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Chicken fever

Vlad.Aras

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Vlad.A
So last summer we adopted an Australian shepherd dog. We had been having hawk raids on our chicken flock so our intentions were to have him serve as a working dog protecting the flock. He had seen chickens all his life and didn’t display any aggression as a puppy, but now we can’t allow him to get anywhere near the chickens as he has killed over 6 birds already. I simply don’t know what to do because we introduced him to the flock from a very early age and they are not just a interesting foreign creature to him. The older he got the more aggressive he got towards the birds. Other than towards the birds, he is a very affectionate and sweet puppy. He loves kids and wouldn’t hurt a soul. Could I possibly get some tips on how to “rewire” him, or maybe a proper reintroduction is the case? I’ve tried a leash approach, I’ve tried verbal commands, positive reinforcement, you call it. He just loses it when he sees a exited hen squawking and flapping. I lose completely all control over him as he won’t listen at all in those moments. AE08E1CC-7D45-4E46-B04E-F54CC5A806C3.jpeg
 

Shezbug

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I’d personally retire him from chicken care duty and replace him with a proven bird safe dog.
Not all working dogs are suited to the jobs they’re wanted or purchased for- stock/flock protection dogs need to be well bred for the job as well as properly trained and raised for it.
I honestly can’t say I’ve ever heard of any working dog that killed it’s flock/herd members who was able to be safely rehabbed for that particular job.
You have a herding dog breed, not a livestock guard dog breed. My cousin has Maremmas to guard her flock and stock.
 

Mizzely

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I would probably see if there is a trainer in your area that might be able to give you one on one assistance?

Otherwise the biggest thing is you need to get him a good Leave It command, and desensitize him to the chickens. Once he masters Leave It with something small you can try to apply it to the chickens. You'll want to start far away from the chickens and move closer as he does better. You need to make sure you aren't pushing him too fast, as once he's over his personal threshold , you'll have a hard time getting his focus back.

It's definitely not going to be easy if you can manage it!
 

Nichole615

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You may also look into BAT (Behavior Adjustment Training) dog training and a trainer that is well versed. It serves to help dogs with fear, frustration, and aggression towards specific objects, people, other animals.

It may help to keep the dog from killing more chickens, but I'd never trust that dog to guard, as others have said.
 

Vlad.Aras

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I would probably see if there is a trainer in your area that might be able to give you one on one assistance?

Otherwise the biggest thing is you need to get him a good Leave It command, and desensitize him to the chickens. Once he masters Leave It with something small you can try to apply it to the chickens. You'll want to start far away from the chickens and move closer as he does better. You need to make sure you aren't pushing him too fast, as once he's over his personal threshold , you'll have a hard time getting his focus back.

It's definitely not going to be easy if you can manage it!
He is pretty fluent with the NO command and in most cases he will listen, but like I said, he will go bonkers once he sees a chicken. The thing is he knows it’s wrong. After an ocasional chicken crusade he will approach me with the most sorrowful look, crawling and occasionally, hopefully, bobbing his almost none existent tail in hopes that his submission will cover his crimes.
 

tka

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@Destiny has trained livestock guardian dogs
 

Destiny

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How old is your dog? In my experience, six months to a year old is going to be a rough time for training this kind of behavior, because prey drive goes way up and their instincts take over. Different dogs handle it better or worse, but you are asking your dog to go against instinct by not chasing/killing a running chicken. When young, they will often lack the necessary impulse control to stop from chasing, so mistakes can and will happen if you are not acting first or taking extra precautions. They can learn to do it eventually. But that "eventually" can result in a lot of dead chickens, if you are not very careful.

How are your chickens setup? Are they enclosed or free-range? Are you able to keep them physically seperate from your dog?

Ideally, a true livestock guardian dog should have a very low prey drive and natural guard instincts Not all individual dogs are well suited to the task and some breeds are more likely to do well at it. There are several dog breeds that have been bred for this purpose, but even they need to learn what animals are under their care and what not to do as a puppy, it just comes more naturally to them. Herding dogs, like Australian Shepherds, are bred for a different set of skills. They tend to be nippy and love to chase, so that can lead to problems when they are around smaller animals. On the plus, they are people-oriented and highly trainable. They can make excellent general purpose farm dogs and learn to ignore livestock and poultry. They might not understand WHY but they can be trained on HOW to be around prey without chasing. Just keep in mind that they are going to be working against instinct and will need consistant training and enough time to mature and learn. Chasing chickens is VERY rewarding for your dog so you need to be proactive about reducing opportunities to chase.

If your dog is under two years old, I recommend keeping them physically separate from the chickens while you work on desensitiving them to the visual trigger of spotting a chicken. At the same time, work on Recall, Leave It, and Stay, along with whatever other commands you use regularly. You want to be able to call your dog away and be able to break that intense focus with a command. It will take time, so keep the chickens safe. Reward good behavior and minimize opportunities for bad behavior.

Not all dogs are able to overcome their instincts, but most dogs will respond to training and will get there eventually, if you have enough time and patience.

.

By the way, I feel your pain. This is my Anatolian Shepherd/St. Bernard mix at ten weeks old, getting introduced to the chickens for the first time. He did great.

