Dogs and chickens

TJAnonymous

Songster
Feb 29, 2020
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Central Arkansas
I've got a problem with my dog and I'm very sensitive about it. We have a half Husky - half Great Pyrenees puppy who will be 1 yr old next week. She has a very large fenced backyard with a 5 ft chain link fence. The back length of the fence abuts my very large fenced chicken and goat yard and my duck yard. The entire length of the backyard where the animal yards meet is DOUBLE FENCED meaning chain link fencing on the dog side and 4" panel fencing on chicken/goat/duck SIDE.

So my dog has been socially introduced by co-existing on a daily basis side by side with the chickens and ducks. However I have never let her into their chicken yard nor let her around them without a leash. She LOVES to chase the squirrels and does so on a daily basis. She also LOVES to play keep away and tug-of-war with her dog toys. We've never seen a reason previously not to let her play in this manner because she wasn't harming anything.

There's is a little pavilion like structure in my chicken yard that the goats and chickens use to get out of the rain or sun. I didn't build it. It was already here when we moved in. Our chickens frequently like to fly up on top of it and, when they do, it puts them in a position where they can easily fly over the fence and into the backyard with the dog. Most of my chickens are far too fat and heavy to do this... However, my Ameracauna roosters have done it a time or two. The dog chased at them but they easily flew out of the yard before she got too close.

Back in late August, I got a new batch of chicks from McMurray which included 5 Blue Andalusians. When these babies were about 8 weeks old, one found a gap in the bottom of the fence because the dog had been digging for moles (they drive her almost as nuts as the squirrels). I was thankfully outside and saw what was going on at the moment she caught the baby. She did not want to give it up and was running from me while carrying the baby gently in her mouth. She has a shock collar which we bought to train her not to jump on people. We usually NEVER use the shock portion but only use the vibration portion to discipline her for jumping. When she refused to let me have the baby back, I used the shock button. It definitely confused her and she stopped long enough for me to grab her and get the baby back. It was completely unharmed but I spanked her anyway for the incident. That's another thing.... It was the first time I've ever spanked her so she knew she had done something wrong.

Everything has been going well since then until last night. The dog wanted outside so someone put her out. Lately she has been unwilling to come back inside at night. Not sure why.... I figured she likes the chilly air? Anyway, yesterday was a nice day so the chickens had been outside free ranging most of the day. After the sun went down, they went back in their coop like always. I have nearly 35 chickens so I didn't realize that 1 was missing. I went to try to entice the dog back in the house when I noticed she had one of my Blue Andalusian babies again. The babies are now 16 weeks old. This time, it was clearly dead. She took off with it again and did not want to give it back. I grabbed the remote for her collar. She was frantically trying to bury the dead chicken to hide it from me. I hit the shock button on her collar and grabbed the scruff of her neck. My husband grabbed the dead chick at the same time. Our dog actually growled at us! She has NEVER EVER acted like this before. I smacked her on the butt and said a stern NO. She actually SNARLED at me again. I let her go and she took off for the house where my daughter was standing. I was so livid.... With the dog and the situation.

I'm pretty certain that the baby got on top of the pavilion and flew into the backyard. I have no idea when this occurred because we were busy with Thanksgiving dinner. But after examining the dead chick, she ATE at least half of the bird. Plus it was really dark outside so it had to have happened sometime during the afternoon....

I'm very disheartened. I love my dog and I know she is just following her instinct. I also love my chickens just as much as I love my dog... Of the Blue Andalusians I got from McMurray, I only got 2 blue chicks... The others are more white than blue. This chick she killed was one of the Blue ones.... Maybe the same one she got before although I can't be sure. Regardless it was one of my favorites.... So I'm just sick in my heart today.

I don't know how to teach her to not kill them. Especially now that she ATE one of them. I'm also not sure what I can do to prevent the others from making the same fatal mistake. The pavilion is too big to dismantle plus it provides them shelter that they absolutely use. I've tried to put pinwheels and other deterrents to keep the chickens from flying over the fence but it isn't working.

