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Re: Breaking a Dog from Killing Chickens
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Posted by Jim Jen on October 09, 2007 at 19:31:42 from (220.127.116.11):
In Reply to: Breaking a Dog from Killing Chickens posted by Dreamweaver on September 10, 2001 at 05:30:30:
We have a new puppy (Molly who’s a Brittany, 6 mon.) who is starting chicken training. I hope to periodically update you all as to the progress.
We only have three chickens and duck, but will be expanding. We had more birds but the fox and bobcat relieved us of them. The birds are strictly for home use and the birds are free range.
We have four dogs (2 Labs, 1 Retriever mix, 1 Great Pyrenees), all of whom are good with the birds. We got the Pyr as a puppy and it is her training that we are using as a model for the new puppy. The other dogs we got at a much older age. We never had a problem with them, but they are pretty obedient.
Our training method is similar to how a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) is trained. The difference is we are training to guard chickens not sheep. So, the demands of this training are a bit easier. All we need the dogs to do is guard a fenced area and to not eat or chase the chickens. Simple right?
Well, as one might imagine, puppies like to chase feathery objects that make interesting sounds, run, flap wings and fly a mere three feet off the ground; what fun. A key factor in the training is to break the association of chicken with fun. It is a sort of socialization process. Here’s how it goes:
1. Once house broken, the puppy sleeps in a crate in the chicken coop.
2. The puppy eats meals near the chickens. We do this by feeding the dog next to the chicken coop with the birds near.
3. Chicken chores are done with the puppy tethered to you.
4. No playing is allowed. All other dogs or playmates (children, etc) are not allowed in the area when the puppy is “working” with the chickens.
5. The puppy is not allowed to chase the chickens. Any attempts are corrected with a snap of the leash and a bark-like “NO”.
6. Closely watched bird introductions are done. With the puppy on a leash, we hold a bird and allow the puppy to calmly sniff the bird. Excited attempts to “play” with the bird are reprimanded. We are trying to desensitize the dog to the birds, so this is done a several times.
Once Level 1 is working well – this can take a few weeks - we move to Level 2:
Most of Level 1 still applies, except now we try some limited “off leash” interaction with the puppy and birds. All contact must be closely supervised. It is important that the dog is responding to your commands to not pursue the birds. Commands like “NO” and “Leave It” should be understood by the dog. We believe obedience from the dog is the critical factor.
If a chase does begin, one technique used to show your disapproval is to bark a “NO”, take the dog by the scruff of the neck and roll the dog on its side, now glare at the dog. This is similar to how an adult dog reprimands a puppy. As you might notice, for this to work you must be close and watchful of the dog.
Level 2 progresses with more time with the dog with the birds. The goal is for the dog to ignore the birds. No stalking, no excited lunges as birds dart around or fly to a roost, no staring imagining how tasty they might be, nothing. By the end, the dog shouldn’t even look at the birds and it she does she should be reprimanded, LEAVE IT!
So, that’s it. That’s the plan. I think if one can train their dogs along these lines, the dogs can be expect to behave whether the birds are fenced off or free range with the dogs.
How did we do? Well, Fluffy, our Great Pyrenees puppy is now 2.5 years old. Our chickens run free with the four dogs in a fenced in acre of yard. At some point after our little program, she apparently attacked a chicken. We expressed our displeasure. After which we have never had a problem. As testament to the breed, we have never had a predator loss with Fluffy on guard duty. She barks a bit, but keeps the fox and bobcat away. It is not as if she watches over the chickens, but they happen to be in her territory which she keeps rather secure. The Labs on the other hand have been rather useless in guarding the flock.
We have had the new puppy Molly for two weeks and she is already into Level 2 with our first off leash session today. She has improved greatly. Molly assisted me with letting the girls in for the night. We had some following of the duck into the coop and some nervous chickens, but no all out chasing of the birds. We hope this good progress will continue.
Jim & Jen
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