Raising dogs and poultry together may pose some challenges. While some dogs can be trained to leave your feathered friends alone, others may see beyond those feathers and drool at the thought of eating some tasty nuggets. Training your dog to get along with chicken requires consistency, but keep your expectations low because some dogs may never be trusted because of their strong chasing instincts.
Understand that all dogs have a certain amount of prey drive. Prey drive is not aggression; it's just a hard-wired instinct necessary to keep dogs alive and capable of surviving. In certain breeds, the level of prey drive may be higher than in others because these fellows were selectively bred to chase, herd, hunt or kill. Your success in allowing your dog to get along with chicken will ultimately depend on the degree of prey drive in your dog.
Train your dog the "leave it" command. Place a treat in your open hand and the moment your dog tries to take it, close your hand and say "leave it." When your dog gives up trying, praise and reward him by giving another treat from your pocket. Next, place a treat on the floor. The moment your dog tries to take it, step on the treat and say "leave it." When your dog gives up trying, praise and reward him by giving another treat from your pocket. Practice several times.
Keep your chicken securely fenced behind the chicken wire so your dog cannot access them and have your dog on leash. The goal is to keep your dog at a safe distance from the chicken and start desensitization, a behavior modification technique where a stimulus your dog is known for reacting to is presented in such a way as to create a diminished response. The purpose is to find a distance from the chicken where your dog is calmer and better under control.
Practice the "leave it" command from the distance where your dog is calmer. The moment he makes eye contact with the chicken or appears interested, say "leave it" and praise and reward him with a tasty treat from your pocket. Gradually move closer to the chicken, taking baby steps in repeating the exercise. If your dog at any time is too focused on the chicken, you may be too close and need to take a few steps back. As your dog gets good at this, try it without the leash while the chickens are still safe behind the wire.
Walk your dog on leash again past a few chickens at a distance, but this time try inside the fenced area. Work again on the "leave it" command. By now your dog should understand that when he ignores the chicken and attends to you, he gets a treat. Again, if at any time your dog fixates too much on the chicken or tries to chase, you are too close for comfort.
Have a helper catch a chicken and tell him to hold the chicken. With your dog on leash, walk by the chicken and observe your dog. If he is calm, you can have your helper sit down and allow your dog to sniff the chicken briefly. If your dog sniffs calmly, you can praise and reward with a dog treat. Have the helper then place the chicken on the ground. Again, if your dog is calm, praise and reward.
Polish your dog's recall command. Should he ever attempt to chase your chickens, you want to be capable of stopping him in his tracks by calling him to you. A poor recall command may result in tragedy if you cannot stop your dog in time.
Understand that no training will ever be 100 percent effective; use caution.
Never leave your dog and chickens unattended.
Never call your dog with an angry tone of voice or to punish him.
Avoid allowing your dog to rehearse chicken-chasing behaviors.
Exposing your dog to chicken during puppyhood makes the training much easier.
Training your dog to ignore chicken does takes time and won't happen overnight.
Minimize the chances your dog may chase chicken by not allowing unsupervised interactions. Chasing is a highly reinforcing behavior.
Always praise lavishly and reward your dog when he comes when called.
Items You Will Need
- Chicken wire
- Exposing your dog to chicken during puppyhood makes the training much easier.
- Training your dog to ignore chicken does takes time and won't happen overnight.
- Minimize the chances your dog may chase chicken by not allowing unsupervised interactions. Chasing is a highly reinforcing behavior.
- Always praise lavishly and reward your dog when he comes when called.
- Understand that no training will ever be 100 percent effective; use caution.
- Never leave your dog and chickens unattended.
- Never call your dog with an angry tone of voice or to punish him.
- Avoid allowing your dog to rehearse chicken-chasing behaviors.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.