Training Your Dog to Accept Your Chickens February 21, 2014

Training your dog to accept your chickens can seem like a Herculean task! Dogs and chickens don’t always make a good combo, unfortunately. Some dogs want to eat your chickens, other dogs just want to give chase. Both can be bad; chickens who are trying desperately to get away from a chasing dog—even a dog who is just playing and would never actually bite them—can break their own necks or trample each other like a mob at a rock concert. But training your dog to accept your chickens is something many people do successfully.

As of yesterday, I’ve joined the ranks of dog owners. I adopted a little dog from a rescue organization. (I later learned yesterday was “National Love Your Pet Day”–how appropriate!)

When we wrote our book, the My Pet Chicken Handbook—have you entered our “Chicken Dream Prize” contest, yet, BTW?—we solicited a contribution from expert livestock guardian dog breeder and trainer Jackie Church of Windance Farms about how to train your dog to accept your chickens. Now I get to personally follow her advice!

Actually, I wonder if I’ll ever have my little dog off leash with my chickens? He’s not a Livestock Guardian breed; the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel is a companion breed. The real worry is that even once I get him to accept my flock, there would be too many other things for him to chase off down the mountain: chipmunks, squirrels, song birds… even butterflies and blowing leaves. We have no traffic, but getting lost in the woods is dangerous, too. Our exercise will be from daily hikes rather than outside off-leash play.

Still, even though he won’t be off-leash, I don’t want to have to wrestle him back every time he sees a chicken, so we’re proceeding with the advice of Ms. Church. The good news is that we got off to a good start, yesterday. It helps that he actually seems to show no interest in chasing anything larger than the size of a softball. He completely ignores our cats (who nonetheless seem befuddled from the new addition). The chickens, as well, he ignores… or at least he does so from a distance of 30 feet or so. However, his attitude may change as he gets more comfortable his new home, so we’re taking things very slowly. 

So, I have the information about how to successfully train my dog to accept my chickens—and so far so good! But from those other dog owners out there,  what book/s would you recommend for the  (non-chicken-related) dog training? Do you have a favorite book to recommend, appropriate for a first time dog owner?

Wendy February 21st, 2014

Congratulations on your new family member! He sounds like a sweetie.

Here’s a book specifically for dogs from rescue: “Do Over Dogs” by Pat Miller

And a more general book from a leader in the field is Terry Ryan’s “Toolbox for Building a Great Family Dog” (also available in e-version):

Wendy February 21st, 2014

PS if you get really carried away, Terry teaches people how to train chickens :-O

Lissa February 21st, 2014

Thanks, Wendy! I’ll check those out. I understand my guy was crated a lot, and was apparently rarely (if ever!) walked. He doesn’t know how to walk on a leash, yet, poor doggie. I did order a clicker already, which should be here later today, I think. 🙂

Wendy February 21st, 2014

Poor little guy. Sounds like you are lucky to have found one another!

Wendy February 21st, 2014

If you run into issues that need immediate advice, the site has a searchable library of beginner-level articles on specific topics.

Terri Soikes February 22nd, 2014

Got an 18 month old chocolate … she ignored the chickens but the ducks where another matter… She chased after them and rolled one of the drakes had to smack her (I know NOT the approved method) Never ever had to do that again with any birds. Now baby bunnies where another matter till she got disgusted with me for taking her wiggly squeaky toys away from her. In her later years she got a little mean with the turkeys (can’t blame her 30 pound stomping on me would make me a little cross) and she once took out tail feathers on a rooster who got to close to a new bone she had. But chicks could scratch on her and some of the smaller hens would sit on her to warm their feet. The hen turkey would allow her around the poults if that tells you anything.

Wendy February 24th, 2014

Terri, Years ago I had a labrador mix who followed the hens around the yard, peering intently at the ground as they hunted bugs and tender weeds. It looked like he was trying to figure out what on earth they were eating so he could get some too 😀

Carla April 11th, 2014

I have just bought some new chicks and am reading all your great info.and came across your doggie post! Very partial to cavalier pups, as we have had them for over 20 years! I am a foster for cavalierrescue as well. You will LOVE this dog:)
I would love to find out what you come up with regarding training your pup, cause I am a total newbie to chicken raising. So far, Maya and Winston are very curious about the chicks and I let them sniff them. They are not one bit aggressive towards them, however I know they love to chase the quail and geese that come onto our property! I am not sure if they’ll chase the chickens……

Lissa April 11th, 2014

How lovely! Well, so far so good with Reggie. If you have “liked” My Pet Chicken on Facebook, I will probably share a photo this weekend of Reggie with the chickens. He is really not interested in them–lucky for me! So Jackie Church’s advice is working great for me, although I’m sure training success depends on the individual dog, too! I don’t think Reggie is naturally inclined to chase chickens. He is a terror to chipmunks, though, I assure you! 🙂

Lee Ann Lynn September 13th, 2014

I have Border Collies that herd ducks and sheep competitively. At the beginning of training each one wants to and has killed chickens and ducks. As they are trained to herd they get to where they ignore them unless working, so I thought. If they manage to get in the barnyard unsupervised they will still kill everything. I had to rebuild a whole new dog yard far away from my birds. I have yet to find a way to incorporate my BCs and chickens. The guardian dog a Pyrenees killed chickens until he got older by playing with them. Then he graduated to tarps. Expensive but not as traumatic as chickens. To say my dogs have put me through the ringer with my chickens is an understatement. lol

Ava October 27th, 2017

This was so helpful! We have three cavaliers – who we adopted from cavalier rescue USA as well! – and one of them was obsessed with our girls! So thank you!

Lissa October 30th, 2017

Oh, I’m so glad to hear it helped! Luckily, Cavaliers don’t generally have a strong prey drive. Please continue to be cautious, though–when they do have that drive, it can be tough to break them of it, especially in a situation where you have an older dog whose habits may be pretty ingrained. I turned out to be very lucky with Reggie. He IS now off-leash, and he has zero interest in the chickens. But I don’t know how much of that was my training and how much of that was just his personality. It was months before I felt sure enough to test it. I wish you the best of luck, and give your cavvies some love from me! <3

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