training my dogs...

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by hxcmark, Nov 3, 2009.

  1. hxcmark

    hxcmark Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 2, 2009
    What are some things that you people have done to successfully train your dogs to protect the flock? I have a German Shepard dog and an Australian Cattle dog. Thanks in advance!!!
  2. horsejody

    horsejody Squeaky Wheel

    Feb 11, 2008
    Waterloo, Nebraska
    I raised my little dog with poultry, and he also watches them in the brooder while they are growing up. He is perfectly happy to be around them and not bother them. However, he is a guarding breed. Both of your dogs are herding breeds and may be much more difficult. Their instinct will be to herd (chase them) and possibly nip them. That can easily escalate to playing with and killing. The best dog with chickens is one that totally ignores them and appears to have no interest in them at all. Any actual interaction can trigger the prey drive. You will have to evaluate your dogs and take a long time to socialize them. Don't count on being able to make them chicken friendly. Some are good with poultry, but they are the exception, not the rule.
  3. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    This link from Uppity Peon worked wonders for me.

    I started doing this with my German Shepherd and it has worked great. (combined with a shock collar for added security of my birds) I started by bringing her in with me into the chicken yard on leash. (very short) I'd make her lay down and just watch while I gave the chickens scratch to keep them occupied. Sniffing was allowed, but mouthing got an instant correction. After a while of doing this, I gradually increased it to allow her to walk around but I had my finger on the shock button just in case. She never went for them. She got to the point where not even flight got her prey drive, and now I've started supervised free range with her, me and the chickens. She's messed up once - one of them flew down from my arm, and she pinned it. Didn't hurt the chicken and she stopped when I told her no. She got the instant correction, then "punished" by not being allowed to be with them right after that. Other than that, no issues. Would I leave her alone with them? Absolutely not. The temptation is just too much IMO. Afterall, she's a dog.

    ETA: to add the link
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 3, 2009
  4. peepdaddy

    peepdaddy Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 6, 2009
    Wolfe co.
    I have a GSD "type". I say type because she came in as a stray pup. She was malnourished and had mange, nearly completely hairless. The poor thing was all bones and ears. We treated her and the mange resolved. At first she lived on grasshoppers and mice, wouldn't eat dog food. Later she began eating the dog food but kept hunting. She did, and still does, catch and eat rabbits, mice, squirrels, groundhogs..... She even catches birds (don't know how she does this!). "Yotie" (cause she looked like a coyote as a pup) is now 10 years old. She is the best dog we've ever owned but has a VERY high prey drive. When I got chickens I never believed we would be able to let her near them. When I put the chickens in their run she came to the wire and showed some interest. I told her NO in a stern voice. I did this one more time and now she completely ignores them. She won't even look at them. She has been loose with one rooster for the past 2 months and he feels safe enough with her that he spends time with her on the porch and in her dog house! He thinks he's a dog. I expect he'll be barking just any day.
    Even dogs with a high prey drive can sometimes respond well to training. Though I have no doubt that some may take a lot of effort and some may never be trained.
  5. citrusdreams

    citrusdreams Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 4, 2009
    When I first got chickens, a couple of my dogs were already grown. I exposed them to the chickens a lot, supervised, and the chickens are just a part of the landscape here. I played with the dogs amoung the chickens. And if they ever chased or were interested in the chickens, I'd yell "no" and they'd stop. Now they free range among the dogs, I don't even watch them.

    The puppies need to be trained not to chase chickens. Again, I did "NO" and lead corrections.

    If your dog doesn't respond to verbal commands, I'd highly recommend a remote controlled shock collar and zap them along with NO!! when they are interested in the chickens. They need to understand that the chickens are YOURS and not theirs, and that they're off limits.

    My dogs haven't gone and after chickens or guineas and have been left alone in the house with chicks and keets, have been in the henhouse and pen, have played fetch and wrestled with each other in the company of the chickens, have been forgotten outside when leftovers were thrown to the chickens, etc.

    I really believe that MOST dogs, unless really badly prey driven, can be TRAINED with consistency. Most dogs want to please you. They really respond well to treats and praise. The shock collars are invaluable if you can't do leash corrections. If they chickens and guineas bore your dogs, they'll ignore them. I have more trouble with my dogs "stealing" shoes, tools and clothing off the porch than messing with the other animals.

    I'd never beat a dog with a dead chicken...or tie it around it's neck to decompose, I don't see the rationale in doing that. For my dogs, that would have made it worse. I'd rather give it a good shakedown (like it's mother would) because they understand that.
  6. Cockam-amy

    Cockam-amy Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 9, 2009
    Missoula, MT
    I too used a shock collar--it was the only way I could keep my extemely OCD smaller dog from running at the chickens in their run. This dog will sit through a rain storm and just stare at a tree that has a squirrel in it. She is the most obsessed dog I've ever had. We had to resort to the shock collar, and within a week she was leaving the chickens alone with just a "no" and now I can leave in the yard and she just ignores them (they are in a fenced yard of their own.)
    Anyway, our other dog is a Great Pyrenees 1 year old, and he usually takes the lead from the little dog. But due to his breeding as a livestock protection dog, he has now started keeping her away from the chickens even if she's just passing by. He kind of plays with her while pushing her away from the chickens.
    I guess my point is that, unless they're protection dogs it may be hard to get them to actually protect the chickens, I didn't do any training with the Pyrenees. But I'm a huge believer in the power of the shock collar to get the attention of an "impossible" dog.

    Good luck.
  7. chickerdoodle

    chickerdoodle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 21, 2009
    I do not recommend leaving most dogs alone with chickens. I will be testing my own when we get chickens in the spring. All my dogs are taught "leave it" and are truly reliable with this command. I teach it using positive reinforcement and test it carefully. The test typically involves either putting a freshly cooked steak or chicken (oops, sorry) on a plate on the floor near them. [​IMG] Of course they immediately zero in on it but one "leave it" command and they leave it alone and continue on with whatever they were doing (usually chewing a favorite toy or nylabone). It takes great patience and diligence by the owner but it works great! The problem arises when the owners are not consistent. I still have no intention of leaving them alone with the hens as I have to be a realist and have no intention of tempting fate when a life is at stake. [​IMG]

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