How to Train Your Bird Dog to Not Kill Chickens

How to Train Your Bird Dog to Not Kill Chickens
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon1-3 Months
Behavior training category iconBehavior

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.

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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. 

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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!

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The Critical Distance Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Sit & Drop Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Noise Aversion Method

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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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

By James Barra

Published: 11/13/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Copper

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German shorthair mixed with Australian shepard

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3 Months

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We live on a farm and our chickens run free. He got a hold of a chicken today. We are trying to train him to make sure he stays away from the ducks and chickens, but it has been extremely challenging. WE NEED HELP!

June 14, 2022

Copper's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alexis, 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. This type of training is the training I was referring to for dogs over six months, but not yet. He does have a lot of other off-leash training videos that don't involve e-collars but utilize just a long training leash that are great when starting out with a younger dog too. 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 14, 2022

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Nora

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German Shepherd

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5 Months

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My puppy will not stop running from me! From the moment I got her every time she knew I was mad at her she runs under my deck or runs for the hills. She also will not stop killing chickens we tied her up tried to teach her and after probably 1-2 months of trying to train her I let her off and she killed a duck. Also I don’t have a lot of time to keep training her as my kids always have sports and school and I have work, I really wanna keep her please help!!! FYI I tried the sit and drop method and I thought it helped but nope…😕

April 7, 2022

Nora's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Evany, First, if you are using any methods that involve physical roughness with your hands, then I would switch to a different method. Also, work on getting puppy used to touch and handling. Use puppy’s daily meal kibble to do this. Gently touch an area of puppy's body while feeding a piece of food. Touch an ear and give a treat. Touch a paw and give a treat. Hold his collar and give a treat. Touch his tail gently and give a treat. Touch his belly, his other paws, his chest, shoulder, muzzle and every other area very gently and give a treat each time. Keep these times calm and fun for pup. Come article: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Come videos: https://www.youtube.com/c/JamiePenrithDogTraining/search?query=come Stopping Livestock killing - video channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/JamiePenrithDogTraining/search?query=killing Another activity you can practice is walking around places like your yard or a field with pup on the long training leash and changing directions frequently without saying anything. Whenever he takes notice (at first because the leash finally tugs, but later just because you moved), then toss a treat at him for looking your way or coming over to you - without calling him; this encourages him to choose to pay attention to where you are and associate your presence with good things on his own, so he will want to be with you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 7, 2022


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