Anyone who knows us will know that we have the greatest puppy in the world and I could easily blog every day about what he’s been up to. I never thought we would get him to stop chasing the chickens though so I thought I would share a few cute photos and tips for anyone hoping to achieve the same.
We got Chino at two months old and I think around four months I decided it would be a good idea to get him use to our chickens and sheep so he wouldn’t chase them (or the neighbours ones). The theory is that if at an early age puppies learn what their large family is (not just we humans but cats, chooks etc) they won’t see them as prey or a threat. My initial efforts to take him into the chicken-orchard weren’t successful – either on the lead or on the long chain he ran at the chickens, they freaked and flew which made him want to chase them even more. It didn’t matter that he got told off and dragged back inside, those few seconds of chasing the chickens was so worth it. I think the turning point came when we got a stray chicken when he was six months old. We had to pen her from our three big hens initially as they bullied her so much. Chino would lie on the other side of her fence and came to view her as a potential play mate rather than a bird to chase. She was quite unfazed by his attentions which added to his desire to play with her.
Fuelled by this we bought her into the house a couple of times for supervised playtime. In reality this meant hubby held onto little chick and I threw treats about to distract Chino from the fact there was a chicken in the house. I think all he really wanted to do was smell her so being able to do that (without her flying and instigating a chase) was really satisfying for him.
I also kept taking him up on into the chicken enclosure despite initial chicken chasing. Either on the lead where I would throw dog/chicken treats around so they would all be busy eating and relax together or with him on the long chain when I was weeding – the chickens would come for the worms and I could make sure he wasn’t lunging at them.
So time went by. Twice a day we go up to the orchard and feed the chickens and Chino comes and sits outside the gate. He got growled at for running at the fence to chase them
so gradually he stopped doing that (however we do let him run at the ducks and pukekoes and plovers on the section. Don’t worry, he never catches anything). Occasionally he’s busted through or occasionally they busted out so I knew I needed to get this chicken thing sorted.
It seems that for all dog training you need to know your dog and for our dog he does best with pseudo-freedom. That is, if he’s on the lead or totally restricted (ie not allowed near the chickens) he rebels against it. If he thinks he’s got freedom he’s much better. So after many on-lead trips into the chicken orchard I decided to try letting him free. After all these months the sight of the chickens isn’t that exciting after all. And I have as my back up the fact that he’s very food orientated. His few break through trips into the enclosure showed he was more interested in the poo than the chickens and his first off leash experience was the same. No running at the chickens. Just eating poo, uneaten scraps, shallowly buried fish bones. Great, so he’s not going to kill the chickens but is all that ** good for him?
Summary – perseverance to desensitize him. It would have been easier to keep him out of their enclosure altogether but one day he’s going to come across someone else’s chickens and by then might have more of a instinct to kill rather than try and play with them. Not that I’ll be letting him loose and unsupervised with them for a while yet. All that chicken poo he’s been eating can’t be healthy.