How did YOU train your dog to leave chickens alone?

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by gladahmae, Dec 27, 2012.

  1. gladahmae

    gladahmae Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 17, 2012
    Benzie, MI
    Title says it all. What training methods did you use to teach your dog(s) or pup(s) to tolerate your poultry or other chase-able livestock? It would be great if you could give an idea of the dog's age when you did the training (puppy, young dog...1-2yrs, adult, senior) and breed if you think that was a significant factor.

    I'm *not* interested in comments like "oh, ___ was just the sweetest thing and never once tried to eat my birds" since that isn't constructive to learning something new. while I am happy for your good fortune to have such a dog, this thread is intended to give others tools to have in dealing with existing or new pets.

  2. loanwizard

    loanwizard Chillin' With My Peeps

    I too am interested in this topic. We have 8 dogs. When I introduced the original 4, I used a shock collar, which was very effective.

    My usual problem is with puppies, and kids letting them out unsupervised. I am going through it as we speak.

    What I usually do since I am too lazy to drag out the collars is to give a sharp reprimand anytime the animal shows interest in a bird.

    I have about 80 birds running around now, all free ranged.

    The puppies take some time, but all my animals tend to ignore one another.

    We have hogs, chickens, rabbits, dogs and cats.

  3. dainerra

    dainerra Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 4, 2011
    anytime you have a group of dogs, they are going to do things that none of them would do alone. Kind of a "mob mentality"

    Find the closest distance that the dog first notices the birds in the brooder. This might be in another room if he is one to constantly glance at the door. Put your dog on leash and get some extra special treats that he only gets for this work - bacon, grilled chicken (no spices!), hot dog chunks, etc. When the dog glances toward the birds, say his name and "leave it" If he looks at you, give him a treat - if he doesn't, give a light pop on the leash (think tap on the shoulder). When he looks at you reward him.
    You can also teach him "watch me" the same way. You can practice this at random times though out the day. If you have a couple extra minutes while you're watching TV or whatever, just say his name, pause, "watch me" When he makes eye contact, then reward him. You can also (if you get in the habit of keeping a small treat in your pockets) catch him looking towards you say "watch me" and then reward. Or just praise him verbally.

    Once the dog is reliably paying attention to you and the birds at a distance, move a little bit closer. If he absolutely blows you off, you're too close. Just back up a bit and begin again. Eventually you will be right amongst the birds. You can then start at a distance or with a long line (20' leash or so) and work from there. I never ever leave my dogs/chickens loose unattended together.
    I don't even trust Rayden [​IMG]
    I don't mean I constantly hover over the dogs when they are out with the birds, but I am in the area and aware of what they are doing. Think of it as a small child. Even though you've taught them not to play with matches, would you leave them alone in the house with matches scattered all over the floor?

    The most important part of the training is to set the dog up to succeed. Don't give him a chance to chase the birds. Don't give him a chance to disobey.

    ETA: The best thing about teaching "leave it" is that it works for everything. Drop something on the floor and don't want the dogs to touch it? "leave it" See dog running toward a snake? "leave it" Lots of training and work, but it pays off!
    Of course, some dogs just can't be trusted off-leash. Period. They are just too focused on the birds. In that case, just confine the dog when the birds are out.
    KansasChick3 and Mutt Farm like this.
  4. Moochie

    Moochie Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 8, 2010
    North Edwards
    I'm going to try "drop it" and "leave it" with my ACD... I don't say it softly though, I really have to go "DROOOP IT", not quite yelling but I say it strongly. She'll get the idea then I can just say "drop it" firmly without having to make my voice growl. I also noticed when I behave more assertive around her she doesn't act so crazy and kooky. Now I just need to teach her to stop tripping me, running in between my legs and feet when we take walks lol
  5. Hayleigh Barnes

    Hayleigh Barnes Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 30, 2012
    I never really tried drop it or leave it. I just taught him down, so he just lies down whenever he is around another animal. He's getting quite good at it as he knows that hes meant to be very gentle around them. So now he can even be around smaller animals and I don't have to worry about him hurting them. He doesn't even have to lie down anymore. Sometimes he will choose to just so he can snuggle. But he loves them so much that he's learnt that if he lies down around them, they they are more likely to come around to him and interact with him.


