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Teaching dog to be calm around chickens

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    Hi I was just reading the cost of owning chooks thread and Bluesnip mentioned the teaching dog to be calm around chickens as a bonus…

    How do I teach my dog to be calm around chickens? Is there a thread already? I did research a while back, but didn’t find a lot.

    I have been trying a few things, but as soon as the chickens move, make a noise, flap wings he wants to chase them and goes crazy.

    He licks his lips threw the fence and goes crazy. I would love to be able to have Neddie (my dog) and the chooks out together… I am having to put Neddie on a tie out when the chooks are out, as he is trying to dig under the fence where I have just planted my new raspberry canes to get to the chooks.

    Any advice would be great. I know some people said their dogs act as watchdogs for the chooks and ducks. This would be fantastic to keep the foxes away, but not hopeful…

    Thanks again 🙂


    We have x2 jack russels, as far as they are concerned, chooks are good for 2 things, chasing and plucking. Not amount of training or reprimanding will teach them other wise. Some dogs want to eat chooks, others want to protect them.


    It is a lot easier option if you have puppies and bring them up with livestock. Some breeds are more prone to chase and excitement than others. What breed of dog do you have, how old is it and what is its history?

    I have raised numerous dogs around all sorts of livestock and currently have a working dog (Kelpie x Border Collie), two Whippets and one Jack Russell (young) all of which are well mannered around all livestock including poultry. It takes time and training to ensure this good behaviour though.

    If I can help in any way, happy to offer my thoughts and methods.




    Mauzi I would appreciate any help as I am getting very frustrated and upset with his behaviviour and I know it isn’t his fault, he just isn’t trained.

    He is 3+ years old and is a cross between jack russell x Australia terrier. He is a very smart dog, too smart for me… I rescued him from RSPCA last year. He was better trained when he came to me, then he is now… I really need to got o obedience training with him, but he will sit and wait to eat for his food if I tell him. He will sit and stay fairly well, but when it comes to the chickens he just goes crazy and doesn’t listen to a word I say! I started training on the weekend trying to stop him from going near the fence instead training him to stay on the decking whilst I was in with the chickens and he was getting there…

    Any advice would be great mauzi… I have read about having him tethered to me when I go to the chickens and yelling no as he shows interest, but he shows interest the whole time…. Hmmmm look forward to your feedback 🙂


    Probably not the easiest combination for you to begin with, being a younger dog and a terrier type which are a bit more excitably and the jack russell side being very strong willed as well. Obedience classes would be enormously helpful in this instance but you could start with making sure that he is on a lead any time he is in the vicinity of the chickens and that he recognises being on the lead as both a discipline and also not only a means (as he sees it) of punishment but also of reward for good behaviour.

    Start on the lead outside of the chicken situation until you are sure that he recognises certain behaviours as being rewarded i.e., leading without pulling, sitting when asked, not barking etc and being rewarded via patting or a food reward if he is that way inclined. Add a little more stress i.e., being around a situation that he usually likes to get excited in – might be outside the chicken yard but not too close and not for too long at a time. When you are satisfied with that add a little more stress – like outside the chicken yard (still on a lead though) and again not too long, and increasing in time of concentration. Keeping his focus on you as much as possible – the old adage of little and often being a good beginning. Then when you are happy with that result, go into the yard, still on the lead, for a short period, keeping his focus on you however that works for you (might include a word command that he becomes familiar with, a click of the fingers when he gets distracted, not seeing you and the dog makes it a little harder to advise, but he needs to see you as the leader of his pack. Use simple commands and only one word for behaviour you don’t like, like NO in a strong tone and maybe a slight jerk of the lead always releasing it so you do not create a tug of war. Lots of pats and “good boys with good behaviour). It takes as long as it takes so patience is very important and so is never loosing your cool. If you get agitated, better to put him away for a bit than to undo your good work. Again it is always easier to start with a pup so that he never gets into bad habits to begin with but see how you go. You might need someone around with a bit more experience or obedience classes to help if you still run into trouble. It will be worth the effort though. Let me know how you get on and hope that all made some sense.


    Great reply Mauzi :clap:

    We have a Border Collie now about 13 weeks old, at first she chased the chooks, now, she isnt fussed by them, we put her on a lead when going into the chookhouse, and said No when she pulled to go after them, when the chooks were out (we have 18)and she was caught chasing them, we would tell her no and tie her up, smart dog, she now goes into chookhouse with us now,off lead and herds them outside and doesnt give them a second glance, such a relief, we also take her to obedience classes, 1.5hr return trip, but well worth it. Good luck Kirsty, hope you can train her. BTW, she has learnt to be careful around the cows as well, they are big and she’s so small, now to stop her digging in my garden :angry:


    Oooh challenge :clap: If Alanna Moore has a jack russel, then all terrier owners have hope!

