Dogs and Chickens

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by mandelyn, Dec 30, 2009.

  1. mandelyn

    mandelyn Crowing

    Aug 30, 2009
    Mt Repose, OH
    My Coop
    I was going to post this under the "breed rating" thread but decided it was way off topic and should have it's own spot.

    Something I've noticed is that it doesn't have anything to do with a specific breed. The Chickens set themselves up for failure, exspecially when they are raised with dogs from chicks. They completely trust the dogs. Even my "idiot" birds don't bat an eyeball when Ricca jumps at the fence to make them fly, they quit doing it, and she got bored again with them. Regardless of the breed, the chickens still act the same. It's the mind of the dog and the training level that will either keep these dumb birds safe or not.

    The chickens have no fear of "flock" dogs, same as their flock "people". So whehn they act like chickens, wing flapping, making "squeeze me!" noises, and looking like prey, a dog (think happy boxer for example) will feel prompted to play. That play then turns to prey as the excitement level increases. Chickens are fragile, dogs are not... dead chicken and possible killing spree of the "perfect" dog because they are, after all, dogs who live off instinct more than anything. This is why EXTENSIVE training is needed, where the training is so deep, it over rides the instincts. I've had 2 dogs like that, where I really put the time in, the Cattle Dog and one of the German Shepherds. The Cattle Dog took 2 years from starting as a puppy to going through the bullheaded "teenager" time, but at the end she could chase/herd with specific directions, almost like having a remote, in addition to advanced obedience and tricks. If I said Stay, she would, no matter where I went, what was around... she stayed. If she was running full blast after a coon she saw in the woods, I could yell "Down" and she would slam on the breaks. Or send a whistle, and she'd turn and come back either left or right, depending on the whistle I used. The Shepherd, different type of training, same result in being pushbutton. These two were 100% chicken safe because they lived to do what I said... if I didn't say they could do it, it was off limits.

    Some dogs though, maybe 1 in 1,000 or so... don't need training. They're so "stupidly" loyal you only have to tell them once. Again, it falls across any breed, but it's more likely in "Non-Sporting" types who's prey drive has been bred out for the most part.

    I don't know chickens through and through like I do dogs, I've only had chickens for a combined total of 4 years, but dogs... I've always had atleast 2, usually 3-5, all different types. I've read so many training books my brain all but exploded. I used to show/train Italian Greyhounds and Shepherds, and anything else I owned I trained to various degrees. I did it when my husband was stationed in Germany, found the local Schutzhund training club and hung around with them to learn the German style and brought two Shepherds back with me. The first Rescue case I got tried to attack me at the "No Dumping" sign he was guarding. Starved to death and awful Shepherd mix. After about 3 months his food aggression was gone, dog aggression gone... though he still had it out for the mailman. Chicken tolerant too. But he was loyal, sweet, complete turn around from when I found him. I've had several more rescues since him, all sane enough to be rehomed into a "normal" dog family.

    I expect a lot from my dogs, and I don't expect anything from my chickens. The dogs had better leave them alone, and you can tell through body language if they're going to or not. It's never safe to assume a dog will not play/chase/kill a chicken when you aren't there. A Dog that perks the ears up to look at the chickens... that's intent, focus, that's attention the dog is showing them that could end very badly. You don't want focus on the chickens, of any sort. It leads to play or worse. In about 2 seconds that dog will drop down in play, paw at the fence or chicken itself, whine, or bark. Stop the focus of the dog, change the direction, BEFORE the next move happens. Keep the excitment level at 0% if you can.

    Don't baby talk the dog to the chickens... the dog knows good things happen when you use that voice. What good will come of this human baby-talking with dog and chickens? Are they a treat? Are they a new toy? Isn't this exciting? What's going to happen? Thinks the dog. It builds anticipation and excitement, that leads no where, because you're not going to let the dog "hold" a chicken or play with it. It's ok to do with children, but not dogs. "Look at the cute wittle chickie Rufus"... translates to the dog as "Ok, what can I do with it? Are you giving me permission to do something with it?".