    Here's how he is around the ducks and chickens:

  6. xchairity_casex

    xchairity_casex Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 5, 2011
    i dont know that i would teach him to simply "lie down" and stay lieing down, those birds in the video pestering him pretty badly, and you can see his body stiffen from the discomfort/annoyence of them being there, one day when he is not feeling up to par he could very well turn and snap or worse to one of them. i would simply teach him to walk away and ignore them.

    even in the picture you can see his ears are back, his head is lowerd as he is giving a sideways glance, he is not comfortible at all
  7. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 19, 2012
    Los Angeles
    I posted this in another thread recently so sorry if this is a repeat but here is the method I use to train my dogs:

    I have a pit-bull mix and three pugs. The pit and two of the pugs are rescues from urban shelters with mixed histories of abuse. All four dogs are out in the yard with my 5 chickens everyday without any problems. In fact I once had a chicken attack a dog but never the opposite. Everyone guaranteed me that the pit would kill my chickens but she has never been a problem.

    Here is what I personally recommend: The most important thing to focus on overall is controlling your dogs impulse control. Especially with a new puppy. Good basic training makes teaching them anything else much easier. Make sure that you can snap your dogs attention back to you even when they see something they want. (I can't snap so I use an "aht." noise - this means sit and pay attention to me) One of the best ways to work on this without a live animal present is during feeding. Do you free feed your dogs or do they eat at regular times? I would recommend taking them off of free feeding if you are doing that. Focus on training your dogs so they they will not eat anything unless you give a specific command. I set down all four bowls of food and make the dogs wait. They do not eat until they hear their own name and see a hand gesture. Also work on them stopping eating at a command and willing stepping away from their food. I say "Name, wait." and they stop and sit until told to continue. These skills help with impulse control in many areas of training. It may seem unrelated but to a dog, the one who controls the food is the ruler of them all.

    I would introduce the dog to the chickens on a leash and just sit and be calm. As soon as she starts to fixate on the chickens in any way other than simple curiosity or barks or is excited (even happy excited) I would scold her with the same word every time (you only need to say it once, firmly) and immediately take her inside. With my dogs I brought them back when they were calm and started all over again. and again and again. lol. It took a bit of patience but all of the dogs ignored the chickens and now find very little interest in them at all other than a sniff here or there. I never yelled or hit them or used a choke or a shock. I just said no and took them away immediately at any sign of fixation or barking. Patience is the key and consistency. It sucks because sometimes you are busy and don't want to deal with it but starting and stopping will just make it worse.

    Dogs want to make you happy so bad, so if you can just find a way to tell them what you want then they will do it.

    For fun, here is my dog Lou.

    1 person likes this.
  8. aoxa

    aoxa Overrun With Chickens

    First off dogs need basic manners.

    and most importantly: Leave it

    I have 3 dogs, one of which is a livestock guardian dog (Maremma x Great Pyr). Surprisingly she was/is my biggest challange. We've sent her to rehab to learn basic manners, as she had zero respect for us and didn't listen. Now she does. She needed a job. We have her in a backpack throughout the day, and use an electric collar as a training tool to learn Leave it, and no. She now associates NO with stop whatever she is doing and lay down. Works AMAZING. The collar we have for her has 9 different levels of shock. She has a very high pain threshold. We want to train her on an underground electric fence as well, so the E-Collar was important.

    First. Sit. Wait. (love her face here)

    Mom goes first.

    Leash work is VERY important. When training a dog with poultry, they have to be leashed to be corrected easily.Chasing a dog down to give a correction is not advisable.

    Clem is surrounded by poultry during the day when we are at work. She's not ready to be out with them yet. She's 10 months old. The chickens eat her dog food through the fencing. hehehe

    Here is her backpack.

