How to Train Your Dog to Not Kill Birds

Hard
1-3 Months
Behavior

Introduction

Picture this: you're out on a walk with your favorite fur buddy. The two of you hit the trails through a peaceful forest. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping; all is well in the world. The trails lead you to a serene pond. You hear faint quacks in the distance. Oh no. Your heart sinks. You go to grasp your pooch’s collar but it's too late!

As he bounds back with his fresh kill, your dog is probably wondering why you are so upset. After all, he did just bring you back some delicious dinner, at least in his eyes. But owning a bird-killer can be no fun at all. The problem becomes even worse if you live on a farm, and the birds being murdered are yours!

Defining Tasks

Dogs kill birds because of their instincts. Birds make a great meal, and the urge to hunt (which is thousands of years old) doesn't just disappear because now Rover gets a bowl of meat cereal. Some dogs have even been bred specifically to catch birds and bring them back, like Labrador Retrievers.

Prey drive is not a bad thing on its own. Some people use their dog's keen skills for shows or hunting trips. But if you're losing many a bird to foul play, you may want to learn how to at least curb this natural habit. Be warned, some dogs will never fully give up this instinct and will require supervision around our feathered friends for their whole lives.

Getting Started

To embark on your bird-saving journey, it's good to be prepared. Having the following should help:

  • Both a Short and Long Leash: Different lengths of lead can help your pup learn how to be comfortable around those with beaks.
  • Treats: Good behavior deserves good snacks! Keep some tasty treats handy during any training session.
  • A Muzzle: This tool is only needed if you have a serial bird killer. Dogs that just have a habit of chasing may not need to be muzzled when exposed to birds.
  • Thick Skin: Chances are, at some point in your training there may still be casualties. Even if your dog improves, there will likely be relapses throughout his life.

If your dog is indeed excellent at catching birds, it's a shame to waste such a sought out skill. You might want to look into local hunting clubs to learn about training for hunting dogs. Your pooch will love you for it and it's a great way to bond.

Below are some methods to try to take the killer out of your canine. Remember, even after lots of training, you should never leave your dog unattended with any small animal.

The Vocal Commands Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
0 Votes
Vocal Commands method for Not Kill Birds
Step
1
Come!
Perfect the “come” command with your dog. Some have found that a whistle is more effective than using your voice alone.
Step
2
Test it out
Head some place with lots of distractions (like the park) and see how well your pup does when there are lots of noises and sights around.
Step
3
Leave it!
Once your pooch has figured out ‘come’, move on to ‘leave it’.
Step
4
Use a toy
Practice this command using your dog's favorite toy. You'll know he's ready when he gives it up no problem.
Step
5
Talk to a trainer
If your dog is especially bad when it comes to killing birds, book an appointment with a trainer. They will be able to teach you further commands to help your efforts.
Recommend training method?

The Controlled Confrontation Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
0 Votes
Controlled Confrontation method for Not Kill Birds
Step
1
Use a decoy
Go buy a stuffed bird. If it squeaks, that's a bonus.
Step
2
Practice dropping it
Using the ‘leave it’ command, convince your pup to give up his avian friend. Bribe with treats if necessary.
Step
3
Bring in a bird
This one is more for the farm dogs. Put either a chicken or a duck in a cage and allow your dog to approach the bird.
Step
4
Use your command
If your pooch ventures too close to the fowl, say “leave it” in a firm tone.
Step
5
Reward the good
As soon as your dog looks at you after you say the command, give her a treat!
Step
6
Continue!
Keep practicing these routines a few times every week. Your dog should learn to respond to you the second you give the command.
Recommend training method?

The Long and Short Method

ribbon-method-1
Least Recommended
1 Vote
Long and Short method for Not Kill Birds
Step
1
Use the short leash
Find a lead that gives you maximum control of your pupper. You can pair it with a harness for a greater effect.
Step
2
Go where the birds are
Leash in hand, head to an area that you know is full of birds. If you're on a farm, head over to the pond or coop.
Step
3
Divert his attention
As soon as your pooch sees the birds, turn around and go the other way.
Step
4
Praise him
If he does well, let him know! Verbally commend him and toss over a treat.
Step
5
Give some freedom
After multiple successes, switch over to the long lead.
Step
6
Repeat!
Do the whole exercise over again, but this time only give a verbal correction. If the dog doesn't respond, then use the leash to lead him away. Continue doing this until the dog no longer shows interest around birds.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Amy Caldwell

Published: 10/24/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Matchbox
Pit bull
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Matchbox
Pit bull
3 Years

My dog keeps killing birds in our yard.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1129 Dog owners recommended

