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    Teach Your Dog to Be Friendly to Your Chickens

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    Teach Your Dog to Be Friendly to Your Chickens

    Let’s say you have a canine family member and want to start raising chickens . Or, you already have chickens and want to get a dog. The question remains the same. Can you teach your dog to be friendly to your chickens?

    The answer is a definite maybe. In this article, we explore how you can help your birds and dog live together peacefully and how to know when to distance them from each other.

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    Know your dog

    It’s essential to consider your dog’s breed and temperament before you introduce them to your chickens. Some dogs have a built-in desire to chase prey animals, while others have the instinct to herd and protect them.

    Of course, each dog has a unique personality. That chasing instinct could be based on play or aggression. And, of course, puppies and young adult dogs tend to have way more energy than older dogs. Either way, your dog will need training.

    Train your dog

    A dog’s mastery of basic commands like stay, sit, and leave it is necessary before introducing them to your chickens.

    Plan to work with your dog in distraction-free sessions of about 15 minutes or so in length if they are new to training.Basic obedience training involves teaching the dog to focus on you and do what you ask.

    Patience, consistency, and reinforcement of desired behavior with positivity and treats are your best tools in training your dog.

    Here is some excellent advice on basic training from the American Kennel Club. And if you are having trouble making progress or prefer to leave it to the experts, check out dog obedience classes in your area. Your veterinarian or local groomer may give you some referrals. Also, ask any folks you know who have chickens and dogs to share their experiences with you.

    Know your chickens

    As anyone who already raises chickens knows, chickens have their own distinct personalities, too. Some chicken breeds have more aggressive temperaments, while others are more docile.

    In some cases, you may find that it is your broody hen or rooster that is provoking your dog, not the other way around. It is not uncommon for a chicken to poke, nip, or chase a dog.

    Although most chicken breeds tend to be docile when raised with kindness, Silkies and Buff Orpingtons are especially known for their gentle behavior.

    Give them separate spaces

    Although your ultimate goal is for your animals to live harmoniously, they do need their separate eating and sleeping spaces. Your dog should not have access to the chicken coop, and your chickens should not be able to eat or drink from your dog’s bowls.

    These rules are not only to prevent a ruckus but to protect their health. Dog food is not good for a chicken’s digestive system, and chickens can pass along germs and diseases – like salmonella – to your dog. Here are the warning signs and symptoms of salmonella poisoning in dogs.

    Slowly introduce your dog and chickens

    The first time your dog and chickens meet could quickly turn into utter chaos. So, it’s important to be in control of the situation. Here are some tips.

    Take your dog on a walk or a run beforehand. The exercise will help them stay focused on you and your commands when they meet your birds.

    Keep a barrier between them. You could place one or two chickens in a wire cage or dog kennel for the introduction. Keep your dog on a leash a short distance (a few feet) from the cage. With this scenario, your dog can see and smell them but not be able to chase them. And your chickens can see the dog in a safe environment and not be able to run away. Use your basic commands to control your dog’s behavior.

    Close the distance. After one or more of these initial confined meetings, you can allow your leashed dog to get closer to the caged birds. Again, use your commands to tell your dog to sit and leave it. Reward your dog for staying calm. End the session if the dog is showing signs of aggression.

    Continue with short sessions. Use patience and positive rewards as you continue to let the animals get to know each other in this safe way. Note their progress.

    When you feel everyone is ready, your next step is to walk your dog on a short leash out in the yard where your uncaged chickens are free to roam. Once again, it’s best to take this step when your dog has already had some good exercise.

    Use your basic commands and monitor your dog’s demeanor closely. Keep the session short, removing them if they show signs of negative behavior and praising them for calm behavior.

    Gradually move to a longer lead that allows your dog to move closer to the chickens, paying close attention to how everyone reacts. The goal here is to move to a time when no leash is needed. However, this goal will take time and a heavy dose of patience. You’ll want to supervise these interactions closely.

    As your dog and chickens feel comfortable being closer together, randomly call your dog over to you. Your dog should start ignoring the chickens and focusing on other things. Reward your dog for coming to you when you call and calm behaviors around the chickens.

    When can you leave them alone together?

    When is it okay to lower your guard when it comes to your canine-chicken interactions? Some chicken owners say they prefer always to be around when their dog is loose around their flock. Others say their chickens now crawl all over their napping dog.

    What does this range of behavior tell you? Every situation is different. What we can tell you is that some dogs – because of their breed, history, or other factors – will remain reactive to chickens despite your best efforts.

    Here are some signs your dog sees your chickens as prey

    • Intense staring
    • Crouching
    • Tense body
    • Rigid movement or lack of movement
    • Lunging
    • Dilated pupils
    • Ignoring your commands

    It’s not necessarily their fault or your fault. It just is a fact. In these cases, it’s wise to keep dogs and birds safely distanced from each other.

    For more information, including some fun inspiration on dog-chicken friendships, check out these resources.

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