Training Your Dog With Chickens

Stanley & Swiffer

Stanley & Swiffer

Stanley is our Labrador Retriever and he has been with us for 10 years.  During that time, Stanley has chewed through dozens of shoes, ate the ass end out of a pair of leather pants, and sucked on the zipped-up pocket of a suede jacket for hours in order  “liquefied” a hard chocolate candy.  He has also been recognized by “The Academy” for his leading role in consuming 2 boxes of chocolate cake mix on a white rug, attended countless buffets in the kitchen garbage and treating himself to the kids’ Halloween candy on 2 separate occasions.

But, Stanley’s claim to fame came that Christmas night back in 2005 when he ate the entire upper portion of my right snow boot….buckles included!  It took him 7 days to pass all 6 of those buckles.Chickens 3

I remember going out to the backyard every evening with a flashlight, looking through his landmines and hoping to find a buckle.  “Found another one!” I said with pride as I put a check mark on the calendar.  Seven days later, six check marks on the calendar, and 6 incredibly shiny buckles, Stanley lived to “eat” another day!

Stanley has settled down a lot since that December night and he seldom reverts back to his former self.  Occasionally, he still surprises me, but for the most part, he’s pretty content to just lay around, sleep and poop.

One of 3 talents!

One of 3 talents!

So with that said, I NEVER gave Stanley a thought when I brought Swiffer and Honda home last March as week old chicks.  He never even flinched the first time I walked past him as I took the chicks in that shoe box down to the brooder in the basement.  That is……. until they peeped.

All of a sudden this tranquil dog became a supercharged retriever as he sat at the edge of the stairs with his ears turned up, tail wagging on “high”, and the hair on his back raised up in a Mohawk.  “You do know that dog is a bird dog” my wife said as I came up from the basement brooder.  I stood there in shock as her words settled upon my shoulders.  My wife was right (as she is many times) and Stanley backed up her words by furiously licking my hands, which mere moments ago were holding those fluffy chicks.

“What the heck have I got myself into?”  “How could I be this stupid?”  I’ll bet Stanley was thinking the same thing as he stared up at me and continued to suck the scent of those chicks off my hands.

For the next 3 weeks, I kept Stanley and the chicks apart.  It wasn’t that hard because Stanley is petrified of descending the basement stairs.  But, he did wait patiently at the top of the stairs, tail wagging furiously and Mohawk raised across his back.

We continued this ritual for another week until I mustered up the courage to bring one of the chicks up for a sniff.  As I climbed the stairs, I was certain that Swiffer would succumb to a massive heart attack once she “met” Stanley.

As we got closer to the top of the stairs, Stanley became more excited.  “well….here goes” I said to myself as I offered up a tiny prayer to the Chicken Gods.  Tightly cupped in my hands, I slowly brought Swiffer over to Stanley’s nose.  He became even more excited as he sniffed the top of Swiffer’s head like it was a tasty treat.  Swiffer began to frantically squirm out of my hands and then Stanley opened his mouth to taste “his” treat.  I quickly moved my hands away and narrowly averted Swiffer’s demise.

The next day, I Goggled something like “Training your dog with the chickens” and this GREAT YOU TUBE video came up from Cesar Millan the Dog Whisperer

I followed through with Cesar’s recommendations and I trained Stanley over the course of 1 weekend.  In all honesty, I had to repeat this lesson many times throughout the first few weeks, but once Stanley realized his place in “the pecking order”, everything fell into place.  After that, the chickens were never an issue.  They’ve sat beside him in their crate to and from the cottage and he never bats an eye.  When you really get down to it, I think he just doesn’t care.  For Stanley, the chickens fall somewhere in the spectrum between “zero interest” and “I’ll put up with you”.

Not too interested.

Not too interested.

But, he has become their protector during times of unsupervised free ranging.  I never think twice about leaving the girls out in the backyard if they are accompanied by Stanley.  No self-respecting racoon ever comes into my backyard when Stanley is out.

Thanks Buddy!  I know that I have said a lot of bad words to you over the years…..especially that time when you ate my boot … but thanks for looking out for my hens! You really are a good dog.008




24 thoughts on “Training Your Dog With Chickens

  1. I trained my Aussie on leash for a while, then off, and always supervised in our urban homestead. She did really well, never chased or bothered them. She actually shared a big ham bone with them! I had to take a photo or I knew no one would believe me. But, she was never left alone with them either.

    • Hi Nancy,
      It’s great when they can all get along. It has got to the point here that Stanley will immediately want to go outside if he hears the hens are in distress. He’s a great protector.

