big problem.

BTW I used to train dogs and breed Dobermanns.

Good luck.
Dominance over your dog is a must. The chickens are yours, not your dogs. Walk the dog around on a leash near the chickens. If the dog gets close, a quick correction is needed, either using a shock collar or pinch collar. This has to be done on a repetetive basis and reward your pooch for their efforts.
I have a choc lab, bird trained for hunting, and she is perfect with our chickens. I trust her 100% around them and there has never been anything close to an incident after working with her.
Good luck. With work on both of your parts, it'll happen.
I have a black lab that loves to hunt, but she has never tried to eat any of the chickens! She started by smelling the chicks while we held them and she would lick them one time while we told her to be nice! we would praise her any time she would look away like the other people said to do! I have always had the chickens in a closed run when she was out and she was more interested in the food we put out for them than in the chickens themselves! Recently I have been letting the chickens free range a bit, but I kept the dog away! I thought I would be okay to let her be outside last night while the chickens free ranged because I was outside too! I saw her next to me one second and the next time I looked for her she wasn't there! Oh no I thought. I called her and she came running from the area the chickens where! I put her in the house and went to check on my feathered babies.......

They were all fine and they weren't even hiding!!! The next time I walked that direction I did it with the dog and she acted like she was a little scared of the chickens as they came up to her as we walked! I gave the dog a treat for leaving them alone!! Yay!!

Good luck! Some dogs just don't care and some do! Use caution in your training and hopefully your dog is as good as mine!

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