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Is a German Shepherd a good dog to be around/protect chickens?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by naychicks, Feb 22, 2011.

  1. mandelyn

    mandelyn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What I've come to realize about chickens and the dogs who protect them... or chase them... is that it doesn't have anything to do with breed. It's the temperament combined with training. I'm sure there are dogs out there that are just cool with chickens. That same breed somewhere else with a different mind and different owner, just got done rampaging through a run.

    I have two German Shepherds and a Beauceron. My German police dog drop out is the worse, insane prey drive, weak work ethic. That combination means she'll likely never be able to leave the chickens alone. She'll let a kitten eat from her bowl. And she'll chase it if it starts a game, even though she knows not to. It took me something like 3 years to get her reliable in "come" and "leave it" to get her out of chase mode while in the middle of it.

    The boy, is a whole other dog, same breed. So far he's been great with the birds. He's interested, but not really. Forgets all about them when he sees his ball. The puppy I started taking in the chicken run when I first got her at 8 weeks old, mindful of not letting her eat the poop. She has a lot more herding drive, and at 6 months, she seems to think they'd make wonderful toys. So she's a work in progress before I know how she's really going to be. But I've never had a dog more loyal to what I say than her, so her future is promising.

    You can't train out drives, but you can manage them. All 3 of my dogs guard the house, the fence line, and the chicken area. They know those are ours. Sometimes Logan will be sleeping on the stone up against the run wire, even though I have a porch and two stone patios just as shady. He chose the birds. Ricca is bad about jumping at the run to make them flutter... there's a lot of things that dog does because it's "fun". With all the time and training I've put on her, she only does it once. I watch her from the house to spy on her... leaves them alone totally until I go out there to feed, that's when she does her one jump.

    But the same breed with a different mind, could turn out just like the dog mentioned above who let's his birds hide under him. Sounds like he has the perfect work ethic though. Logan is close to that, but because of how dogs can be, I've let him free range with the birds, alone from the other dogs, and he did fine. Pack mentality is a mother though, so there will never be a day when Ricca has the other two AND the chickens.

    I think Ricca has two dreams in her life. 1: Actually catch one of the 200 squirrels out back, and 2: Jump in the chicken run and scatter them until she's tired. When birds take flight, she loves it. Can't even cut her loose off leash when geese are down, she'll send them into the air, charging right into their midst. Not grabbing at them, or at any one bird, just scaring the whole flock airborne. My dad's Shepherd did that too. Ricca, even doves on the ground get chased airborne. She needs a job at an airport or something scaring birds off. She'd love it!

    But maybe I'm being paranoid. This is the same dog that charged two baby squirrels who were at the bottom of a tree in our yard. They didn't run. She slammed on the brakes and sat down and looked at me... then back at them... like "Why aren't they running?". She let them slowly scuttle up the tree, almost like she was in wonderment that they didn't run. I didn't freak out as soon as I saw her slam the brakes on without my say-so, and watched. She's such a quirky dog!

    It's hard to know how a dog will act in any situation until it's actually in the situation. That sweet face from the pound might b a holy terror at home. The young pup you got at 8 weeks old might turn into a nightmare dog. Or be perfect. You want to go for the dog with the drives you can train and manage. I'm a herding dog person. Some people like retrievers and their kinds of drives better. Other people like terriers. All those types have drives, and they can be good or bad, depending on the individual dog and training methods used.

    There's also the LGD types, like a Pyrenees. Big hairy goof ball with a real bark, can be trained to hang out and guard whatever animals it's raised with.

    If you want a German Shepherd then get one for yourself. You'll find out after it's grown if it can be used as a chicken guard or not. Some will and some won't, same with any other breed. So choose a breed you'll love whether it guards the chickens or not. Mine guard the chicken area, same as any other area. They rid the yard of everything from stray cats, squirrels, birds, and sound the alert when the neighbors get in their car or someone is walking down the street. They don't need to be in the run with the birds or guarding the flock as they free range. Between the fencing and the dogs, my birds are pretty safe.
     
  2. Azriel

    Azriel Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Have you looked at the Belgian breeds, I have a Belgian Tervuren, they look somewhat like a GSD, but usually a bit smaller. Mine is a great guardian dog, but she has also had lots of training. Any dog you get will need to be trained, so get what you like the best and work with it till its trained the way you want.
     
  3. jecombs

    jecombs Out Of The Brooder

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    Quote:ITA with this. I think with the right training and leadership almost any dog can be good around chickens, cats, bunnies... basically any small animal. I don't have GSDs (we're boxer people), but I have family members who do. They are wonderful, loving, and loyal dogs. However, they can get a bit neurotic if left to their own devices too long. They seem to thrive on a lot of owner contact. I would not recommend a GSD to anyone who has work-a-holic tendencies and can't spend much time with their dog.
     
  4. naychicks

    naychicks Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for all your help... I haven't owned a dog since I was a kid, and don't know much about properly training them but I'm really looking forward to having a best friend and I'm willing to read as much as I have to about training so that I can get him to do what I need him to do, which is to protect and to not to kill the chicken but care for them...

    I spoke to a friend that has a dog in his farm, not a GSD though, and he told me that it is very important to have him around chickens as young as possible to get him use to being around them... He said that it is almost impossible to get them used to chickens when they are older.