Hello, To stop this behavior you will likely need to teach an avoidance of birds. If you are present when it is happening, you can teach pup to come to you when they see a bird in the yard, using a long training leash and rewarding pup as soon as they arrive, so they learn that if they see a bird they can get a treat by coming to you instead of chasing the bird, until that becomes habit. If you are not present when its happening, you will need to teach an avoidance of birds. Check out this trainer's youtube channel. He specializes in livestock chasing and killing dog training, which is a similar underlying prey drive. 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

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Question
Rosie
German Shepherd Pitbull mix
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Rosie
German Shepherd Pitbull mix
6 Months

I have a free flying petbird and would like to train Rosie not to hurt Lyle " my bird "

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1129 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ashley, I highly recommend hiring a professional trainer to help you in person with this due to the serious risk to your bird. I would start with teaching a solid Leave It command and Place command. I would work on building up to pup doing those commands around the bird while the bird is caged or pup back tied with a secure leash, to prevent an accidents. Once pup does well around the bird in those scenarios I would desensitize pup to wearing a basket muzzle, e-collar train on stimulation or vibration the Leave It command, and correct pup for any unwanted attention around the bird, while also rewarding pup for ignoring the bird and general tolerance. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Winnie
Siberian Husky
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Winnie
Siberian Husky
2 Years

She jumps the fence, will not return when called. Yesterday she got out and killed a chicken. We got her as a rescue October 30. She's great inside but outside is a different story.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I am going to give you information on how to teach recall. Recall: STAGE ONE – 'Catching' or Charging Up the 'Come' Cue Start in a distraction free environment so that your dog can focus only on you. Whenever your puppy or dog is coming to you on his own, wait until he is a couple of feet from you and then say his name and the word 'come.' When he gets to you, make a big fuss. With this exercise, your dog will learn that coming to you is a really good thing. After a while, you can lengthen the distance between you and start using the word when he is coming to you from a greater distance. Coming to you should always be rewarded, whatever the circumstance and no matter how long it took your dog to respond. Motivate your dog to come by being exciting, running away from him, waving a toy, or having delicious food for him when he gets to you. This will show him that coming back to you the best thing he can do. STAGE TWO – Solidifying the Cue Through Play Make sure you play the Back and Forth game with another person that your dog is comfortable with. Start the game in a quiet environment so it is easy for your dog to focus on you. Hold your dog back while the other person calls him excitedly. Try not to use his name or the cue word but talk excitedly to ‘gee’ him up. Do not release him until the person calls his name followed by the cue word “come.” When the cue word is given, release your dog and let him go running to the person calling. As soon as he reaches them they should praise and reward him with a game of tug or a food reward. When your dog has had his reward, have the other person hold him back as you call him and release as you say his name followed by the cue word. When he comes to you reward him with another game of tug or food reward. Repeat this game back and forth but only do a few repetitions so your dog does not get bored or too tired. Keeping it fresh means the game is always fun to play. STAGE THREE – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Inside Now your dog knows what the word “come” means you can use the cue word to call him to you while adding a hand signal to the word. Hand signals are always good to build with vocal cues so that even if your dog cannot hear you he will understand what the hand signal means. This is good if your dog is a distance away from you. Start in a quiet environment. Walk away from your dog and call his name followed by the cue word and a hand signal. Praise and reward him when he comes to you. Start increasing the distance you call him from and praise for his compliance. If he does not respond, go back to the previous distance and repeat. Only practice this cue for a few minutes so your dog does not get bored. The secret to success is to always keep it fun, exciting and fresh. When your dog recognizes the hand signal, try calling his name and using the hand signal by itself without the vocal cue. You will then be able to use a combination of vocal cue only, hand signal only and the two together. Now your dog knows what the cue word means you can start to call him from different rooms or from areas where he cannot see you. This will encourage him to respond even when you are out of sight. STAGE FOUR – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Outside Now your dog is consistently coming to you in a distraction free environment you can proof your recall cue by taking it outside. Practice the recall in your yard and then gradually build up to the point where you can use it in the park or similar environment. The ultimate test is to use the recall when your dog is engaged in a different activity. Wait for a lull in that activity and then call your dog to you. Praise his decision to comply.

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Question
moomer and mocha
min pin and chug
15 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
moomer and mocha
min pin and chug
15 Years

