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

Effective
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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

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

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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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Jack
Mixed
6 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Jack
Mixed
6 Years

I have cockatiels, soon getting a conure. Usually I have to keep him in his crate to have the birds out. One time he wasn't in the crate and got a bird. I need to be able to teach him to NOT go after the birds. I am trying the look at, but don't try touch, with safe box around bird, aka bird carrier. Thus far...no good. He lunges, bites me for getting in his way. Not that I let him get away with that. He gets put onto the floor and hand over neck in firm but not choking manor. Thing is this doesn't stop him. Or discourage him at all. Any ideas?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
703 Dog owners recommended

Hello Karen, I suggest teaching a strong avoidance of the birds the way someone would teach livestock avoidance, in your case. Continue to separate the animals in general, but work on teaching an avoidance of the birds as a back up - in case he were to get out again. Hire a trainer who is very experienced with remote collar training, aggression, and prey drive to help you. This needs to be done very carefully to avoid being bitten (which is a redirection of aggression and his arousal since you are close and preventing him from accessing the birds). You need professional training. 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

Jack, you are not alone, my terrier just killed my rosey borke. I really want to get a conure next, but am scared he will do the same thing. We have contacted some trainers and hopefully that will improve our chances of bringing another bird into our home on day.

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Question
Coco
Anatolian Shepherd
10 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Coco
Anatolian Shepherd
10 Weeks

We recently adopted a Female puppy from the Austin pets Alive. She has been an amazing puppy and great with my kids. I ran into your website because she caught her first bird and brought back to the porch. It was a surprise to us as we have never experience that with other dogs we have had in past. The picture on your website looks exactly like our puppy. We are trying to figure out what kind of puppy the website is showing as we were told that our puppy was anatolian shepherd puppy. Hope you can help and Thank you in advance.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
703 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alex, Unfortunately I don't know for certain what type of breed the puppy on the webpage is. I do not have that information from the original source of the photograph. It is most likely a mixed breed. Possibly something like an Anatolian Shepherd and terrier mix - but smaller than your pup. A number of breeds and mixes can have that coloration. From the picture you included it looks like your puppy certainly could have either Anatolian, Saint Bernard mix with something else, or black and white Great Pyreneese. Read about the history and temperament traits of each breed - as pup grows, their behavior and natural instincts might offer some clues. You might also consider doing something like a saliva DNA test that can be mailed off to find out pup's history, such as wisdom panel. https://www.amazon.com/Wisdom-Identification-Canine-Genetic-Ancestry/dp/B01EHX2BH0 As someone who understands as a pet parent myself what it's like to wonder what your dog's parentage is, it's interesting and sometimes helpful to do a DNA test. Either way they are adorable and congratulations! Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Leyna
schnauzer
8 Weeks
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Leyna
schnauzer
8 Weeks

I have a cockatiel as a pet already, the pervious dog we had (jack russell) was trained not to bother with the birds. How would I do this with a puppy?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
92 Dog owners recommended

Hello, the Down Method and the Socialization Method are good: https://wagwalking.com/training/not-kill-small-animals - they involve slow introductions and consistency to teach Leyna that the bird belongs in the home and is not to play with. Reacting quickly and with a consistent rule of behavior is key. Take a look here: https://wagwalking.com/training/not-attack-chickens. The Restain and Reward Method may do the trick. Leyna is pretty young but should understand quickly. Lastly, work on her obedience commands a lot - the more she knows, the more she will listen. All the best and enjoy Leyna!

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Question
wolfy
Siberian Husky
6 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
wolfy
Siberian Husky
6 Years

My dog has a very high prey drive and is always chasing after cats,birds,small birds and especially squirrels.He is a very stubborn independent dog who amazingly is not the slightest bit bothered about getting food treats for good behaviour once he is on his walk.He refuses to acknowledge them at all and is in a world of his own on his walk,not making eye contact with me or listening to commands.We have tried some training in the garden but he once again becomes distracted by wildlife etc.He does respond well to basic commands in the house when receiving treats(Sit,lie down,stay,wait)but just becomes a different dog when outside.Thanks

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
703 Dog owners recommended

Hello James, First, I suggest teaching pup the meaning of various commands inside, while not around distractions, just so that pup simply understands what commands like Come, Sit, Down, ect...mean. Once pup knows those commands well in a distraction free-environment, check out James Penrith from TaketheLeadDogTraining on Youtube. He works a lot with highly prey driven dogs, doing off-leash training and dealing with things like livestock chasing. https://www.youtube.com/user/taketheleadvideo/search?query=teaching+basic+commands Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Oops! I see Wolfy is a Siberian Husky! Just answered my own question on that one!

Hi Wolfy's owner. It looks like your dog is part husky, Yes? If so, so is mine. And In the house she is timid, submissive and a great dog. Outside, she's borderline wild. I live on a small farm and raise a couple calves, horses, and goats every year. Plus we have a few fawns every summer. She's only killed a few small birds, but I have to get her stopped right now because she's so quick at it and so "wild" I do not want that behavior to continue. Plus when I'm irrigating or taking care of the animals I have just let her run loose. Recently it takes forever to call her back to me. At this point I'm starting to get worried about her manners and even the new baby fawns. I hope we get a response! Thanks!

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Question
Jack
Jack Russell Terrier
6 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Jack
Jack Russell Terrier
6 Years

We adopted Jack last September. Upon bringing him home, he killed one of our chickens within minutes, our own fault, I hadn't even thought that he would do that. Our previous dog, a labrador was scared of them and they had the upper hand so no need to worry!
Anyway, over time, the other chickens died of natural causes and we didn't replace them, problem solved! Until now!!! I have a greenhouse, the door to which is often open at the moment. Jack has learnt how to shepherd birds into the greenhouse then kill them! What on earth do I do, other than close the greenhouse door which I don't really want to do at the moment, I wasn't expecting a dog would come along and use it as a trap! He already makes a noise as he walks along as his name tag jangles against the fixings of his collar so I don't think a bell like a cat would help.Thanks in advance!!

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
92 Dog owners recommended

Hello, how about a baby gate at the entrance to the greenhouse? This allows the door to remain open and Jack cannot get in. When a dog has an innate prey drive, it is often hard to train out. So, sometimes taking away the opportunity is the best way. You can work on the Focus Training Method as described here: https://wagwalking.com/training/not-kill-small-animals. I would also work on Jack's "Leave It" skills, teaching him the command and practicing it daily 10-15 minutes a day. Once he has knowledge of the command, be consistent and use it every time you see him even look toward a bird. Detailed instructions are given here: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite. Good luck!

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