If you've ever owned chickens, you already know the feeling of horror and the risk that a hawk produces when grabbing your favorite hen or a raccoon produces when slipping into the chicken coop in the middle of the night. to eat your sleeping chickens. If you have a dog or want to have one, you can keep your chickens safe and teach your dog useful skills by training them to protect your birds.
Part 1 of 3: preparing the dog
Step 1. Look for the right breed
This is important even if you already have a dog. Some breeds have been selected for hunting, making them less efficient guard animals. By knowing if your animal is more of a hunting or guard dog, you can prepare yourself for attentive and constant training taking into account its temperament. Here are some of the best breeds for keeping chickens:
- the Pyrenean mountain dog;
- the shepherd of Maremma and Abruzzo;
- the Tatra Shepherd;
- the Shepherd of Anatolia;
- the kangal.
Step 2. Train the dog
Get a dog to train or train one you already have. It's easier to train a puppy than an adult dog, but if you think your puppy will do just fine, consistent and clear training might be all it needs. Remember the following things when training your pet.
- Use short orders. By repeating the same thing over and over again, you might cause your pet to ignore you.
- Be generous with your rewards. Positive reinforcement, such as a treat or praise, can curb his aggressive tendencies and cause him to obey you.
- Train him in joy. Dogs are sensitive to the tone of human voice and body language. He is your friend and your partner in this training experience, you will be able to make him obey better by treating him gently.
Step 3. Obtain the right material
There are different opinions about the best dog training methods, but you should remember that every dog is different. Trust your instincts and your knowledge of the animal, but consider purchasing the following tools to help you with its training:
- a necklace;
- a leash;
- a muzzle (optional);
- an electric collar (optional);
- treats (to reward him).
Step 4. Become aware of the psychology of the puppy
It may be more efficient to organize training sessions before meals. This way, your pet will be a little more hungry, which will make him more attentive to the treats you want to give him as a reward. If he seems to be too hot, tired, or too excited, you better not force the training.
If you get frustrated during the session with the dog, don't get angry with him or yell at him unnecessarily. Dogs with a milder temperament might feel anxious and stop paying attention to what you say if you yell at them for no reason. If you feel frustrated, end the session and start again later
Step 5. Recognize the benefits of positive reinforcement
This kind of training relies on treats to encourage your dog to perform exercises and respond to your signals, such as a verbal command, noise, or gesture. The more irresistible the treat, the more motivated the dog will feel to deserve it, which is why you should experiment several times to find the treat that your dog will put the most effort into. Once you've found the right one, say sausage tips or dog biscuits, train it using positive reinforcement.
- Illustrate the orders to your animal. You may need to lift his paw to show him how to "paw", or you may want to put a treat just above his head to make him squat when you order him to sit.
- Reward him immediately after he responds to your command or signal.
- Ask other family members to use the same commands and signals.
Step 6. Reinforce good behavior towards chickens
Whenever the dog responds to one of your commands, especially if he's related to chickens, you need to have a treat on hand to reward him. Only reward good behavior, as you don't want your dog to associate a negative action, like barking or chasing chickens, with the treat.
Part 2 of 3: train it
Step 1. Desensitize it in a controlled environment
The more distractions there are, the harder it will be to maintain your pet's attention during training. From the age of nine weeks, most experts begin to expose it to their hens in a safe pen. In this way, the puppy can get used to the presence of these birds.
Step 2. Castrate him when he is old enough
This is all the more important for males. If you don't neuter him, males can become more aggressive and easily distracted. By limiting the amount of hormones that make it aggressive by castrating it, your animal's training will be smoother.
Step 3. Eliminate as many distractions as possible
If you are in a hurry, you might get angry more easily with the puppy's behavior, which could then have a negative impact. Other interruptions, such as the ringing telephone, can lead to confusion during sessions.
Step 4. Teach him basic commands
The dog must know all the basic commands like "sit", "down", "at the foot" and "not move" before leaving it in the middle of your hens. You can train it properly in short sessions using positive rewards tied to clear, short orders. However, the most important order in your vocabulary should be "leave her".
- You can train it to do this by using meat, cheese, or any other type of treat. Collect a good amount of treats and get your dog into position.
- Place the treat in front of him and say, "leave it".
- When the dog approaches it, close your hand and give it a firm negative response like "no".
- When your pet looks like he's not interested in it anymore, reward him with another treat that you kept in your other hand.
- Bring the treat closer to the animal and repeat.
Step 5. Teach him basic commands
It might take a while before he learns more difficult commands than "sit", but he might have fun if you quickly alternated the commands while helping him remember them better. Alternate between "sitting" and "lying" or "sitting" and "at the foot" to train it while having fun.
Part 3 of 3: protect the chickens
Step 1. Consider a muzzle
Although some people consider the muzzle to be inhuman, many trainers see it as an acceptable tool for a specific purpose, such as a collar or a leash. If you have problems with your pet because he runs after chickens to kill or eat them, the muzzle will make the exercise safer for everyone.
Step 2. Introduce it to the hens in the chicken coop
If he is very nervous, you should keep him on a leash until he calms down in the presence of birds. Take him with you when you go to feed them to help him get used to their presence, but also to get the hens used to his.
Try simple compound commands like “sit, not move”. You should train him in the coop when you go to get the eggs, which also helps him understand that he should not exceed certain limits in the coop
Step 3. Familiarize him with the smell of chickens
You can do this by rubbing the hens with a damp towel and putting it in the dog's basket or kennel. They have a highly developed sense of smell, which is why the smell of chickens, if they are not used to it, could cause a sharp reaction.
Step 4. Teach him to separate the fighting roosters
When you are outside with him, you might see hens or roosters fighting. This is not uncommon, but it could prevent one of your roosters from wooing females and causing your egg production to drop. Keep the dog on a leash and run towards the birds to interrupt the fight. Once they stop, say one of the basic commands, or if you've trained the dog to respond, say a word he can relate to ending the fight.
By showing the dog what to do in the event of a fight and rewarding it when it helps you end it, you will begin to teach it to come to the rescue whenever it hears a hen in distress
Step 5. Teach him to recognize predators
Your pet already has a good understanding of predators that pose a danger, but crows and hawks can be as dangerous to chicks and hens as a fox. By keeping the dog on a leash, scare off crows and other birds of prey.
Once you've managed to get them to leave, praise the dog and give him a treat. This makes it possible to positively reinforce the behavior so that it protects your birds in the future
Step 6. Let him patrol the raccoons
As your pet becomes more trustworthy and shows that he understands your commands and expectations for his behavior around chickens, you should leave him to patrol on his own. Thanks to his training to separate the hens which are fighting, he will run to see what happens as soon as he hears a bird in distress.
Step 7. Exercise him
You cannot expect him to take care of your chickens if he is not in good physical condition. Take him for a walk regularly, keep doing quick and short training sessions, and show him that he is a beloved member of the pack.
- Some trainers believe that electric collars have a negative effect on the relationship between the animal and its owner. That being said, for older, aggressive dogs who aren't protecting a chicken coop, this could be a good way to keep your hens safe.
- Even a well-trained dog can harm chickens. Keep him on a leash until you have complete confidence in him and his ability to obey your orders.