Some ideas for curing a chicken killing puppy. This is a bad habit and almost always fixable. It may take a lot of time and patience depending on the breed, age, and general disposition of the dog or puppy.
A few things I should note here before we get started. First of all you may like dogs more than birds or the other way around – that is your choice and action needs to be taken with that in mind. Someone might lock up the birds or get rid of them before they would touch the dog, others may rehome or shoot the dog on the first incident. I’m just providing a few suggestions that I’ve seen and heard others using. Every life deserves respect, and if it isn’t for your own birds the dog may cause problems with other animals or people – yours or your neighbors. Likewise a mean hen that picks on dogs insistently or steals their food should be dealt with appropriately as well.
Secondly a comment on the word “NO”. This word is way overused today, not only with dogs, but with virtually all animals and children. The command isn’t bad, just overused. I recommend that when you need immediate adherence to a command train for the word “STOP”. Often animals become a bit desensitized to the command “NO” so reserve the “STOP” command for times that are critical. For example, when the pup is moving from a “STAY” command “NO” is appropriate, however when the dog is entering the road when a vehicle is coming “STOP” is more appropriate. Over time “NO” becomes part of the conversation with the dog and it stops and thinks about what it shouldn’t be doing where “STOP” should communicate to the dog to IMMEDIATELY CEASE what you’re doing!
Now, what follows are a few ideas to help curb a bad habit or ‘taste for chicken’ that can happen to any dog. Just remember, you’re not trying to hurt the dog but teach it.
- The ideal situation would be to teach the dog by example – or by dominance. Letting them know that the pack leader (that should be you) doesn’t approve should be enough to keep them from doing something like this even when you’re not around, and as long as someone remains the established pack leader.
- Shoot it with a BB gun – usually only hurts, but dangerous. Your dog may be terrified of guns thereafter. Even if you just want your dog to stick around when you go out shooting for fun – not a hunting dog, but you don’t want a dog that bolts either. I don’t recommend this.
- Have the pup tethered to you when you are by the chickens and give a sharp snap on the leash and yell NO or STOP when they show interest in the birds.
- Take a recently killed bird and tie it to the dog. Preferably so it can’t get its mouth on it – like in a bundle or with netting and up behind its head. With a pup and an adult chicken this may not be feasible because of size so a part of the chicken may work. You leave it there for several days until it actually rots off. In warm weather this will only take 3 days or so, in colder weather 5-7 days should do the trick. The dog shouldn’t even really see the chicken. Leave it in isolation (minimal interaction) during that time. The dog should be in a kennel so that it is less likely to get at the chicken or any other dog is not able to get at it either. Make sure it is fed and watered and protected from the elements. Give the dog a bath when you’re done and watch it closely when around birds after. You may want to use idea 2 at this point.
- Get yourself a good shock collar and keep out of view (but within range) – set the shock for high and whenever the pup comes within a few feet of the chickens zap them. This will probably take longer to do, four days or so.
- If you’re interested in training your dog to protect or be a LGD (livestock guardian dog) here are some steps that may work:
- Once house broken, have the puppy sleep in a crate in the chicken coop.
- The puppy eats meals near the chickens.
- Chicken chores are done with the puppy tethered to you.
- No playing is allowed. All other dogs or playmates (children, etc) are not allowed in the area when the puppy is “working” with the chickens.
- The puppy is not allowed to chase the chickens. Any attempts are corrected with a snap of the leash and a bark-like “NO” or “STOP”.
- Closely watched bird introductions are done. With the puppy on a leash, we hold a bird and allow the puppy to calmly sniff the bird. Excited attempts to “play” with the bird are reprimanded. We are trying to desensitize the dog to the birds, so this is done several times over a undefined period. It may take some time before the dog can be calm around the chickens, depending on age, breed, and a variety of other factors. At first it is probably a good idea to have one hand on or by the pup to help keep it calm. Sometimes a gentle touch makes all the difference in the world!
- Once you’re able have a calm puppy (still closely supervised) with the chickens provide some limited “off leash” interaction with the puppy and birds. It is important that the dog is responding to your commands to not pursue the birds. Commands like “NO”, “STOP”, and “Leave It” should be understood by the dog. Obedience is critical at this stage. The dog should behave in other settings already as well.
- If a chase does begin show your disapproval by barking a “NO” or “STOP”, take the dog by the scruff of the neck and roll the dog on its side, now glare at the dog. This is similar to how an adult dog reprimands a puppy. As you might notice, for this to work you must be close and watchful of the dog. All interaction should still be closely supervised.
- The goal is for the dog to ignore the birds. No stalking, no excited lunges as birds dart around or fly to a roost, no staring imagining how tasty they might be, nothing. By the end, the dog shouldn’t really even be looking at the birds, basically just ignoring them.
- Keep in mind that dogs are dogs and depending on a variety of circumstance may be tempted or even relapse. Keep your eye on your dog and reprimand as needed. Even the best behaved dog might have issues if left unattended for long periods of time feeling lonely, afraid, etc. Sometimes the stress that breaks the dog is the owners fault, weather, other animals, etc.
- Rehome the dog. Sometimes that is the simplest and easiest thing – the only thing. But for many it would be hard to give up a dog that is so good otherwise.
- I’ve heard of shocking the dog through the dead animal. Hook the wires from the car battery or vehicle battery (you’ll have to start the car) to the animal. When the dog comes for a bit it get the shock of its life. This seems a bit cruel to me and haven’t tried it. Having a running vehicle might tie the shock to the sound of the vehicle running, however maybe a shock will do the trick.
- Beat the dog with the dead chicken.
- Use a slingshot and jelly bean ammo (Submitted by Brook Mortensen).