How to Train Your Dog to Not Attack Chickens

How to Train Your Dog to Not Attack Chickens
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon2-12 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

You’ve always loved the great outdoors. You like being immersed in nature with a variety of animals roaming around your property, from dogs to chickens. But having such a diverse home can come with its own challenges. Does your dog have an appetite for your pet chickens, for example? Do you want to be able to let your chickens and dogs wander around freely, but don’t want to lose another chicken to your canine friend?

Your chickens may be part of your livestock, you may depend on them for eggs and dinners of your own. If you can train your dog not to attack the chickens, you can finally have the harmonious home you envisaged. You will be able to relax when it all goes quiet and not panic whenever you start to do a chicken headcount. Otherwise, your fear is that Chicken Run, the movie, may become chicken run, your reality, and your chickens will become determined to escape.

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Defining Tasks

Training your dog not to attack the chickens will require a number of different elements. You will certainly need obedience commands to retain control over him when he is around the chickens. You will also need to take steps to familiarize him with the chickens. 

As you can probably imagine, training him not to attack the feathered members of your yard will be no straightforward task. This task is made even harder if your dog has already developed a taste for chicken, or he is older and stuck in his ways. However, with persistence and patience, you should be able to train him to behave around chickens in a few weeks or months. It is important you succeed in this endeavor if you want to protect the lives of your chickens and possibly any other animals you have on your property.

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Getting Started

Before work begins, you will need to round up several things. You may want to get a body harness for training. This will help you retain control and reduce the strain on your dog's neck. A secure leash will also be required Before starting the process, spend a few days cementing your bond with your dog so that he is keen on listening to you.

You will also need an abundance of treats or his favorite food to act as both an incentive and reward. Apart from that, you just need an optimistic attitude and a good degree of patience, then you’re ready to get to work!

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The Stop & Pull Method

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Stop & Pull method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Attack Chickens
1

Getting ready

Secure your dog to the leash and safely stow your chickens in a coop. Once they are both safe and secure, slowly head over to the chickens.

2

Be vigilant

Keep an eye on your dog's behavior and wait for him to pull or lunge. As soon as he goes for the chickens, say "STOP" loudly and firmly so he knows you mean business.

3

React swiftly

Pull him in the opposite direction and walk away. Ensure you do this at the same time as you say "STOP". He will quickly associate his aggressive behavior with being pulled in the opposite direction and a stern tone from his owner.

4

Small steps

Edge closer to the chickens every few days. Every day you need to take him toward the chickens, following the steps above. After several days or weeks, you will be able to get closer to the chickens before he shows signs of aggression. This is progress. It may be slow, but it was always going to be, so be patient!

5

Lose the leash

When you can walk your dog around the chickens without showing signs of aggression, you can remove the leash. It may take many weeks or months to get to this stage, but when you can finally lose the leash, stay very close to him for the first few leash-free encounters.

The Restrain & Reward Method

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Restrain & Reward method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Attack Chickens
1

Setting up

Secure your chickens in a pen and put your dog on a leash. Ensure you have firm control over the leash and then prepare to head towards the chickens. A body harness will help you retain control if he is big and strong.

2

Slowly approach

As you are approaching, constantly praise and pet your dog, and even reward him with a treat. You are showing him that this calm behavior around the chickens will prove fruitful.

3

Cut the praise

Stop all praise and rewards as soon as your dog displays signs of aggression. Also stand firmly still until he has calmed down. This will show him that as soon as he changes from passive to aggressive he’ll stop receiving attention and he won’t be able to get any closer.

4

Step by step

You don’t want to rush this process, so take it extremely slow. If you get several feet, reward him and then take him away and play with him for 5 minutes. The next day, go back and try and get several feet closer. The trick is to slowly build familiarity between your dog and the chickens in a steady, controlled manner.

5

Repeat

Repeat this process until you can walk around the chickens without your pooch displaying any signs of aggression. Only after many weeks, you should finally be walking around the chickens with your dog. Once you can walk around them calmly, slowly reduce the frequency of treats. Finally, when he hasn’t shown signs of aggression in many weeks or months, you can take him off the leash.

The Drop Method

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Drop method for How to Train Your Dog to Not Attack Chickens
1

Get his attention

Take a treat and hold it in front of your dog's nose. You are going to teach him to drop when you command him to. This will increase your control around the chickens so you can quickly get a handle on his behavior until he cuts all signs of aggression.

2

Slowly lure him to the ground

Use the treat to bring your dog's head to the ground. You may also want to gently push his back down to encourage him to begin with.

3

Drop

Say "drop" firmly as he approaches the ground. Then, as soon as your dog is lying down, give him a treat and praise him. It is important you give him the treat within 3 seconds of lying down, otherwise, he won’t associate the 'drop' with the treat. Practice this every day for 10-15 minutes until he drops when you instruct him to, without the promise of food.

4

Head for the chickens

Walk slowly, giving him verbal and physical attention as you approach. Then as soon as your dog shows signs of aggression, stop and have him drop to the floor. As soon as he does this, reward him with a treat and praise. Removing the positive stimuli of you giving him attention is known as positive punishment and he will quickly respond to it.

5

10 minutes daily practice

Slowly make your way closer to the chickens, ensuring you have your pup drop whenever he turns aggressive and see to it you always praise him up until the point his behavior changes. Over many weeks, he will begin to understand he gets zero attention as soon as he turns aggressive. When he is finally comfortable around the chickens, you can reduce the frequency of treats and remove the leash.

By James Barra

Published: 11/03/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Grace

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border collie cross

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Five Months

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When we are around, the dog is chilled and just watches the chickens. I can walk among them with the dog and she just sniffs at them. However, when we are not watching, she "plays" with the chickens. Chasing them and carrying them in her mouth. This may have contributed to one of them passing. Our other dogs are not bothered with the chickens at all. When we see her with the chickens, we will shout at her to drop and she will listen, or she will run away when we call her name. How can we teach her to leave them alone completely.

Sept. 21, 2023

Grace's Owner

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Maxy

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German shepherd workliner

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4 Months

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He is eating chikens and chasaing them

June 10, 2022

Maxy's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Darren, I would teach pup the Leave It and Out commands, purchase a forty foot leash and a padded back clip harness, and practice those commands around the animals. I would also limit pup's freedom around the birds while young - pup needs to be with you and supervised or on leash while outside, unless they are in a kennel away from the birds, until pup is trained. If you can consistently practice those boundaries with pup while young, that might be all that's needed. If you are still struggling once pup is over six months of age, you might need to teach pup a stronger avoidance of chickens, but I would wait to teach that until after six months and focus on giving more supervision and training with the long leash and obedience commands right now. Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Check out James Penrith from TaketheLeadDogTraining. He has a Youtube channel. He works with dogs that chase and sometimes will kill farm animals. For this training pup should also have enough space to be able to avoid the birds when they choose while outside after being trained to avoid them - otherwise this is unfair to pup. Day 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgNbWCK9lFc Day 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpf5Bn-MNko&t=14s Day 3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj3nMvvHhwQ Day 4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxrGQ-AZylY Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 13, 2022


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