    The very best thing you can do when introducing the dog to the new chicks is to not be "nice" at all. No slack, you want those chickens alive and the dog behaving. Tell the dog to sit. If the dog doesn't sit on command... you're going to have to save the chicken introduction for another day and focus on basic obedience... Sit, Stay, Down, Come, and DROP IT. That's all a dog really needs to know. "No" is not a command, BTW, but it's turned into a catch-all phrase of anything a dog is doing that's wrong. Too much use of "No" spoils the confidence of a submissive dog, and the lack of direction in the "No" word keeps the bad dog bad. You never told the bad dog what to do instead.

    If your dog can sit, AND stay, hold the chick in your hand. This will grab dog's attention. Watch the ears and nose and the sit posture. If the dog starts to "lose" the sit, and begins to lift the butt up, correct it and make it sit proper. No smelling until the dog can hold the sit. No jumping! If you have a jumper, have a family member hold the dog on a leash while you handle the chicken. This training is all about personal space, respect, and learning to leave your things alone, chicken included. It's going to be more complicated on a dog who sleeps in your bed, and steals your spot on the couch when you go to the bathroom, and dogs who are fed table scraps as the humans eat instead of waiting until after. The training will need to continue in other aspects of the dog's life if this is the case.

    Never is the dog allowed to shove it's nose into the chicken for a sniff without permission. Never is it allowed to stick it's head in the brooder to watch in fascination without training. Perky ears and intense/excitable focus are BAD things, this is what leads to masacres. It's not "cute", it doesn't mean the dog "likes" the chickens. Don't humanize the body language of the dog. All the dog is thinking is "What is it, food or toy?". The dog needs to know it's neither, it's to be left alone because it belongs to you.

    Once you have the dog in a proper sit and the excitement level is "calm and sane" then you can allow a gentle sniff. Attatch a command, such as "Be nice", "Easy"... something along those lines. No licking! Keep the dog and chick/chicken together until everyone is calm. Don't talk a lot, your tone may increase excitement. The dog can sniff, look, ect. but no tasting, no excitement, no "paw slams", no play. The second the dog's intentions switch from calm/sane, issue a correction.

    Repeat this, until the dog accepts and ignores the chickens as no big deal and nothing fun/facinating. This point doesn't mean the chickens are 100% safe, but it paves the way for a "responsible" dog that is atleast chicken tolerant.

    The BREEDING of the dog will play a larger role in the dog's personality/trainability than the actual breed of the dog. With rescue dogs and mixed breeds, it's difficult to predict how they will be. But if you're looking for a dog and you currently have chickens or plan on getting some, select your new dog with your expectations in mind. Evaluate the parents of the dog, look at how the parent dogs act, ask what sort of training they've had to be the way they are.

    Hunting/Working dogs will have their instincts intact. Having a play/prey drive is not always a bad thing, because the drives help with training. A dog with low drives won't achieve the same training level as a dog with medium/high drives. Low/Medium/High designates the degree to which a dog has instincts/drive, catagorized by either play or prey drive. You will have more training success with a legitimate working dog, though the training will have to be more extensive to get a handle on the drives. If you've never trained a dog before, don't get a Cattle Dog, Working line Shepherd, Hunting bred Lab/Retreiver... this will require more training. If you do have training experience, these dogs are more rewarding to train.

    A sight hound, like a Greyhound, is going to chase chickens. You need to offer something else to chase to relieve the drive, while training to leave the chickens alone.

