How do I introduce chickens to my dog?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by polishchickens111, Jun 2, 2011.

  1. polishchickens111

    polishchickens111 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have a 6 year old Golden, he loves chasing wild animals. I'm worried that he will try to eat my chickens, what should I do?
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2011
  2. La Mike

    La Mike (Always Slightly Off)

    Nov 20, 2009
    louisiana
    Introduce him to them very carefully. Be of the mind that it may never make friends with your chickens being its nature to retrieve birds. Good luck and hope it works out for you [​IMG]
     
  3. dretd

    dretd Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 14, 2009
    Ft Collins, CO
    I would make sure your dog knows the command 'leave it' or other term for leave it alone/don't touch. Try it out with yummy treats and irresistible toys. Make sure your dog always obeys you. Then with close supervision introduce the dog and the chickens. Make sure your dog understands that these guys are part of the family and let them sniff etc. If he looks too curious then use our leave it command and when they ignore the chicken, reward the dog.

    Goldens are pretty smart and want to please their owner so I think you ill have luck with good vigilance. I have a Border Collie who loves to chase birds and wild critters. Started out with holding the chicks and having her greet them and making sure she knew they were mine. Used leave it command etc. Pretty easy and she pretty much ignores them now. I leave them out free ranging together and she is a good flock protector.

    Good luck!
     
  4. 4-H chicken mom

    4-H chicken mom Overrun With Chickens

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    I taught my weims to "leave it" while working with them on the leash at first. The only time the even want to chase them anymore is when they try to fly by them. [​IMG]
     
  5. klpenny

    klpenny Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 1, 2011
    Pittsburgh
    If you don't know "leave it" should garner a response of take a step away from whatever you are thinking about going after. It is a really tough trick.

    Goldens are much more eager to please and less prey driven than either of my dogs, so teaching your dog to "leave it" with positive reinforcement should be quite fun. Be aware though it will not happen overnight it will happen in baby steps and need constant reinforcement. If he does not know the leave it command. Start with just getting him to sit quietly and look away from your hand when you say leave it and have a tasty treat or a toy in your hand. At first you may have to give a bit of a tug on his leash or use a treat in the other hand to get his atttention but reward him profusely immediately as soon as he takes his attention off the item. Then graduate to things on the ground, make it a game, I used to use bacon and cookies and so forth and randomlyfrop or toss them in front of the dog and say leave it, rewarding him each time he follows your command. Work with him on this for about 10 - 15 minutes a day in a quiet relaxed environment. Then keep expecting a little more each day, because leave it should mean take a step away from whatever you are thinking about going after. Once your dog is proficient with leave it with food or a toy then start working with him and the chickens. With goldens, I would only reach for more agressive methods like the electric training collars as a last resort like I had to do with my pit (he is rather thick and can be aggressive with other animals). Chickens and dogs are a tough mix but you can teach your dog boundaries.

    Don't give up, my Plott hound was a bit of a challenge, eventhough she excels at obedience and knows the leave it command the peeps really over excited her. Her eyes dialated and she went into this kind of super still automatic prey stance. At first I could not prime her at all thus leave it fell on totally deaf ears no matter what I had in my hand, and negative reinforcement when she was so fixated was a no win situation. So we just spent alot of quiet time in the basement just sitting next to them in their little pen. As she started to relax and I could prime her (get her to make eye contact for food) I started working around them and finally handling them with her next to me. It has been two months of multiple daily training from 20 min to just quick visits and I am just now comfortable that she can be around them unsupervised. She is much more relaxed around them both because I worked with her but also more likely because they don't sound like squeaky toys anymore. My Pit mix was easy, he is older and has an "extra brain". He is familiar with the concept of electric cats, at this point he has come to accept that if I feed it, it is part of the family. For as dumb as he is, he has actually been a big help because if he doesn't react, neither will she. Good Luck
     
  6. ginbart

    ginbart Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 9, 2008
    Bloomsburg, PA
    I had chicks in the house and I would get them out and say to my dog, in the sweetest voice I could, look at the babies. She would come and smell them and just look. I did this for a week and after that I could put them one the floor and say watch the babies. Now when my DH came in the house with a wild bird and it flew out of his hand I couldn't get my dogs to even look for it they just thought it was one of the babies. [​IMG]
     
  7. Dogfish

    Dogfish Rube Goldberg incarnate

    Mar 17, 2010
    Western Washington
    Lots of work and patience.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Yes, that turkey poult is asleep.

    Don't leave the dog alone with the birds until you have tried 10-20 tests where you leave the dog alone with the birds and watch when he doesn't know it. Your dog is only as good as you train it.
     
  8. Agnes the Wonder Chicken

    Agnes the Wonder Chicken Out Of The Brooder

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    Mims, Florida
    I have 4 dogs that get along really well with my chickens. Believe it or not, sometimes my little rat terrier even plays with them. I got the dogs to work this way by putting a chair out in the middle of the yard with a dog on the 12' training leash by themselves. Let them out little by little, saying no or quit when they wanted to chase. It really did not take long for them to lose interest in chasing.
     
  9. Mountain Man Jim

    Mountain Man Jim Chillin' With My Peeps

    OK, this more than what you asked for, but I just cleaned up the Mountain Man Jim key to chicken happiness .... Four legged chicken guardians. Here's my training tips [​IMG]

    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 to 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 from 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 something that large runs full speed at them. Hence, we borrowed a tool used for 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 help 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 during 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.

    Discipline

    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 hand from 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 lay 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.

    Jim
     
  10. polishchickens111

    polishchickens111 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 1, 2011
    Over there
    Update: He is a great LGD now! He is good at keeping the hawks away during free-range time. Thanks for your help, everyone!!

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2011

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