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.
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.
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”.
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.