Just heartsick..... 😭😭😭😭
 

azygous

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Dec 11, 2009
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You have all my sympathy. It's a heartbreaking story, both from the dead chick and the deterioration of your relationship with your pup.

Trying to raise a dog in proximity to chickens demands knowledge and experience. In the way you tried to discipline, actually punished, your puppy, demonstrates you need to do some reading and learning about dog behavior and how to administer discipline so the dog can learn from its mistakes and build mutual trust.

By punishing the dog, spanking, and by wresting away its hard won prize that it considered its food, you became a competitor instead of a trusted "senior leader of the pack." This is why your pup is now growling at you. You are now the opposition instead of a member of the pack. You and your dog have both jumped the tracks, so to speak.

The only way to reset this and try to start fresh is to remove the dog from its proximity to the chickens and begin with basic dog training lessons to reestablish your dominance and regain your dog's trust. I really don't see how to salvage things without starting over from scratch without actually making things even worse.
 

TJAnonymous

Songster
Feb 29, 2020
411
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Central Arkansas
You have all my sympathy. It's a heartbreaking story, both from the dead chick and the deterioration of your relationship with your pup.

Trying to raise a dog in proximity to chickens demands knowledge and experience. In the way you tried to discipline, actually punished, your puppy, demonstrates you need to do some reading and learning about dog behavior and how to administer discipline so the dog can learn from its mistakes and build mutual trust.

By punishing the dog, spanking, and by wresting away its hard won prize that it considered its food, you became a competitor instead of a trusted "senior leader of the pack." This is why your pup is now growling at you. You are now the opposition instead of a member of the pack. You and your dog have both jumped the tracks, so to speak.

The only way to reset this and try to start fresh is to remove the dog from its proximity to the chickens and begin with basic dog training lessons to reestablish your dominance and regain your dog's trust. I really don't see how to salvage things without starting over from scratch without actually making things even worse.

First of all, I want to be clear that I am very open minded on this feedback and I am contemplating your feedback very carefully....

However I wanted to add a few details. I work from home. I am with this puppy day in and day out. I feed her. I give her water. I play with her several times throughout the day, every day. This dog is attached to me in a way that she isn't with any other member of our family. She snuggles up to me every chance she can get because I ALWAYS make time for her and give her pets, belly scratches, and love. Other than the two times I have caught her with the baby chicks, I have never hit her or beat her. Even when I said I spanked her, please don't envision a brutal beating. It was nothing like that. It was a couple of firm smacks on her flank. She has thick enough hair that I honestly doubt she even felt a sting.

I'm also not completely clueless on dog training. When we picked her up from the lady who bred her, she was food aggressive because she had to fight her 5 siblings for ONE dog food bowl. For the first 2 months after we brought her home, she was HAND FED to get her past this issue. We have no other dogs and she has never had to compete for food again. She has never shown any food aggression or any other type of aggression at our house in the 9 months I've owned her. She is a very loving dog and is very loved in return.

It was very clear by her behavior last night that she knew she was in trouble for having the chicken. She was trying to hide it from us. Naturally she knew I was the pack leader and I think she reacted as a challenge when we took the chicken away. I spanked her to discipline her for the behavior. Then I let her go. I made her stay outside all night. Something we've never done before last night. She has a dog house and it wasn't raining or cold but I wanted her to know she did something wrong. She was allowed back in the house this morning to eat breakfast...
 

jwehl

Crowing
Nov 3, 2020
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I think a strong reaction is merited when it's a life or death situation like this one. My SO has trained dogs all his life and he is adamant that jumping their stuff is required where chasing birds is concerned because it is much harder to correct after the fact (sorry OP). I'm glad you had the shock collar available as an option because chasing the dog around could have been considered playing. I'm glad you got the first chick back.

I do not know what to do as far as your dog, but perhaps you could add height to the fence, even if it's just poles on each end and netting across it.

