How to Train Your Bird Dog to Not Kill Chickens

Hard
1-3 Months
Behavior

Introduction

You’re out hunting and the chase is on. Accompanying you on the hunt is your trusty bird dog. You are trying hard to develop a working relationship, where you shoot the birds and he retrieves them for you. 

You are specifically training him to hunt and retrieve birds and game, but preventing him from chasing your chickens and killing them is easier said than done. You want him to feature in your Snapchat story and play a prominent role on your Facebook, but if he has a dead chicken hanging from its mouth in every photo, you might not stay so popular on social media.

Defining Tasks

It’s in a bird dog's nature to target and retrieve birds, so getting him to fight that urge is going to be no easy feat. Fortunately, there are a number of methods used to tackle this behavior. One method looks to train him to 'sit' and 'drop'. Using obedience commands to combat this behavior will not only prevent the killing of chickens but will make teaching him other commands easier too. 

Other methods concentrate on familiarizing him with chickens, so he can differentiate between chickens for dinner and chickens as work or as friends. The command itself will be easier to teach if he is a puppy, as older dogs are usually more stuck in their ways. 

The key to this type of training is consistency. It may require weeks and possibly months before you can fully trust your hunting pal around chickens. 

Getting Started

Before you begin, you need to ensure your chickens are secured before bringing your dog out around them. You will also need some treats on hand to praise him for good behavior, and to distract him from the chicken dinner he’ll have in mind. 

You will also need enough outdoor space to ensure a safe distance between your dog and the chickens to start with. The only other things you'll need are a proactive attitude and patience!

Now you’re armed with all the essentials, it’s time to get to work!

The Critical Distance Method

Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Identify the critical distance
Once he comes within a certain distance of the chickens he will bark or lunge--you need to establish where that line is. So ensure the chickens are secure and with him on a leash, slowly approach until he reacts.
Step
2
Reward
You now need to try and slowly decrease the distance between him and the chickens before he reacts. So constantly praise the chickens as you head towards them and stop and turn around as soon as he display signs of aggression.
Step
3
Edge foward
You need to continuously try and edge forward with this technique until he can be within 10 feet without wanting to sink his teeth into the chickens. Note it may take 15 minutes of practice every day for 6-8 weeks before he is desensitized enough to get that close to them.
Step
4
Pet the chicken
Once you can get within a few feet, get someone else to hold the leash, then pick up a chicken yourself and pet it in front of him. If he remains passive, reward him. If he lunges, have the other person turn around and walk him away.
Step
5
Repeat
The key to success with this method is patience. Stick to rewarding passive behavior and pulling him away when he show signs of aggression. Slowly but surely he will learn, and one day you may feel confident enough to let him off the leash around chickens.
Recommend training method?

The Sit & Drop Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Get him to sit
Before you can train him to drop, he needs to be able to sit. So with a treat hidden in your hand, slowly rotate your hand over his head until he naturally sits down. Repeat the command ‘sit’ each time you do this.
Step
2
Praise and reward
As soon as he is sitting down, reward him with a treat and shower him with verbal praise. Repeat this training every day for 15 minutes, until he sits for you every time. Also, slowly reduce the number of treats and the amount of praise you give him, until they are no longer needed.
Step
3
'Drop'
You now need to repeat the same process to teach him to lie down. Hold the treat in front of his mouth, and then use it to slowly bring him to the ground, saying ‘drop’ just before he lies down. Once down, reward him with treats and praise. Slowly reduce the use of treats and praise until he drops every time without the lure of food.
Step
4
Time to meet the chickens
Put him on a leash and slowly take him towards the chickens. Praise him and give him physical attention for as long he remains passive on the way to towards the chickens. As soon as he display signs of aggression, halt all praise. This will teach him that he only get rewards and praise when he stays calm.
Step
5
Body language
As soon as he looks like he might go for a chicken, issue the ‘sit’ and then ‘drop’ command. You may also need to use the leash to restrain him to start with. Every time he sits and drops, reward him with a treat and praise. Repeat this process daily for as many weeks as it takes. During that time, slowly reduce the number of treats and amount of praise you give, until you can fully trust him.
Recommend training method?

The Noise Aversion Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Ensure your chickens are secure
Once secure, put your dog on a leash and head slowly over to the chickens' pen, keeping a firm grasp on the leash at all times.
Step
2
Approach slowly
Allow him to walk around the chickens, sniffing and investigating. But as soon as he lunges or barks, give him a firm ‘NO’ command and pull the leash back. You can use any sound he dislikes, from a high pitched noise to a compressed air can. He will soon associate aggressive behavior with that sound and stop doing it.
Step
3
Continuous praise
Just as you say ’NO’ when he does show signs of aggression, be sure to praise him and play with him while he is being passive. This will reinforce the benefits of good behavior.
Step
4
Lose the leash
After weeks of the leash, once you feel confident he won’t go for the chickens, take him off the leash. It is important you are in a quiet area because your voice will need to be enough to control him. Also keep the chickens securely penned in, you don’t want to risk their lives!
Step
5
Continually monitor and supervise
For the first couple of months at least, it is worth always being around him if chickens are out, so you can respond to any outbursts swiftly. Consistently keeping up with the training is essential for long-term success. So be patient, they will and do learn eventually.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Inky
Mixed breed
7 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Inky
Mixed breed
7 Months

My dog hardly ever listens to me and she is constantly killing chickens. She chews everything including us! The only thing she is good at is sitting and staying. My Mom said that if she kills another chicken, she's out of here. How do I get her to behave?

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

Hi there. This is something that with some time and patience, can be turned around. Your dog needs to learn that the chickens are just a normal part of the household. So we need to teach er to become less excited by the chickens. 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 her "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 her out on leash.Any time she even looks at a chicken, you give the command leave it. Once she breaks her attention away from the chicken, you reward her with a treat. Ideally, you want to her to be sitting and looking at you. But in the beginning stages, as long as she isn't focused on the chicken, you can reward her. You will literally practice this over and over, while moving closer to the chickens until she is no longer interested in the chickens. While this method takes a while, it is the best in relaying the messages across to your dog. The chickens 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
Phineas
Dachshund
7 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Phineas
Dachshund
7 Years

Is there any specific way I can ensure that Phineas doesn’t burrow his way into the coop?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
703 Dog owners recommended

Hello Grace, You can either teach avoidance of chickens in general or use something like an a pet barrier device that transmits a signal that corresponds to a collar that the dog wears. The transmitter can be setup where the chickens won't bother it by the coop and the range adjusted so that the collar only goes off if the dog is close to the chicken coop boundary. Here is one brand of pet barrier device. https://www.amazon.com/PetSafe-Barriers-Adjustable-Proofing-Stimulation/dp/B002GQDUBW Many people also choose to simply bury the chicken wire very deep to prevent all predators from getting in. If the chicken coop stays in one location this can be a great option because it will help keep other animals like coyotes out too. If your chicken coop moves often to allow free range feeding you will need to teach avoidance or use a barrier device if your pup is a determined digger. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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