    If your dog has until now been used to running madly around the chook cage and barking and jumping and generally getting very excited, then I would add two critical things to Mauzi’s training plan –

    First is to not let your dog practice the behaviour you don’t want. That means ZERO access anywhere near the chickens when you are not in control. It is such a self-rewarding behaviour for your dog that it is actually learning to be silly every time you allow it near the chooks, as it gets a great response from the chooks, and also gets a great response from you! Very exciting for the dog.

    Secondly, I would also add a step to the start, and that’s training a default behaviour. This could be maybe a sit or a lay down, and is what your dog knows gets a good outcome (ie attention and reward) when it is unsure what it is supposed to do. This gets rewarded heavily when you are far far away from the chooks, to the point that your dog is offering this behaviour randomly in order to get the reward. So when you start to move toward the chooks (maybe even standing inside at the back door) with dog on lead, your dog needs to offer that behaviour and gets rewarded. Then you can move closer and try again for that default behaviour. A sit is good, because dogs often offer that when they get bored waiting on the end of a lead while you just stand there with a fist full of treats. Note that you don’t have to ask for it, the dog offers it with no verbal command. If when you move closer your dog doesn’t even think to offer that behaviour after a while, then it is either over stimulated and you have gone too close to the chookies too soon, or your rewards are crappy and you need to use something yummier! Move back, grab something tastier, and start again 🙂

    When I am doing this with my dog with things she has learned to be excited about, sometimes I have to be 500m down the road before she is far enough away from the stimuli that she is actually offering calm behaviours that I can reward!! Patience is key.


    Oh, and I do like your idea of training an alternate behaviour when you are around chooks – your dog on the decking. But if instead you reward a behaviour like a sit, then you will find you can transfer this so much easier to other chooks in a different location, and indeed other exciting or stressful things like cars, bicycles, screaming children, other dogs, cats, snakes, etc. There may not always be decking where you have chooks, and then all that training will be hard to capitalise on.

    Would love to know how you get on! Good luck :tup:


    Thank you everyone for the advice, fortunately he has been trained when I call him to come and sit already, very well trained by someone else lol…

    I am thinking that when I have the chooks out he is going to need to be somewhere he can’t see them… Inside and not pearing through the lounge window as he does now lol… Like I said he is obsessed by the chooks so go where ever he can to see them.

    Next time I let them out to free range I will shut Neddie up in the hallway/laundry area, then try the suggestions above.

    So if I get it correctly. As I lead Neddie out of the house, once the chooks are out (in a seperate fenced area) I would make him sit for a treat, then slowly get closer and closer to the chook area, each time making him sit and have a treat and a firm no if he takes any notice of the chooks. Would I be kind of on the right path?

    Then I just keep doing this each day in small increments until he gets calmer and calmer?

    I know he will learn very quickly as long as I train him correctly. I don’t want to give him mixed signals, which I have heard can be easy to do.


    I would start with the chooks penned, your dog on lead, and you inside the back door. If dog is calm, reward reward reward. Open the door and step outside. If dog is immediately looking for chooks, wait. If dog sits, give treats. Reward calm. END OF TRAINING SESSION 1! Dog goes back inside, chooks are let out 🙂

    day 2, same again. Then step closer to chooks. If dog calm, reward. If not, ignore, no eye contact, no talking, and wait. If not calm after a few minutes, then you’ve taken the dog too far too soon, and you need to go back a bit. If dog is calm, reward calm. END TRAINING SESSION 2! Back inside.

    I would imagine it will not take much movement toward the chooks until you have a very excited dog. And once excited, may be hard to get a calm response to reward! So think baby steps. Start with chooks penned, it will make your life easier! If he doesn’t care two hoots about penned chooks – success! Reward! Then you can start again from inside the house, with the chooks out.

    Alanna’s Permaculture Pooch

    And there is another similar thread called ‘puppy chasing chooks’ on ALS that you might find useful too.


    Thank you Bluesnip I will give this a try tonight 🙂 But need to buy yummy treats first lol


    I am by no means an animal training or behaviour expert, however I have successfully trained several different breeds of dog (none of them small terriers)to co-exhist with free range chooks.