    A toy dog, is going to bark and yap at chickens, maybe be in fear of them, or will have the instincts of it's larger counterpart. Like Poodles... could go either way, but they're usually intelligent enough to train easy. Look at the parents and REALLY get to know how that particular line of dogs behave, because of all the variation that's out there within the breeding. A breeder who has a timid/shakey female bred to a yappy/nippy male... you can't predict how your puppy will act. A good breeder, bred for predictability and for a certain type, and they should be able to tell you (with a margin of error... genetics aren't an exact science) what to expect from your puppy. A good breeder can also select a puppy from the litter that best suits your needs. Yorkies, Chihuahuas... same thing.

    Hunting dogs... this includes the ever loveable Jack Russel Terrorist.... Terrier rather... and the Dachshund as well as Pointers, Setters, ect. Some will have a working mind intact, others are from lines where it was bred out of them to increase the "pet only" ability. Choosing a breeder is really important to get the type you want, because they are not all created equal. Research the breeds you want to find out the best and worse case scenerio. The Dachshund... worse case scenerio it will dig a hole into your coop and kill chickens every chance it gets, and will chase them every time they are loose. Best case, the hunt has been bred out of it and it could care less about chickens or fetch and the joy in it's life is barking at the mailman from the chouch and sleeping in bed with the favorite human.

    If you already have a dog, but no chickens yet, consider your dog's behavior to see what your risk is. Is it easily excited? This will require training. Is there current training? If not, start now on the basics. Does your dog chase anything in the yard? It will chase chickens. Has it ever caught anything it chased? (this includes baby rabbits) If yes, it WILL attempt on the chickens without training.

    Does your dog go bonkers with guests? Chickens will be guests... start training with the human guests, because that training will transfer over. Easier than working on chicken training only.

    If you have to repeat commands to get the dog to listen, add more sessions. You should only have to say it once or twice, 3 times or more... training is not finished. If your dog is pretty well trained already, adding chickens will simply be one more trick to learn and it won't be that difficult.

    If you have a nice population of squirrels, practice training on them. Call the dog off mid-chase. If they can do that, it will transfer to the chickens.

    It's your responcibility to ensure your dog is trained, or is of a personality type to accept chickens. Always assume your dog is a chicken chaser at the least, and plan for that, and you'll never lose a chicken to your own dog barring any freak accidents like kennel escapes. To ever assume your dog is "ready" to be free with chickens, or is "not the type, he's too sweet"... you're setting the dog and the chickens up for failure.

    To not do any training... the chickens are too stupid to know the dog is a threat, and the dog won't care if it "shouldn't" or the instinct is just too great for the dog to handle. It's your job to handle the dog's instincts and to keep it in line, the dog will not do it on it's own.
  2. rrhall

    rrhall In the Brooder

    Dec 16, 2009
    Wow,nice article a lot of information. We just picked up a puppy,and have been trying to work with it,so far so good.We are going to try to make a guard dog out of him,both of his parents were working guard dogs,so he was already exposed to chickens and goats.That helps us out right now because he sleeps with the goats,I was more afraid of how the goats were going to take him being in there,the goats will chase the cats out of there area and I was afraid they would do the same with him but they leave him alone like he is not even in there.We been letting him follow us when we feed and water are chickens and he goes into both pens with us and acts like the chickens are not even in there,he sees them but he is more focus on what you are doing.When we picked him up it looked like that was where they were sleeping,was in the chicken pen with the chickens,so I am hoping this helps us by him being already exposed to chickens and goats.We will keep working with him and at the same time keep an eye on him,he is still just a puppy.
  3. michaeldaugherty

    michaeldaugherty Songster

    Sep 6, 2009
    Good story you no alot about dogs ...
  4. poultryand bees

    poultryand bees ~Drives a Magic Poultry Van~

    Feb 4, 2008
    Oklahoma City
    Excellent explanation of how a dog thinks and why they are not automatically a friend to chickens.

    I wish I had known this information before I had to rehome a Great Pyraneese puppy that I didn't know how to train. I have an adult Great Pyraneese that was trained before I got her and she has always been chicken safe, so thought the breed just automatically knew to protect chickens rather than "play" with them.
  5. Tala

    Tala Flock Mistress

    I agree. Training is the key, not just the breeding, although you'll have much much better luck with a less-prey-driven breed/type dog. I'm 120% sure that I could never convince my SIL's JRT (Jack Russle) not to chase chickens.