We have a dog yard and chickens that free range outside the dog yard. They never go in there, but one did the other day. Dog A grabbed it and Dog B completely ignored it. Dog A dropped the bird when I showed up but was definitely still keyed on it from a distance and Dog B was just like oh hi mom whatcha doing? Same breed, same litter, both raised together here. I have no idea.

I wish your bird had lived, for obvious reasons but also to tell the flock not to go over the fence. *sad laugh*
 

LaFleche

Free Ranging
Sep 22, 2012
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I am sorry you lost your pullet and feel so disappointed in your dog. :hugs

We have a half Husky - half Great Pyrenees puppy who will be 1 yr old next week
To me this seems to be an unfavourable mix as the Husky is well known for a strong prey drive and obstinacy and Great Pyrenees for their independent spirit and love of freedom.
 

azygous

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Dec 11, 2009
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I highly recommend reading a very enjoyable book called Man Meets Dog by Konrad Z. Lorenz. https://www.amazon.com/Man-Meets-Do...sourceid=Mozilla-search&sr=8-2&tag=mozilla-20 Used copies under $5.

Besides telling how dogs became so much a part of our existence, it gets into how dogs think. As with chickens, there's also a sort of "pecking order" in the relationship dogs have with their humans. Understanding this is the basis of establishing trust between the two species.

Spanking, even just a firm tap, is experienced much differently by a dog than it is by a human. It's not taken as discipline, but as aggression. Aggression is experienced by a dog differently than they experience discipline by a trusted pack leader. Fine points to be sure, but the distinction can mean the difference between trust and mistrust as experienced by a dog. Without first establishing trust, there can be no effective discipline.
 

TJAnonymous

Songster
Feb 29, 2020
411
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Central Arkansas
Oh, I dont know if she would have made the connection between the chicken and staying outside all night. They dont tend to associate things that are far apart.
It was already late when (maybe 8 pm?) when the incident happened. As soon as I opened the back door to bring her in for the night, I was saw her with the chicken. I grabbed her collar remote and ran out the door. She had picked up the dead chicken and sprinted off the back porch the moment she saw that I saw her and what she had. At first she ran to the far corner of the yard before running back to her dog house, (which is located right next to the chicken coop with the double fence between) and started burying the chicken behind her dog house. I never really chased her last night but did run out of the house. I walked up to her behind the dog house while pushing the shock button once or twice around the same time I reached to grab her collar but got her neck scruff instead. That was the first time she growled. I can't remember if my husband picked up the chicken before or after her first growl. But I responded with a loud, stern NO command and smacked her twice firmly on her bottom and let her go. She snarled at me about the same time I let her go and ran off to my daughter who was standing on the back porch. My daughter went back inside. I left to go count chickens in the coop to make sure she didn't get any others. And my husband left to go take care of the dead chicken. She may or may not have associated being left out last night with being punished but I think she knew she was in trouble when I walked out that door. It was clear as a bell in her behavior and my reaction.

Even being so mad at her last night, I still got up several times throughout the night to look out the window and make sure she was OK. I don't think she slept at all... When we brought her inside for breakfast, she ignored her food completely, climbed on the couch, and slept until nearly 3 pm. She didn't eat her breakfast until almost an hour ago. She gets fed twice a day... Not sure if she will eat this evening since she just ate.
 

CluckerFamily

Free Ranging
Premium Feather Member
Feb 14, 2016
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I think it is great that you have a dog fenced in area separate from the chicken area especially with the mixed breed that she is. She also knows her area and if a trespasser enters her area, that is their fault.
I am sorry for the loss of one of your flock members.
I think her past with food aggression and the situation that she hadn't been in before caused her to react to you the way she did. I don't think keeping her out at night will teach her to not do this again. I think your best option is to continue to keep her separate from the chickens and to keep them out of her area. Maybe an chicken wire fence apron on the outside of her fencing may help to not allow the chickens into her area.
 

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