    • We have a Bassett hound and she chased them for a day or two now she rarely bothers with them unless our grand daughter makes a game out of it then it can get like a three ring circus other wise she is not gonna spend the time or energy it would take to chase them

  2. I am so happy to find your site and especially this post! I will be adding 5 chicks to our family unit which include 2 dachshunds. They are great fro keeping all vermin out of our urban yard but have been quite worried on how to train them to keep their mitts off my chicks! I too will be raising chicks for eggs and will be breaking the ‘law’. The more neighbors I speak to, the neighbors I find are keeping chicks too…so I’m not the only outlaw in my neighborhood! Thanks again!

  3. I definitely needed to read this this morning! We have 5 chickens that are about 10 weeks old and two almost-two year old yellow labs. The chickens are fenced in outside but the dogs simply won’t leave them be. I figured after a few days of the nonsense the dogs would give up but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m going to google Cesar’s method stat! 🙂

  4. We have an Aussie who dearly loves to herd our chickens, and (unsupervised) has actually killed a couple. We keep a stern eye on her whenever she’s around the chickens, but for the most part she leaves them alone now. I’m going to go to your video to see if I can pick up any hints. Thanks!

  5. Thank you so much for the article! I am a new backyard chicken mom to two 5 month olds that just started laying eggs this week. I have an overly large Aussie and a Lab. As other people have noted my Aussie will let them walk all over him, he will guard them, and he will herd them. My Lab on the other hand wants nothing more than to eat them. He is however, afraid of the garden hose or even a water bottle. I squirted him one time for chasing after them and now he runs the other way if I look at him with an evil eye. I will have to watch the video too for better training techniques. Just found your blog from The Chicken Chick.

  6. We have a lab mix and he was the same way. He was fine with them until they fluttered away and it triggered that chase response. After a good two weeks of supervised visits, he’s completely trustworthy with them. The birds even like to walk with him – I think they have noticed the hawks don’t come near the yard when he’s out.
    Interestingly, he still catches wild things. Last night he caught a sparrow type bird and he caught a mole a few days before that. BUT he knows that the chickens are family birds and not to chase them.

    • Hi Erika,
      Glad to hear that your dog is one with the hens. They definitely take the stress out of free ranging with their presence.
      Thanks for your comments,

  7. I would be remiss if I did not share what I have learned from two different, professional dog trainers with over 50 years of experience between the two of them: any dog that expresses interest in “playing with” chickens or chasing squirrels, for instance, should never, ever be trusted with chickens.

    The instinct in those dogs may be controllable under certain circumstances, but not all, and the chickens are never safe from the innate ‘voice’ telling them to “get it.” Just a word of caution. Many chicken-keepers have relayed stories of tragedy after believing their dog was trained to leave the birds alone. 😦

    Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

    • Hi Kathy and thanks for your comments. Though I am not a professional dog trainer, I am very much aware of the disposition of my dog and my abilities to train him effectively. Contrary to your beliefs, my dog chases squirrels and raccoons from our backyard and cottage property, BUT does not EVER touch the chickens. He has been trained to understand that the hens are my property and they are,therefore, his to protect.

  8. I have two former racing greyhounds. This breed has a rule: if it moves go after it. Otherwise they are happy to snooze their days away with a full belly. Shortly after I got my chicks, I showed one to Doby. He thought it was a snack and tried to eat it. One quick NO! and he let go. He’s fascinated with my now 5 month old birds but I keep them in a separate yard. Emily, my other greyhound doesn’t seem to show any interest – while I’m around.
    I’d rather be safe than sorry.

    • Hi Sally,
      Thanks for your comments. I’m fortunate hat Stanley is not wired that way. In fact he is a great protector of the hens. When he hears hem squawk, he immediately wants to go outside and see if there is something upsetting the hens that he can hopefully chase. He’s getting old now, but is still a great protector!

  9. One of my Greyhounds is scared to death of the chickens, the other one I caught holding one by the tail. I hollered “Drop it!” and he did, looking rather guilty.

  10. In case I forgot to tell you, the pullet that was attacked by the Rottie I was baby sitting is now back outside with the flock. I thought she was dead, but someone said to put her in a carrier and see what happed. A couple of hours later she was sitting on her chest. (I thought she was dead!!!) I kept her in the house for a week, feeding her gruel (soggy pellets) several times a day along with gravel and a bit of calcium. I put Pet RX (I think that’s the name) on her chest to help her breath and it was very, very raspy. About three days afterwards I gave her a bath to get off the blood and discovered she had a deep wound in her chest. I put some Blu-Kote on it and hopped for the best. A friend suggested that I name her Lucky Wishbone (a local fast food chicken place). lol

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