    Excitement is not tolerated during work hours. She is not touched at all unless she is submissive. Touching her when she is excited is rewarding that behaviour. Excitement leaves to play, and play leads to dead chickens.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2012
    1 person likes this.
  9. lauriemae15

    lauriemae15 Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 28, 2012
    South Dakota
    We put an electric fence around the run. Our dog hit it once and she's never gone back.
  10. Mountain Man Jim

    Mountain Man Jim Chillin' With My Peeps

    OK, you asked for it (some members may be sick of seeing this). Here's my method in full. Enjoy.

    Chicken Guardian Training

    The following is an outline of a training program we have used to train our dogs to be guardians of the chickens. Or, at the very least not to attack the chickens.

    We have seven chickens and four ducks on a one acre fenced yard. We had more birds but the fox and bobcat relieved us of them. The birds are strictly layers and are free range.

    We have five dogs (2 Labs, 1 Great Pyrenees, 1 Brittany/Border Collie mix, 1 Australian Shepherd), all of whom are good with the birds. We got the Pyr and Brittany as a puppies and it is their training that we are using as a model. The other dogs we adopted at a much older age (3 over the years). We never had a problem with any of them attacking the birds, but they are pretty obedient. Our training also has worked with a visiting Papillion puppy, which learned the rules about the chickens in a couple of days.

    Puppy Training

    Our training method is similar to how a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) is trained. The difference is we are training the dog to guard chickens not sheep. So, the demands of this training are a bit easier. All we need the dog to do is guard a fenced area and to not eat or chase the chickens. Simple, right?

    Well, as one might imagine, puppies like to chase feathery objects that make interesting sounds, run, flap their wings and fly a mere three feet off the ground; what fun. A key factor in the training is to break the association of chicken with fun. It is a sort of socialization process. Here’s how it goes:

    Level 1
    1. Once house broken, the puppy sleeps in a crate in the chicken coop.
    2. The puppy eats meals near the chickens. We do this by feeding the dog next to the chicken coop with the birds near.
    3. Chicken chores are done with the puppy tethered to you (on a leash).
    4. No playing is allowed. All other dogs or playmates (children, etc) are not allowed in the area when the puppy is “working” with the chickens.
    5. The puppy is not allowed to chase the chickens. Any attempts are corrected with a snap of the leash and a bark-like “NO”.
    6. Closely watched bird introductions are done. With the puppy on a leash, we hold a bird and allow the puppy to calmly sniff the bird. Excited attempts to “play” with the bird are reprimanded. We are trying to desensitize the dog to the birds, so this is done many times.

    Our puppies get crate trained for various reasons, one of which is so that they can sleep with the chickens. We have the “luxury” of having a large chicken “coop”, hence plenty of room for two dogs to sleep next to the chicken roost. If you don’t have that kind of room in the coop, I would hesitate to crate a dog outside next to the coop. The crate needs to be a safe place for the dog and that doesn’t sound safe. An alternative might be to construct a dog run in or near a chicken run. Or, you can skip the cohabitation portion of the training and increase the amount of leashed socialization with the birds.

    Once Level 1 is working well – this can take a few weeks - we move to Level 2:

    Level 2

    Most of Level 1 still applies, except now we try some limited “off leash” interaction with the puppy and birds. All contact must be closely supervised. It is important that the dog is responding to your commands to not pursue the birds. Commands like “NO” and “Leave It” should be understood by the dog. Obedience of the dog is the critical factor.

    If a chase does begin, one technique used to show your disapproval is to bark a “NO” and approach the dog in a stern manner. I often glare at the dog. This is similar to how an adult dog reprimands a puppy. For this to work you must be close and watchful of the dog.

    Level 2 progresses with more time with the dog with the birds. The goal is for the dog to ignore the birds. No stalking, no excited lunges as birds dart around or fly to a roost, no staring imagining how tasty they might be, nothing. By the end, the dog shouldn’t even look at the birds and if she does she should be reprimanded, LEAVE IT!