    All I had to do was make my dog understand that the birds are part of the pack, and chasing them is not allowed. Period. HOW exactly to do that is beyond my scope of explination skills - I just DO it. Being pack leader is the first step, after that you can convince your dog of almost anything.
    How do I know that's how she sees it?? She chases cats that aren't part of the pack, but not my 2 that are family. She knows the difference.

    It also helps if your rooster isn't afraid to jump on your dog's back and back up the training. I actually have to protect the dog from the rooster! That's part of the deal though, it's the pack leader's job to keep the peace and protect the pack. Dusti's not allowed to bite the chickens, but in turn I can't let them beat her up either.
  6. CityClucks

    CityClucks The Center of a 50 Mile Radius

    Jan 31, 2009
    Tulsa, OK
    Thanks for this great post Mandelyn! I really appreciate the time you took to explain how to introduce something to a dog that the dog is not to mess with - redirecting the dog's attention. I've done this exact thing with my JRT and he is great around my birds. He knows he's not even supposed to LOOK directly at them. He gets prey-chasing satisfaction out of retrieving a tennis ball - he lives for that. As your post suggests, TIME is the thing that is so important when training any dog. People see my JRT with me and think he's great - he behaves, he doesn't bark, he obeys me, he stays by me when off leash, etc. I try to make it clear that this is NOT how a typical JRT behaves - that they really are Terrorists in Clown Suits. It takes time and commitment to train any dog to the point you can trust it with chickens. Anyway, thanks again Mandelyn.
  7. Daidohead

    Daidohead Songster

    Nov 6, 2009
    Red Bluff, Ca
    The Chickens set themselves up for failure, exspecially when they are raised with dogs from chicks. They completely trust the dogs. Even my "idiot" birds don't bat an eyeball when Ricca jumps at the fence to make them fly, they quit doing it, and she got bored again with them. Regardless of the breed, the chickens still act the same. It's the mind of the dog and the training level that will either keep these dumb birds safe or not.

    I totaly agree. My dog Desi used to freak my ladies out just by her walking by. Now they will literally walk right over her if she is laying in the way. My ladies also used to run at the sight of a big bird flying over, they dont even blink at that anymore. I have a buzzard roost in the trees next to my house and they see them so often it's normal.

    This "used to it" behavior on the part of my chickens does them no good when it comes to self preservation. A stray dog or a hawk could get them with no problem, they'd even hold still for um.... That's why they have me.

    I think it's great to have dogs that obey totaly, all of the time. I personally dont have the time or the knowlage to train my dog to the point of absolute confidence in her. Her visits with my ladies, or children will always be supervised. I dont ever want there to be a "first time "
  8. lleighmay

    lleighmay Songster

    May 21, 2008
    Woodlawn, VA
    Great and informative post Mandelyn. I've got two JRTs myself. They have learned to be good with cats (OUR cats) and are fine with the turkeys, who are bigger than they are. They now usually ignore the chickens in their run (Charlotte, my smaller one, is actually afraid of them and is regularly stalked along the fenceline by one of my NHRs). Do I delude myself that they are "chicken safe"? NO. Would I ever leave them all loose together without close and constant supervision? NO. Not even with the turkeys or pygmy goats. If something happens is it their fault? NO- it's mine because they're just being true to their hunting breed and I'm not as good a trainer (yet) as I would like to be given more time. I expect it would be hard for any untrained dog to resist a fluffy, fluttery, noisy, and highly interactive "dog toy" or "snack"...... I hope your post makes people think about dog/chicken interactions so they can perhaps prevent unfortunate outcomes.
  9. horsejody

    horsejody Squeaky Wheel

    Feb 11, 2008
    Waterloo, Nebraska
    I am very fortunate that my dog (Lhasa Apso) is of the personality type that he accepts the chickens. He has a very low prey drive and is very aloof around them. Once when he was being babysat at a friends house, he innocently wandered near her guineas. One of the guineas jumped him and rode him across the yard. I'm sure that the experience only reinforced the idea of leaving them alone. My daughter's dog, however, is a Scottish Terrier and cannot be trusted with chickens or any other small animal. He's a nice dog, but you can see him go into mental meltdown at the sight of a chicken.
  10. KellyandKatie