    I'm excited and a little skeptical... The last thing I want is to end up with dead chickens...
     
  5. Jamie_Dog_Trainer

    Jamie_Dog_Trainer Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 8, 2008
    Washington State
    Quote:You want a livstock guardian dog, then why not get a breed devoted to that specifically? Also if you have not owned a dog since you were a child then I would definately tick the GSD off your list. It takes more than reading books to properly train any dog -- especially for a very specific task of guarding your other animals. If you were to get a GSD I would tell you to, in the least, get a puppy from a breeder close to you so they can mentor you in rasing your dog the right way.

    I have owned GSD's all my life, have also been around several breeders, including my own Grandmother. Of all her breeding dogs, there was only one of them that would (without lots of training) leave the birds alone. Other livestock was another story. None of her Sheps ever went after the goats or sheep, but to them birds were fair game. My own GSD, while ok with my birds supervised (and unsupervised for short periods), is NOT reliable around chickens or turkeys. When free ranging my birds sometimes they'd fly over the back yard fence and Foenix would consider them feathered toys. I caught him in the act twice and he'd stop when I would tell him to, but if I happened not to notice it, well, later I'd find a chicken carcass in the back yard.

    Chances are less of you losing birds to a properly bred LGD than a German Shepherd. There is a liablility factor for each breed, but they are different there too. An LGD might wander off your property and they can (though not always by any means) be unstable with strangers. So if you live with neighbors close by or have friends that like to drop in, then an LGD might not be for the inexperienced owner. It is kind of the same with a GSD but for different reasons. Most GSD's will accept people readily, except one not properly socialized and untrained -- there you have another dangerous situation. If i had my choice of an unstable LGD and an improperly socilized GSD I would take the GSD any day LOL. An LGD isn't bred to take direction from an handler, where a GSD is more controllable in a given situation (that includes calling them off a flock).

    So read up and educate yourself. If I were you I would go with an LGD or LGD mix.
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

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    Quote:You want a livstock guardian dog, then why not get a breed devoted to that specifically? Also if you have not owned a dog since you were a child then I would definately tick the GSD off your list. It takes more than reading books to properly train any dog -- especially for a very specific task of guarding your other animals. If you were to get a GSD I would tell you to, in the least, get a puppy from a breeder close to you so they can mentor you in rasing your dog the right way.

    I have owned GSD's all my life, have also been around several breeders, including my own Grandmother. Of all her breeding dogs, there was only one of them that would (without lots of training) leave the birds alone. Other livestock was another story. None of her Sheps ever went after the goats or sheep, but to them birds were fair game. My own GSD, while ok with my birds supervised (and unsupervised for short periods), is NOT reliable around chickens or turkeys. When free ranging my birds sometimes they'd fly over the back yard fence and Foenix would consider them feathered toys. I caught him in the act twice and he'd stop when I would tell him to, but if I happened not to notice it, well, later I'd find a chicken carcass in the back yard.

    Chances are less of you losing birds to a properly bred LGD than a German Shepherd. There is a liablility factor for each breed, but they are different there too. An LGD might wander off your property and they can (though not always by any means) be unstable with strangers. So if you live with neighbors close by or have friends that like to drop in, then an LGD might not be for the inexperienced owner. It is kind of the same with a GSD but for different reasons. Most GSD's will accept people readily, except one not properly socialized and untrained -- there you have another dangerous situation. If i had my choice of an unstable LGD and an improperly socilized GSD I would take the GSD any day LOL. An LGD isn't bred to take direction from an handler, where a GSD is more controllable in a given situation (that includes calling them off a flock).

    So read up and educate yourself. If I were you I would go with an LGD or LGD mix.

    Thank you Jamie, for weighing in. I love my boys dearly, but goodness alot of work goes into training them. Jax is nearly 2 and we still work with him every day. I strongly believe GSDs are not for everyone, then they get a bad rap because of failures on the part of the owner.
     
  7. hellbilly

    hellbilly New Egg

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    I have an English Shepherd that is 14 months old. She does excellent with the birds, but she has taken to chasing cars and anything else that moves. It's frustrating sometimes, but she is the best with my chickens and guineas.
     
  8. LindsayB

    LindsayB Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We have a german shepherd that is great with our 4 hens. He usually doesnt even notice them, unless he is getting rowdy..then he likes to herd them back into the run LOL He has actually helped them out alot. he has killed 8 possums and 4 raccons that have been in our yard at night. I'm sure there will be many more.........
     
  9. gjensen

    gjensen Overrun With Chickens

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    My GSD has been great with my birds. He is protective of my boys and the birds. He will step between you and the roosters if they get close. He knows something is different. The birds were here when we got him. GSDs today is a broad subject. They are not all created equal. It does depend more on you than the dog. Our Dog learned early that the birds were not play toys. Training our dog has not been hard work. Teaching is part of the play routine that we all like to do with him. My boys and wife have been great with him. If we need to round the birds up, he helps. We are better off with him for alot of reasons, and the birds are better off (safer) with him as well.
     
  10. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

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    I should mention that our GSDs are east and west german, just two generations removed from there. A whole different breed altogether from the "american" GSDs.
     

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