Training dogs off the chickens

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Gray Ghost, May 24, 2010.

  1. Gray Ghost

    Gray Ghost Songster

    Feb 13, 2010
    There have been a lot of posts wondering whether dogs can be trained not to molest chickens. In general, I am with those who think dogs can be trained to co-exist with chickens. I thought I would give my experience.

    I have two Labrador retrievers ages 9 (Rex) and 10 (Diana). Both have been bird dogs -- flushers and retreivers -- all their lives. They have been trained and encouraged to chase, catch and retreive pheasants, grouse, ducks and other birds very similar to chickens. I am an experienced amateur bird dog trainer, having trained both these dogs and one previous Labrador besides.

    I decided this spring to get chickens for the first time. I kept my flock of 15 sex-links (and one mistake Cornish Rock meat chicken) in a closed brooder out in the coop, and now the chickens are 6 weeks old and are free in the coop and they free-range outdoors daily.

    At first I simply kept the dogs and chickens separate, always locking up one or the other. But that is not a long term solution and not fair to either. So I started to train the dogs not to molest the chickens. The dogs were of course EXTREMELY INTERESTED in the chicks at first. They would run over to the closed coop and sniff around. I would let them in the coop and they would sniff around and look into the (closed) brooder. After they got used to the presence of the chickens I started telling the dogs "No! Leave it!" whenever they sniffed around the brooder. This got the dogs used to the idea that the chickens are not necessarily there to be chased or molested.

    A couple of days ago I took Rex out with a shock collar on, while the chickens were free ranging. I instructed him to "heel" until we were about 5 feet from the chickens (they had no idea the potential danger they were in). Then I told him to lie down and just let him lay there while I repeated told him "No. Leave it." Of course as soon as I turned my head he leaped for them and chased the cornish rock around the corner of the coop. I gave Rex a big shock with the collar and repeated "No. Leave it!" He immediately left the chickens alone and came back to heel.

    Yesterday I had him out near the coop again while the chickens were free ranging and he gave both coop and chickens a wide berth. I am sure he learned his lesson. Of course I would not yet trust him near the chickens unsupervised but I doubt I will need to use the shock collar on him again. Eventually I hope to be able to completely trust him but I will have to be cautious about that.

    I'm not as far along in the process with Diana. I have had her near the chickens, telling her "No. Leave it." and she has made a few short rushes towards them but always comes back when I yell no at her. So far have not had to use the shock collar on her. But intend to use it at least once when I can "catch her in the act".

    Lessons so far: (1) train dogs one at a time, (2) use shock collar (once should be enough if you shock 'em in the act), (3) before using shock collar, train using non-collar methods so dogs at least know what they are supposed to be doing....even if they can't quite control themselves.

    I will update this thread as I progress.

  2. Chicken Obssessed

    Chicken Obssessed Hatching

    Jul 31, 2009
    Do you think that a dog can be trained that has already attacked and killed one chicken?
  3. possumqueen

    possumqueen Songster

    Aug 17, 2009
    Monroe, North Carolina
    Quote:Short answer: No. The dog that has already attacked and killed one chicken has found out what chickens are for. You MIGHT be able to make him behave in your presence, but even then you're asking for trouble.

    Gray Ghost has a couple of life long, well trained dogs that are used to learning and obeying commands, and they've probably never killed birds, just retrieved them. I'll bet they could even be trained to retrieve live chickens.

    I have a ten year old standard poodle who will kill things in a heartbeat. He has caught and killed little critters and birds, so he knows how to do it, and he knows how much fun it is. I will never EVER trust him with my chickens, even with a shock collar, even in my presence, even with a leash on. He's too quick, and his prey drive is too deeply entrenched. I feel it would be grossly unfair to him to use so severe a thing as a shock collar to try to change something that is simply a part of his nature.

    Bottom line: know your dog, and know his limits. Don't blame the dog for what he is. And protect your chickens some other way.