    KellyandKatie Songster

    Aug 29, 2007
    Kitsap County, WA
    AWESOME- do you know how hard it is to find advice about this that does not have to do with tying a dead chicken around the dog's neck ( the STUPIDEST wives tale I think I have ever heard- like rubbing a dog's nose in poop to potty train it- gah!)

    I think it is constant vigulance- and I have learned that we do lots of things - not just ONE thing

    That dog wisperer guy has a you tube video about the owning the chicken idea- it makes sence to dogs and works well at our house
    e 'I own this chicken' , it is mine, and who would dare hurt something that belongs to mom
    both my dogs are big 60 pound mutts, one is a springer/ retriever mix- a bird dog-- and we all get along -- but it is commitment and work
    My dogs chase wild birds( and I am okay with that- I chase them with them- but I also have good control and command over my dogs too), and if I do not go through the process of carrying around any new birds, to show my dogs, that yes, these ones are mine too, they would be confused(I have never lost a bird to one of my dogs- but my dog did retrieve one of my turkeys for me once, I assumed since he was fine with all my chickens, I could just add another bird- wrong- luckily he did not harm the bird at all)- this is the incident that lead me on my search for training info- and article after article about tying dead chickens around their necks or just beating the snot out of them really had me frustrated- I am so happy to read your thread, no carcass training LOL.
    anyway, the issue with demanding that a dog restrain himself around the birds all the time, is you are asking them to bottle up all that energy- all that prey drive- all that stress- that they will see each and every time they see the bird- you are teaching them to mind you, yes, but what if you are not there? They need to have an association of what to do with that bottled excitement for when a bird takes off right in front of them
    hence- YOU take care of your dog's energy- he sees the chicken he wants- 'leave it' and then YOU do something to channel that energy and stress- so your dog learns how to cope with that surge of prey drive-- I take off running or throw a tennis ball, or grab a tub toy
    be mindful to find a way to relieve that stress that they felt when they really wanted to chase that chicken-- otherwise it will just bottle and later that night you will find something chewed up and not understand why-- he had to get that stress out somewhere- make sure you provide that for him, it is important that they associate that relief of energy/drive/stress (stress is not a bad thing in the dog world, they live by it) with you

    I notice my dogs trying to relieve the stress they feel from not chasing the chickens- they pounce on each other, that feels better- I offer a game of tug o war- that relieves that stress too. Like I said, even if they are not killing your chickens, it does not mean that they are peacefully coexisting, it might be torture for your dog to contain all that stress and energy- and your shoes and house is getting chewed up in response
    I want my dogs to enjoy their yard that they share with my birds- but I need my birds to be safe too-- natural dog training as alot of info about being the moose ( the moose being the most prized thing a dog could achieve in the wild- ie you being the most interesting thing in your dogs life, and making sure that you are relieving all that natural stress and prey drive)

    Do a google search to find out more info about what stress looks like in dogs- and remember stress is not negative, but must be focused for your dog to be happy(and your birds alive)

    We also do a positive association with the birds- that is simple- we sit with treats and the birds and the dogs eat together- and in the beginning- simple- always on a leash - never outside with the birds unattended- it is work with free range birds, dogs and throw some young kids in for good measure- but well worth it

    great thread! Thanks for posting- I love talking dog when it is not talking beating your dog or tying dead stuff to your dog:lol:

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