    Level 3

    This level isn’t really so much a new level. At some point the dog is left off the leash with the birds. In this level you begin to increase the distance between you and the dog. Hence, the dog is left essentially alone with the chickens, but you are watching from afar to observe and discipline. Important for getting to this point is that the dog obeys enough to stop any bad behavior from a simple, one word command … NO!

    Level 3 lasts a long, long time. As the weeks turn into months, you naturally gain more trust in the dog and spend less time watching over the flock. How long until the “training” ends seems to be determined by how quickly the dog matures and how well the dog obeys (which also seems to be related to maturity level).

    Fluffy (the Pyr) took probably all of 1.5 years before she was calm enough to stop chasing the birds. Molly (Brittany mix) was completely trustworthy with the birds in a couple of months. But as is common for Brittanys, she is incredibly sensitive to criticism. Simply raising your voice is enough to make this sweet dog sink to the ground, hence she usually aims to please.

    Great Pyrenees

    The Pyrs will not mature and become flock protectors until they are at least one and a half years old. Until then, one needs to supervise ALL interaction between the dogs and any fragile livestock. These dogs grow big, fast, and can easily kill a chicken in play or other behavior.

    The Drag

    One problem with Pyrs is that they love to run around and chase other animals; this includes the birds. Fluffy loved to chase the geese when she was at Level 3. She wasn’t being aggressive, but the birds do not do well when something that large runs full speed at them. Hence, we borrowed a tool used from LGD training with dogs that tend to run away from their flock of sheep. It is called a drag.

    The drag is a piece of wood on a tether attached to the dog’s collar. It is meant to interfere and make running difficult. I’ve seen a couple of drag designs. Our drag dangled right in front of Fluffy’s chest. The chain was only about four inches long and the log was the foot or so long. I used a chain because Fluffy would have chewed through a rope in a couple of minutes. I’ve read about the longer drags, but I wasn’t comfortable having something on a longer tether. I was afraid it could get tangled around her legs or something else or would not be in the right position when she started to run. In practice the drag length I used ended up getting in between her front legs and caused her to run bowlegged which slowed her down, but it didn’t hit her legs too hard. I think the drag in the front also helped to discourage the jumping on the fence and possible escape attempts.

    It is unclear if the drag actual prevent any chasing of the geese, but it did slow her down a bit.

    Shock Collars

    When our Pyrenees, Fluffy, was a puppy we came to a point where we couldn’t handle her behavior anymore. She was chasing the geese, barking, jumping and climbing over the fencing and ignoring all commands (Pyrs love that game). I bought a shock collar. I never used it and ended up returning it to the store the next day. I did a little research on the shock collars and found that dog trainers don’t recommend their use if you are not trained to do so. It is very tricky to use them correctly.

    But, the main reason I didn’t use the collar was because of Fluffy. She’s a sensitive (emotionally) dog and I feel like she would take physical punishment hard. Hurting my poor puppy to MAKE her do what I wanted her to do was not the kind of relationship I wanted between us. She was just doing what puppies do, so instead I started to work with her more. In the end, she grew up and now is a great dog. Heck we even talk about getting another Pyr one day (maybe). So, I’m pleased that I didn’t use the shock collar. I believe we have a better dog for it.

    I question the effectiveness of the shock collars and physical punishment as training tool. The shock from the collar doesn’t have any correlation to the action you are trying to stop. It’s not like the chicken whacked the dog on the head. Some unseen force zapped the dog. The dog is left clueless as to why, how or what she should do now. And, for me to whack the dog because she caught a chicken is equally as puzzling to dog. The dogs simply do not understand the rules people are taught. You can’t sit the dog down and explain, “If you do this again, I’m going to whack you. So, don’t do it again. OK”. In the end, I think it’s easy to end up with a very confused dog.