    Firstly I agree with all the previous posts and think that they contain very good and valid information, however I go about my dog training in a different manner. I have a large purpose bred hunting dog (Bullarab)with stong hunting/chasing instincts which I have been able to modify and I prefer to train out of respect for me as the pack leader rather than food reward. I believe that canine behaviour modification is an on going process an I do not want to be carrying food treats around with me all the time were as verbal praise and attention is always easy to hand out, as it a good verbal scolding for negative behaviour. I believe that this is closer to how the pack structure is maintained in wild dog societies and will help you obtain and maintain the alpha position with in the pack, food rewards are not motivation enough for some breeds and a dog will respond to a food reward while still thinking it is dominant over you.

    Step one: Make dog respect you as the pack leader (you should be able to find heaps of on-line info on this, or enroll in a dog obediance class)

    Step two: Reward good behavious with praise, attention and “cootchy wootchy” type noises

    (apparently dogs like this)and punish bad behaviour with a short sharp growl followed by a period of ignoring the dog as it tries to suck up to you (the pack leader) after being growled at.

    Most dogs will hate being ingnored by you if it sees you as the pack leader. Like I said I am no expert but this method has worked for me in the past quite well, although I must admit you have your work cut out for you with a terrier, they are more agressive and have a stronger killer instinct than wild wolves (fact).

    The first dog I had to train was a Rottweiller which are not hunting dogs and tend to have more of a herding nature. The dog was too large to jump the standard farm fence to the paddock where the chooks were and generally paid them no attention so I let the chooks free range while I was out. Slowly over time I noticed that my chook numbers were decreasing but I put the blame on birds of prey or foxes. One day I found a chook wing on the dog side of the fence and got suspicious that the chooks were jumping thought the fence in search of somewhere new to scratch right into the killing fields. From that day I undertook some intensive training sessions which involved taking the dog into the chook paddock with the chooks freeranging at a distance, I did not need a lead as I had good verbal control over the animal, but I would use a lead if you don’t trust the dog. I walked with the dog in an informal heal where by he was following me around but was free to wander forward and back a bit to sniff at things, every time he so much as looked at or moved in the direction of a chook I growled at him until he turned way. Eventually he associated paying the chickens attention with being growled at and when he turned away from them with out the need for a growl I gave him praise and pats. This dog was 6yo when I did this training and had already killed and eaten several delicious chooks, it only took one half hour training session a day for 4 days to train him and infrequent reinforment training if it looked like his memory was fading to keep him kill free for the next 3 years until he died 🙁 for the last year of his life the chooks free ranged in the same yard as the dog and if he was lying down in the shade and a chook walked up to him he would pull his head back and turn his face away like it was the most disgusting thing he had ever seen, quite funny behaviour to watch from a proven mass murderer.

    I am currently training my Bullarab not to chase roos using the same technique with good success so far.

    Good Luck


    Thank you so much simo… Most of the time Neddie knows I am pack leader, except for walking on the lead, then he does his own thing…

    Whenever he is good I always give him a great big scratch hug, good boy thing… For Neddie to be able to free range with the chooks and later on ducks would be a fantastic dream as then the chooks and ducks could free rnage when I’m not there and Neddie would keep the foxes away.

    One thing Neddie doesn’t chase my cats, never was interested in them, but chases other people’s cats. Nor will he kick the cats out of his bed etc… So the cats have trained him well, now just to do the same thing with the chooks. I love the very positive feedback I have gotten from everyone. I was sure it could be done, but I hadn’t been able to fine much info on the internet on how to do it exactly.

    When I first got the chickens it really upset Neddie, he wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t leave their cage, now he doesn’t really care most of the time, comes when called etc… So I can see a huge improvement already…

    This weekend I will give it some tries and I am sure I will be back for further guidance 🙂 Thank you again I love the support on here 😀


    Looks like loads of good advice for your training. Good luck and let us know how it all goes. I have added a couple of photos of “Sparky” and some of our ducks. I might have overdone it a bit because I think he may think he is a duck now :ohmy:


    So cute mauzi!! Wish my dogs are like that!

    Mine are of Swedish Vallhunds, herding dogs by nature and loves to nip at ankles. :angry:

    I can’t let dogs in with chooks as I’ve caught the older one plucking one of my best layers last year, showing the youngie how to do it, etc… :ohmy:

    Other thing that occured to me is that putting each critter in order of hierarchy? If I pay more attention to the chooks than dogs, would this make a difference, or am I just better off teaching dogs that looking or touching the chooks are really beneath them? :laugh:

    How do you really train a very neurotic dog!? Lol..

    Keep us posted, Kristy – am interested to see how your dog doing.

    Cheers! :hug:

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