    And, hey! [​IMG]
  4. corancher

    corancher Songster 11 Years

    Apr 18, 2007
    Chicken Obssessed

    I believe you can train most dogs to leave the chickens alone. I have a dog that has killed a chicken. She is a Lab mix. It took a lot of work with her but she learned. It was several years ago and she now roams freely with the chickens everyday. I trust her completely now with the chickens. Maybe she figured out those chickens lay those eggs that she loves to steal. [​IMG]
  5. MotherJean

    MotherJean Songster

    Quote:I would say, yes, but keep in mind that you will NEVER be able to trust that dog not to attack again if left unsupervised. Not everyone will share that opinion, but I am speaking from my own experience.
    Last edited: May 24, 2010
  6. natrgatr

    natrgatr Chirping

    May 24, 2009
    Columbia City, IN
    Quote:I would say, yes, but keep in mind that you will NEVER be able to trust that dog not to attack again if left unsupervised. Not everyone will share that opinion, but I am speaking from my own experience.

    Yes...they can be trained, even after killing and eating a chicken. My Great Pyrenees, Max, was caught in the act of eating a chicken ( I missed the killing). I puppy rolled him then gently "bopped" him on the head (just enough to be annoying, not painful) while telling him "no, leave it" until he didn't even want to look at it anymore. The next day I walked around with a live chicken under my arm (staying near Max). If he gave the chicken an interested look I told him "no, my chicken" and he would turn away and leave it alone. Since then, I usually only have to say "leave it" if he is near the chickens, and gets "that look", and he will back down.

    He now seems to be "guarding" them like he is supposed to. I still keep an eye on him, but am getting more comfortable all the time. He is still a puppy (10 months) and we are still right in the middle of that annoying puppy, high energy behavior stage, so I know it will be a while before I am completely comfortable, but I am confident he will make a great guard dog for them.
  7. RiverOtter

    RiverOtter Songster 8 Years

    Nov 4, 2009
    Quote:YES. The trick is that the correction doesn't come from you (in the dog's mind), that way the dog doesn't think it's ok to do it when you're not around.

    If you use a shock collar, the dog should wear the shock collar *but not be corrected with it!!* for at least 2 weeks while you train a firm No, Leave It using other methods. Then out of sight of the dog use the collar on a strong setting (the dog shouldn't scream or anything awful, but a startled yip is fine) when the dog LOOKS at a chicken. If you wait until they're chasing, it's too late. You have to catch them thinking about chasing and have them think that God Almighty smited them for the unholy thought.

    Or, (which I have done) you can tie the dog in the chicken yard, sneak up onto the roof with a pump BB gun and ping him every time he LOOKS at a chicken. And no, I don't mean the poor dog should have BB's in his hide. You want it just hard enough that the dog whirls around to look for what pinched him. Not so much owowow as what was THAT??

    If you do it right, by the end of the day the dog will turn it's head away when a chicken walks past, wanting nothing to do with those evil, stingy birds.

    But these are drastic measures. The best way is to just train them from puppyhood. It can be done, regardless of breed. I have a beagle who knows caged rabbits are MINE and he is not allowed to even bark, but rabbits running about loose outside are HIS and he is free to chase and catch.
  8. nzpouter

    nzpouter Songster

    Jan 19, 2009
    new zealand
    Quote:Yes you can, take a lot of time and patient but can be done. My dogs are fed raw and one killed a chicken when she was 1..... she's now 7 with no more accidents....

    There are times when you need to watch your dogs with them, like during feeding, whelping, etc....
  9. A rancher friend of mine swears she cured her dog by hanging the chicken that he had killed around its neck for a week. Whoa, stinky! He never killed another chicken. This seems drastic. Has anyone else heard of this? [​IMG]
  10. sandiklaws

    sandiklaws Songster

    Thats an old timers trick... have never tried it myself, seems way too gross [​IMG] but I have heard it works and works well depending on the dog. I have also heard of smacking the dog about w/ the dead chicken until they want nothing to do w/ it, and newer books will tell you to scream at and give THE DEAD CHICKEN a beating- I guess the dog decides the chicken is bad news or something. As crazy as that last one sounds I have tried it in my practice (professional dog trainer since '86) and, as weird as it sounds, it DOES work for found objects... haven't tried it w/ killed livestock though.

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