    Adult Dog Training

    It can be hard to train an older dog to except the chickens. But, we firmly believe it’s possible. It takes time and patience, but the payoff is great. I, for one, love the freedom of letting the girls (chickens) out in the morning before I rush off to work, knowing that they are safe with the dogs. After hearing all of the problems people have had with predators, we think a wonderful solution it is to have dependable flock guardians.

    The breed of the dog can be a factor for successful training. But, the most important factor for training is the dog’s behavior and willingness to serve. We have three BIRD dogs, heck, they’re bred to hunt down the very thing we’ve asked them to ignore. One of our dogs, Nutmeg, had a very extreme prey drive. We thought for sure she would attack our birds. But, what Nutmeg valued most was her people. All we needed to do was socialize her with the birds and us. Once she understood that the birds were something we cared about, all was good.

    We suggest that starting from square one. Obedience is key. Start training your dogs with the basics. Go to the library and check out every book on obedience training. (Patricia McConnell is one of our favorites!) Your goal is to have a dog that can compete in an obedience trial (I believe in setting lofty goals and then falling somewhat short). Your dog should look to you as the center of their world. Once your dog looks to you for direction, you are in charge. If you love your dog (and your chickens) you will take charge of your dog.

    Once, we got the little six month old puppy (Brittanys are great BIRD dogs) I literally walked around with a bag of dog treats on me (I use their dog food kibble). There are numerous times during the day that I give commands to the dogs. The dogs must WAIT before crossing a doorway, as commanded. SIT before getting food. To gain this obedience, I reward generously, hence the bag of treats.

    One day the puppy, Molly, was watching, staring at the birds. This is not acceptable at her stage of training. I gave her a HEY and a NO command while she was doing this. Once she broke her stare, I gave her a reward. Eventually she learned that it’s better to ignore the birds (you get treats). But, all of this takes time. We believe it’s better to reward than to punish, it just make a more dependable dog.

    Until the dog has completed level 2 you need to separate the birds and dogs. All of our training would go down the tubes if the dog finds out that the chickens are not only fun to chase, but tasty. So, when we got our Molly, for several months the chickens go into the “Chicken Tractor” to allow the puppy to romp and be a puppy. The chickens were let out everyday out for a couple of hours of roaming. At that point the puppy is either watched outside or is inside. As part of the program, the puppy slept and ate with the birds.


    Even though our dogs are going to be mostly farm dogs, obedience is important and there are some commands that are very useful for them to know.

    There’s two commands that the dogs need to know when it come to the chickens; “NO” and LEAVE IT”. NO means to stop what you are doing and LEAVE IT means that this thing is off limits. Here’s how I teach these.

    I’m sure you are thinking NO is an easy one; every dog seems to learn NO very quickly. But, we chicken farmers need NO to stop our dogs in their tracks as they are running full speed after a bird. Here’s what I suggest (I’m borrowing some of this from McConnell’s book). Have treats ready (I use dog food kibble) in a pocket or bag. With the dog on a leash, sit with the dog in the chicken yard. Any time the dog gets too curious about the chickens, make a loud noise to distract the dog and deliver the NO command in a low, growl like tone. There will be a split second where the dog will be distracted, at this point reward the dog with a treat presented right at her nose. For me, this ends up being a quick HEY (to startle the dog), a growling NO and a treat. Also, I used the treat to lure the dog in a different direction. And, at all times when the dog is with the chickens, I am holding the leash.

    In my opinion the tone of the NO is important. It needs to sound like the deep, low frequency growl of a Great Pyrenees. I believe men have an easier time producing this tone. My dear wife often gets excited. Her NO ends up to be more of a high pitched scream, which can be counterproductive by riling up the dog. You can tell if your NO is effective if the dog seems startled and looks at you with a questioning expression.