20181112_160525.jpg

Fast forward to a few months later and I find him on the couch in our living room eating a dead duck. They grow up so fast .... :(

Fortunately, we got passed that phase and Bear is now living up to his full potential as a livestock guardian, protecting our farm from hawks, coyotes, cougar, and even his own namesake, bears.

20191007_122847.jpg

So there is hope. :)
 

Sodapop&Co.

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I can't really give specific training advice, but I will say my current dog (who's momma was a livestock guardian, and dad was a bird dog...) went through a phase in her first year or two where she plucked and killed a number of our birds. It was rough and nothing about it was ideal, but after she finally learned the lesson, I can now trust her without a second thought. She'll sleep in the grass with them surrounding her, and she's infinitely patient when they try to eat her food and just gently pulls her food away from them. It was really hard for her to turn off that hunting button and switch to the guarding brain but when she did finally did, she never went back. And she doesn't just actively ignore them - she watches over them with care. It seems impossible to switch like that, but it can happen.
I'm about to get a year old GSD, and I'm getting ready for the battle of teaching him that the animals are off limits! The big thing is not giving them the opportunity to mess up (big-time). That doesn't mean that now that he has the taste of chicken he'll never be able to learn, but just keep him from being able to get that huge satisfaction in future. As that "self-reward" in his mind gets stronger, it gets harder to deter/a necessary deterrent gets larger. You say though that he feels bad afterwards (which my dog did too), which tells me he's lacking the impulse control to turn his back on a really enticing thing that speaks to his instincts so strongly. So I really would just take the opportunity away from him and keep teaching impulse control with "leave it" practice in more distracting environments, until his brain matures a bit more.
 

Vlad.Aras

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How old is your dog? In my experience, six months to a year old is going to be a rough time for training this kind of behavior, because prey drive goes way up and their instincts take over. Different dogs handle it better or worse, but you are asking your dog to go against instinct by not chasing/killing a running chicken. When young, they will often lack the necessary impulse control to stop from chasing, so mistakes can and will happen if you are not acting first or taking extra precautions. They can learn to do it eventually. But that "eventually" can result in a lot of dead chickens, if you are not very careful.

How are your chickens setup? Are they enclosed or free-range? Are you able to keep them physically seperate from your dog?

Ideally, a true livestock guardian dog should have a very low prey drive and natural guard instincts Not all individual dogs are well suited to the task and some breeds are more likely to do well at it. There are several dog breeds that have been bred for this purpose, but even they need to learn what animals are under their care and what not to do as a puppy, it just comes more naturally to them. Herding dogs, like Australian Shepherds, are bred for a different set of skills. They tend to be nippy and love to chase, so that can lead to problems when they are around smaller animals. On the plus, they are people-oriented and highly trainable. They can make excellent general purpose farm dogs and learn to ignore livestock and poultry. They might not understand WHY but they can be trained on HOW to be around prey without chasing. Just keep in mind that they are going to be working against instinct and will need consistant training and enough time to mature and learn. Chasing chickens is VERY rewarding for your dog so you need to be proactive about reducing opportunities to chase.

If your dog is under two years old, I recommend keeping them physically separate from the chickens while you work on desensitiving them to the visual trigger of spotting a chicken. At the same time, work on Recall, Leave It, and Stay, along with whatever other commands you use regularly. You want to be able to call your dog away and be able to break that intense focus with a command. It will take time, so keep the chickens safe. Reward good behavior and minimize opportunities for bad behavior.

Not all dogs are able to overcome their instincts, but most dogs will respond to training and will get there eventually, if you have enough time and patience.

.

By the way, I feel your pain. This is my Anatolian Shepherd/St. Bernard mix at ten weeks old, getting introduced to the chickens for the first time. He did great.

View attachment 407435

Fast forward to a few months later and I find him on the couch in our living room eating a dead duck. They grow up so fast .... :(

Fortunately, we got passed that phase and Bear is now living up to his full potential as a livestock guardian, protecting our farm from hawks, coyotes, cougar, and even his own namesake, bears.

View attachment 407436

So there is hope. :)
Hey thanks for the reply. His name is Max and he will be turning one year this summer. As for Our chickens, they have an acre and a half of land to roam. Our intentions were to let him roam the property with the flock, but since we can’t really trust him with such responsibilities anymore, we’ve fenced off an area in the premises so that way he can still see and technically interact with the birds but not necessarily come in contact. I have been exercising the “NO” command while he’s on his leash, and I plan to eventually let him off the leash, but so far I simply can’t trust him. I also thought that maybe once we get more chicks this summer, I could attempt to retry the whole process of introducing him as well as the chicks to each other because I feel that attempting anything right now would be somewhat pointless as the flock sees him as a dreaded enemy at this point and they would still fear him regardless thus arousing his instincts in him. On his last raid, he managed to chase the whole flock (a variety of ducks and chickens) into their coop where they all piled into one corner and that is how I found them. All of the birds on the bottom of the pile were trampled by the big drakes were they suffocated to their death. That was a couple of hens, cocks, and a couple of ducks as well.
 
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