How to Train Dog not to Chase Chickens

Posted by Kerowyn
Mar 24, 2012
Hi there,

I live up in Northern Maine and the weather is getting nicer, so we have been spending time outdoors. We still have snow on the ground, but with the warmer weather, we also have some brown patches too. With this warmer weather, we've been letting the chickens out ... and Hex, our 7 month old Boxer Mix puppy is fascinated by them! And so, she is leashed when outside ... either in a stationary area or held by me (which is hard when chasing a 1 and a half year old toddler as well)

Anyway, I could really use some tips on how to keep her from chasing the chickens (which are free range) and in ignoring the goats (which are behind a chain link fence). We are bound to get pigs and sheep at some point too, so, we want her to leave the farm animals be.

I've been doing some leash training with her when we go for walks. I tug twice on the leash and she tends to (most times) relax her pull. sometimes she goes crazy and attacks the leash. Usually that is when in our yard or when we start walking down the driveway or return to the driveway. Our walks are long because I spend a lot of time stopping and saying sit when she gets a little out of hand. But on the actual walk, I have seen some improvement.

So when I have her in the yard with the free range chickens, I try to bring us near them so she is aware of them, but not close enough to actually reach them (I don't want to hurt the chickens). I try the sit and stay with her. I try the calling her name and the come command. The sit works best initially, but sometimes its too much.

I also have been trying to bring her into the barn with me as well. But that's a lot harder.

My husband is not super fond of the pup. He didn't want a puppy and he didn't want a dog in winter. (Why he agreed then is beyond me. I didn't choose that this was the dog that we had to go see. But once we saw her, I wanted to bring her home.) But he says to me that if we can get her to stop chasing the chickens, then he'll ease up on me. And so ... He's trying to give me time each day to work with Hex.

So, what things can I do to help improve walking on a leash and most importantly ... to get her to stop chasing chickens?

Once I get her to walk loose on a leash, I am going to work at heal. I don't like that she is in front of me when we walk. Sometimes I really think this dog thinks she's alpha dog and that's where some of our issues stem. Sometimes I think she's just puppy. Why do I think alpha? because she likes to rush thru doors and I am spending a good deal of time correcting her, making her sit, trying to get out the door (or in it) before she does.

Also, how long should I expect it to take to get her to stop chasing chickens?

Any thoughts and help are appreciated. thanks.

Posted by dtismv
Mar 31, 2012
Hi! I'm certainly no expert and am currently having behavior problems with my 6 month old pup, but your post caught my eye as I too have chickens, though not free range.
When I was young I had a larger flock that was loose much of the time when we adopted a Giant Schnauzer pup. Now, I must admit this was back in the 80's, back when choke chains were "OK," unlike our more enlightened days today We trained her with leash pops while walking amongst the chicken on a leash and choke chain. It didn't take much at all until she was perfectly gentle with them, but she was not a very dominant or aggressive dog and learned very quickly, and as I mention she was introduced to them pretty young when the chickens were almost bigger than she was! I'm not sure about a 7-month old showing more of a prey drive if this approach would be very effective. Hopefully on of the experts will weigh in with some more helpful advice.
I'm pretty sure our 6 month old pup won't ever be trustworthy with our chickens but then she's a terrier, so what did I expect? I'm pretty resigned never to let this dog loose with the birds. Hopefully you can do better!
Good luck!
Posted by KOPCaroline
Apr 3, 2012
Hi Kerowyn,

As far as leash walking - it sounds like you're doing well. With my own dog, I would actually stop when he pulled, make him sit, tell him "enough", and start again. If he started pulling again, I would stop again and have him sit. It only took a few stop-start episodes for him to catch on. Tugging on the lead as you've been doing is also effective, so long as you're not hurting your dog - but if she's not responding to this as much as you'd like, try all out stopping.

For the chickens, this may be harder. Some dogs just have more drive to chase prey animals. I'll tell you what I did with my dog and the rabbits I have - I would put him on lead and have him sit next to me on the ground, I would be sitting too. We would sit a few feet away from teh rabbits in their playpen outside - and my dog would be focused on them, obviously. I would watch him, and as soon as he started paying "too much attention" - perking up, bum lifting, making small whiny noises - I would tug his lead, get him to look at me by saying "hey" or "oi" or his name, and say "enough". If his attention was only on me for a split second, I would grab his collar or touch him in some way to really get his attention - a tap on the head, elbow to the shoulder (in a playful way!!), etc - this usually worked.

Once he was calming down with this (we did this every time the rabbits were out) - I let him off lead and just sat with him. Eventually I didn't sit with him, but would be outside watching the whole time and saying "enough" anytime he got too excited or close to the rabbits. After a bit of that, I didnt have to be outside anymore, because while he would watch the bunnies, he wouldnt actually mess with them.

A similar sort of training may work for your dog - repeat exposure and correction when paying attention becomes too much attention. I hope that makes sense - please let us know how things go!
Posted by Kerowyn
Apr 15, 2012
KOP Caroline,

Thank you for this advice. I read it a little while ago, and I have been working to implement it. Its very slow going, but I think that when I sit with her, It does make a bit of a difference.

I was getting so frustrated with walking Hex, that we hired a trainer who comes to our home to help me with Hex. What we've learned is that walking hex in the morning is just not a good thing. She's got too much puppy energy. Instead ... fetch is better. and make sure to use two balls, because she's not super great at giving back the ball to have it thrown again.

so, in the morning, Hex gets run time. In the afternoon, she gets put on a run and the chickens get free range time. I try to work with Hex when she is on the run and the chickens come near.

The chickens are really kinda dumb. They keep testing the limits of how far the dog can reach. shakes head at them.

I'll post more later. I have a hard time getting any along time on the computer.