    Well, that’s plenty on NO. LEAVE IT is taught differently. This is little cruel, but it doesn’t take very long to teach. With treat in hand, I let the dog see it and present it were the dog can get it. I then deliver the command LEAVE IT in a stern, low tone. If the dog tries to take the treat, he gets hit with my other hand under his jaw. This is very startling for the dog, so the force does need to more that a tap, but the action must be quick. If the dog obeys, I give him the treat after a couple of seconds. A while later, I’ll try it again. Usually, LEAVE IT is pretty much understood after the first or second time. The command is useful when your lunch is sitting on the counter or the dog is sniffing a chicken.

    Recall or Come is also important to teach. One way to teach it is to make it a game. Dogs often do not approach people who are looking directly at them, but they love to chase people. Also, the dog will not come if he thinks you are going to punish him or do something unpleasant; like giving her a bath. So, try this, call the dog in a fun, exciting voice and then turn around and start trotting away from the dog. Praise the dog as she starts to come and when she catches up with you praise her and give her a good treat. Sometimes you can entice a dog to come just by turning your head to side. Remember, not to do anything the dog doesn’t like immediately after she comes.

    Our dogs love to have the leash put on. In fact, if one gets leashed, the other dogs get upset and whine. That’s because only good thing happen when the leash gets put on. We go for walks or for car rides or we practice HEEL (which entails LOTS of treats) or visit our cousins, etc. And, the guy holding the leash does his best to never, ever pull the leash. Instead, I just stand still when the puppy pulls on the leash. When she finally stops and turns around to look at me, she gets a treat. This is hard for me, because I feel the need to pull the dog back, but that just turns into a tug of war. I can win that game with a puppy, but not with a 120 lbs Pyr.

    There is technique of “snapping” the leash. I think I finally learned this one. It’s like cracking a whip. What it does is jingle the connection of leash to the collar and causes the dog to turn around as if to say “What the heck are you doing”. To do this right, there is no pulling of the dog, so it takes a little practice, but it does work to get their attention.

    We would suggest that to establish yourself as Alpha, is a little different then the way people used to think about it. If you watch my Alpha dog, you would notice that she never attacks the other dogs. She has established her status by being calm, large, confident and in control. You can do the same by controlling food (meals should be on a schedule and treats given for only good behavior), being the one who feeds them, being quiet (Alpha dogs do not bark at the other dogs in the pack, but they do growl when needed) and when you do need to reprimand, be benevolent, fair and use a low, growl like tone. It is apparently rare for an Alpha to fight or attack the other dogs, so no hitting of the dog (body/hip checks are OK ). Apparently, it is often the Beta dogs that fight.

    How Did We Do?

    How did we do? Well, Fluffy, our Great Pyrenees puppy is now 5 years old. Our chickens run free with the five dogs in a fenced-in acre of yard. At some point after our little program, she apparently attacked a chicken. We expressed our displeasure and took the bird to the vet. After which we have never had a problem. As testament to the breed, we have never had a predator loss with Fluffy on guard duty. She barks a lot, but keeps the fox and bobcat away. It is not as if she actively watches over the chickens, but they happen to be in her territory which she keeps rather secure.

    The Labs on the other hand have been rather useless in guarding the flock. They prefer to lie near the door and beg to come in or to get a treat.

    Molly had achieved Level 2 with two weeks of training. She progressed quickly and after a few months was out with the birds unsupervised. We have had her for several years and have never had her attack a bird.

    Part of this could be that she was raised with three dogs that already were chicken trained. When we began to cage a new batch of chicklets outside, Fluffy demonstrated some actual flock guardian behavior. Molly was a little too interested in the “Chicken Tractor” full of fluffy chicks. In an act that we can only describe as being concerned, Fluffy laid in front of the Chicken Tractor, placing herself between Molly and the cage. Fluffy was also observed to confront Molly when she approached the chicks. We didn’t believe she was actually trying to protect the chicks from Molly until she did this several times. Fluffy hadn’t acted like this before, nor has she done so since.

    The chicks are several months old now and the range free with the other chickens. Molly is know to actually walk around the chickens and has never attacked them. So, it appears that our training has been successful.

    Hope it helps,

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