they both want to chase and grab our parrots

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended

Hi there. This is something that with some time and patience, can be turned around. Your dogs need to learn that the birds are just a normal part of the environment. So we need to teach him to become less excited by the birds. If you are up for this, it is going to take about a month of consistent practice before you see results. You will want to start out by teaching him "leave it". Leave is great for anything you want your dog to leave alone. Instructions on leave it will be at the end of this response. After about a week or so of working on the command, you can start taking him out on leash. Any time he even looks at a bird, you give the command leave it. Once he breaks his attention away from the bird, you reward him with a treat. Ideally, you want to him to be sitting and looking at you. But in the beginning stages, as long as he isn't focused on the bird, you can reward him. You will literally practice this over and over, while moving closer to the birds until he is no longer interested in them While this method takes a while, it is the best in relaying the messages across to your dogs. The birds need to be left alone! Here are the steps for "leave it" Teaching a dog 'leave it' Teaching “leave it” is not difficult. Begin the lessons inside your home or in an area with very few distractions. Here are the steps for teaching “leave it”: Make sure you have two different types of treats. One type can be fairly boring to the dog, but the other type should be a high-value treat that he finds pretty delicious. You will also want to make sure that the treats are broken up into pea-sized pieces so it won’t take him too long to eat them. Put one type of treat in each hand. If you like to train with a clicker as your marker, you can also hold a clicker in the same hand that holds the high-value treat. Then, place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the treat of lower value and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes sniffing your fist. As soon as your dog is done sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then offer him the higher-value treat in your other hand. Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it.” When you say “leave it” and he stops sniffing right away, leash your dog and then toss a low-value treat outside of his reach. Wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat. As soon as he does, either say “yes” or click and then give him a high-value treat from your hand. Practice this exercise a number of times. Over time, by practicing “leave it,” your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the cue. When rewarding him with a treat, make sure that it is something good, not plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave some food doesn’t mean he won’t get anything, but that in fact he might get something even more delicious. When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor. Repeat the exercise with five different items that are fairly boring to your dog. After using five different “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items. You know your dog, so you alone know what items he would consider more interesting, but don’t jump to high-value items right away. To increase his chances of success at learning the cue, you want to work up to high-value items gradually. If Kleenex or a piece of plastic, for instance, would attract your dog on a walk, don’t start with those. Choose the items based on your ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave. . The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well. If your dog has a favorite toy, squeak it and play for a moment when he comes running to you after leaving the other item of interest. Most dogs love interacting with us, so a moment of praise or play with a toy can be just as effective as a treat. Keep it fun Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play. When your dog is proficient at the game in your home, start practicing in a variety of locations with more distractions.

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Question
Elf
Huntaway
6 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Elf
Huntaway
6 Years

My dog has been chasing birds in a dog park, with no casualties. Took him to a open area & he found one & it appears he has killed it. What do I need to do now?

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended

Hi there. This is something that with some time and patience, can be turned around. Elf needs to learn that the birds are just a normal part of the environment. So we need to teach him to become less excited by the birds. If you are up for this, it is going to take about a month of consistent practice before you see results. You will want to start out by teaching him "leave it". Leave is great for anything you want your dog to leave alone. Instructions on leave it will be at the end of this response. After about a week or so of working on the command, you can start taking him out on leash. Any time he even looks at a bird, you give the command leave it. Once he breaks his attention away from the bird, you reward him with a treat. Ideally, you want to him to be sitting and looking at you. But in the beginning stages, as long as he isn't focused on the bird, you can reward him. You will literally practice this over and over, while moving closer to the birds until he is no longer interested in them While this method takes a while, it is the best in relaying the messages across to your dogs. The birds need to be left alone! Here are the steps for "leave it" Teaching a dog 'leave it' Teaching “leave it” is not difficult. Begin the lessons inside your home or in an area with very few distractions. Here are the steps for teaching “leave it”: Make sure you have two different types of treats. One type can be fairly boring to the dog, but the other type should be a high-value treat that he finds pretty delicious. You will also want to make sure that the treats are broken up into pea-sized pieces so it won’t take him too long to eat them. Put one type of treat in each hand. If you like to train with a clicker as your marker, you can also hold a clicker in the same hand that holds the high-value treat. Then, place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the treat of lower value and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes sniffing your fist. As soon as your dog is done sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then offer him the higher-value treat in your other hand. Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it.” When you say “leave it” and he stops sniffing right away, leash your dog and then toss a low-value treat outside of his reach. Wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat. As soon as he does, either say “yes” or click and then give him a high-value treat from your hand. Practice this exercise a number of times. Over time, by practicing “leave it,” your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the cue. When rewarding him with a treat, make sure that it is something good, not plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave some food doesn’t mean he won’t get anything, but that in fact he might get something even more delicious. When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor. Repeat the exercise with five different items that are fairly boring to your dog. After using five different “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items. You know your dog, so you alone know what items he would consider more interesting, but don’t jump to high-value items right away. To increase his chances of success at learning the cue, you want to work up to high-value items gradually. If Kleenex or a piece of plastic, for instance, would attract your dog on a walk, don’t start with those. Choose the items based on your ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave. . The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well. If your dog has a favorite toy, squeak it and play for a moment when he comes running to you after leaving the other item of interest. Most dogs love interacting with us, so a moment of praise or play with a toy can be just as effective as a treat. Keep it fun Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play. When your dog is proficient at the game in your home, start practicing in a variety of locations with more distractions.

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