I see this question come up a lot on Facebook and other chicken groups I am involved in. “How can I train my dog not to eat my chickens?” This is usually just after the dog has killed a few chickens. The distraught owner is mad at the dog, sad for the loss of the chickens and often at a loss on what they should do next. In this post, I am going to help you train your dog not to eat chickens and dispell a few myths about the process.
My Chicken Proof Dogs
Amos, Abby, Beau and the chickens enjoying some snacks.
As you can see in the picture above, my chickens and dogs get along pretty well. Getting the picture even involved treats! You might also notice my dogs are of no particular breed. They are pound pups I adopted when they were between one and three years of age. They didn’t grow up around chickens and when we brought them home, they were pretty sure those chickens would make a tasty snack.
It took a bit of work to get the dogs to understand chickens are friends, not food. Each dog was a bit different but in the end, all three of our dogs are now chicken safe. I can leave the house with the chickens free-ranging and the dogs out to protect them. It’s a good feeling.
To get started, your dog needs to know a few commands. You will need to teach your dog to sit, stay and leave something alone when you ask him to. To accomplish this I employ treats. Start with sit. This is the easiest command to teach. Stand in front of your dog holding the snack where he can see it and say “sit”. When he doesn’t, gently push his butt down, say “sit”, and give him the treat. Repeat a few times a day until your dog sees the treat and sits.
Next, it’s time to teach him to stay. Hold up the treat, when your dog sits, hold up your hand and say “stay”. Wait about 10 seconds and give him the treat. Next time, do the same thing, but in the end, take a tiny step backward, wait a few seconds and give him the treat. Keep backing up a little farther each time you do this. Again, repeat a few times a day.
Now comes the hard one, leave it. This one is particularly hard for dogs who have food issues, but they can do it. Start with the treat and asking your dog to sit. Once he is sitting, drop the treat. When your dog lunges for the treat, use your body to block the treat and use some sort of sharp growl to back the dog off. Pick up the treat and repeat. When the dog stares longingly at the treat but doesn’t move, pick up the treat, tell him what a good dog he is and give him the treat. Once more, repeat a few times a day.
Introducing Your Dog to the Chickens
Now that your dog knows his basic commands, its time to introduce the dog to the chickens. The best place to do this is in a large area where the chickens are free to roam. If you don’t have anything other than your coop, use that but be on your toes.
Start with your dog on a leash and walking by your side. Do not use a retractable leash, choke collar or pinch collar. Just a collar and a leash, held with slight tension to keep the dog at your side. Walk the dog into the area with the chickens and walk him around. Act like this is just a normal everyday walk.
If your dog lunges for a chicken, it’s time to employ the three-second rule. Here is how the three-second rule works. When your dog does something you don’t want him to do (like lunge for a chicken) You have three-seconds to act like death is imminent. You don’t need to beat him or even smack him once. Use your body and your voice. Yell at him, stomp your feet, swing the end of the leash around, push him back with your body, act like you are going to kill him. Then three seconds later, go back to walking him around like nothing happened.
It will probably take a few times of the three-second rule, but most dogs will quit after around three times. The black dog in the picture took four, but she is special. (think short bus special )
Take a walk around with your chicks every day until you feel like the dog is bored and trying to figure out why you keep walking in circles with these stupid birds.
Amos naps while the chickens run around.
Letting Your Dog Loose With the Chickens
Once your dog is bored to death of chickens, it’s time to take the training wheels off. Take your dog out with you when you care for your chickens and leave the leash off. Go about your normal routine but keep an eye on the dog. If the dog starts showing interest in the birds, use your “leave it” command. Any attempt at a chickens life gets the three-second rule. If you continue to have problems, take a step back in the training process and firm up your basics.
After you are done caring for your flock, spend some time with the dog. Give him treats, love on him and tell him what an amazing animal he really is. Continue these supervised meetings until you are comfortable leaving the dog alone with the chickens. Again, start slow. Go inside for a few minutes and come back out, next time stay a little longer.
There are certain breeds that are known to be a little tougher to train than others. Bird dogs and bully breeds come to mind, but any breed with a high prey drive can be a little challenging.
Bird dogs are usually trained to point or retrieve birds, but this can cause issues with your chickens. Case in point. We had an English pointer, she went through the leash training and did well so we moved on to the off-leash training. We did fine until the chickens moved into the high pasture grass. She ran in and pointed the chicken, the chicken moved. She followed it and pointed it again. The chicken moved. Again, she followed it and pointed it and again the chicken moved. Then she grabbed it by the neck shook it around, threw it down on the ground and pointed it again. This time the chicken didn’t move. The final move on her part happened so fast I had no time to call her off. In hindsight, when she showed interest, I should have used the “leave it” command.
Bully breeds are known to be a little, well, bull-headed. This doesn’t mean they aren’t trainable, it just means it’s going to take a little more time. There are plenty of chicken safe bully breeds out there so if you have one and are considering chickens, don’t let this put you off.
Things Not to Do
I want to address some of the advice I have seen out there to train your dog not to eat chickens. If someone has given you this advice, smile politely, thank them, then run the other way.
- Tie a dead chicken to your dog’s collar
- Do any physical harm to the dog
- Get rid of the dog, it will always eat your chickens
- Spray the dog in the face with vinegar, lemon juice or any other acidic liquid.
- Use a shock collar
- Beat the dog with a dead chicken
This is a short list of advice I have seen given to people who are trying to train their dog not to eat chickens. If you ever receive advice that doesn’t seem quite right – Keep searching.
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Title: How to Train Your Dog NOT to Eat Chickens
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Published Date: Wed, 31 Jul 2019 01:55:37 +0000
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