Introducing my dogs to my chicks

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by flirty31, Sep 18, 2012.

  1. flirty31

    flirty31 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 29, 2012
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    Hi there,

    I hope the predator forum is the correct place to post this. I think so, because my dogs are likely the biggest threat of any other predator to my little baby chicks.

    So, I have two dogs, both from the shelter. A german shep mix and mini-aussie mix (we think) and I am trying to find the best way to teach them that the chicks are not food. First off, I want to disclose that I would never leave them unsupervised. Even when they're old enough to be in their coop and run, it will be difficult for me to trust my dogs to be out in our fenced yard without trying to dig under the run to get to the chickens-but that's a different issue of coop-building, for another forum.

    I have started holding one of the chicks and touching it to my mini-aussie mix. I hold her mouth closed (don't want any biting) and say "good girl" and "leave it" if she gets too close. Recently, I placed a chick on her back while she was laying down and she just let it nuzzle up to her warm belly and left it alone. Interestingly, my other dog came up while this was happening and she growled at him, gnashed her teeth, and lunged toward him. I think she was being protective. My question for you: do you think she was being food aggressive (thinking she was protecting her food) or possibly a bit "motherly?"

    Thanks for any/all advice and opinions!
     
  2. flirty31

    flirty31 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 29, 2012
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    [​IMG]
    Here's my "mothering dog" with the other dog trying to check out my Americauna
     
  3. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think overall impulse control training and not just chick training is going to be the best way to go to solve the problem either way.

    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.

    Have you done any food training with them? 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. This could also resolve any of the possible food aggression questions/issues.

    Have you worked with them at all doing the "leave it" without putting the chicks on them yourself? My only concern with holding them up to her face is it seeming like a game or a toy but it really depends on how she is reacting. If you let the chicks be free and behave in a chick way - perhaps with the dog on a lead so you can control the dog is needed, the dogs can get used to the chicks natural behavior that way.


    When I was training my dogs I scolded any behave except mild curiosity and ignoring completely. Even happy excited was a no.

    I hope maybe that helps a little.

    Here is my pit, Lou, with a silkie chick who fell in love with her.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2012
  4. flirty31

    flirty31 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Tacoma, WA
    Wow, that was a great reply!

    I do the food thing with them, in fact, the mini-aussie mix won't eat her food unless you tell her to. No free grazing on food at our house.

    I really like your suggestion about having the chick behave naturally. That's when I'm most worries either dog might make a grab for a chick. They know "leave it" but sometimes they don't like to listen...

    She (the mini aussie mix) just sits there, and sometimes moves her face away from the bird, when I hold it up to her face. She looks at me, or at nothing, but not at the bird. I am worried about them thinking the bird is a toy too, but I haven't been treating it the same way as with a toy.

    I think scolding any behavior except mild curiosity and ignoring is a great idea.

    Wow, that was a thorough answer and a lot for me to think about!
     
  5. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you :). I am glad. I really love dogs and whole heartedly believe all dogs can be good dogs if given the chance. I am always so happy to hear about shelter dogs ending up in good homes so YAY for you and your beautiful dogs!

    It sounds like you are on the right tracking and doing good things. I think a lot of it is also just time and patience. My chickens were bigger and already outside when I started dog introductions so I would bring each dog out one at a time on a leash and sit out there with the chickens doing their thing. When the dogs reacted any way other than calm, I said no and brought them inside. over and over and over. lol. I did it every day and it only took a few days before they just ignored the birds.

    Good luck! Let me know how it's going.
     
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  6. Mountain Man Jim

    Mountain Man Jim Chillin' With My Peeps

    Flirty31,

    I agree with ChickenRDinos advice, very solid recommendations.

    My guess as to the Aussie’s motivation is that it wasn’t some much mothering but, that she had a prized possession of the human’s and that the other dog best not try and take it. A similar situation may happen in your house with food or the best spot on the couch or when the Aussie is getting some affection from you. Then again, dogs are not robot and you would know your dogs best.

    To your opening question, I‘ve written down some tips on training the dogs for chicken duty. It’s long so, I could PM it to you if you like. But, it sound like you are off to a good start and you can’t beat an Aussie and German Shepherd for chicken guardians.

    Jim
     
  7. flirty31

    flirty31 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I just wanted to share an update with y'all. We've had the chickies for just a little over 4 weeks now and the dogs are acting less and less interested (which I think is a good thing) and the aussie has gotten a little riled up and tried to "play bow" the chicks a few times but we have stopped her.

    Since they're getting bigger, it's easier to keep the dogs away from them, and we still won't leave them alone together but we are allowing the gals to run around the yard and keeping an eye on the dogs without them on leashes (and they're pretty much going about their own business ignoring the birds.

    One GROSS thing I have noticed though, the dogs love to eat the chicken poop. It is DISGUSTING and now we say they have "s$#%-eating grins." Does anyone else's dog do this?!
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  8. Mountain Man Jim

    Mountain Man Jim Chillin' With My Peeps

    Wow, beautiful Aussie!!

    Jim
     
  9. Mountain Man Jim

    Mountain Man Jim Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oh and yes, the dogs always eat the chicken leavings. Do a search, we occasionally have a good laugh about this [​IMG]

    Jim
     
  10. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My goodness!! That is a beautiful dog. I'm glad it's going well!
     

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