I have a question for all of you. One of my puppy people wrote to me today asking how to train a GSD to not chase and kill chickens and ducks. This female GSD is almost a year old, has been raised freely around chickens and other farm animals and just now killed it's first. The owner asked me what to do about this. Other than separating/fencing the chickens and ducks from the dog, I really have no advice for her. Do any of you have any stories to share or advice on training GSD's to not chase animals? I know this is a prey drive thing...but possibly herding also?
Any advice is appreciated.
Oh...and I also suggested she contact a trainer but they live in a very rural area and know of no good trainers in their area.
IMO this is a strong prey drive issue.You possibly could train the dog to leave the chickens alone in your presence but when "Alpha leader" is away that drive will take over again.Speaking from experience raising working line GSD's around horses,as long as I'm around they will not threaten but I don't dare leave the property with dogs and horses together.As soon as a horse lays down to roll they are right there trying to sink their teeth into a potential "kill".Especially since this dog has already discovered a taste for blood I think I wouldn't trust her alone with chickens ever again.Hope this helps,I'm sure many will agree.
Quick story. As a pre-teen, we had a German Shepherd mix and one day he came home with a chicken between his chops. My dad took the chicken, buried it and thought that was the end of it. At least 2-3 times a week for 2 weeks, this dog would bring a chicken home. The community got on to whose dog it was as one day, Bismarck came proudly strutting home at 12 noon, with another dead chicken in his mouth. My father had to face 5 or 6 angry neighbors that evening. He paid them all for their dead chickens that came up missing over a 2 week period and Bismark was taken across town to an Uncle's that had provisions to contain him. My point is, the dog may be hooked on her new found discovery.
I agree that it is a prey drive issue. Even if the chickens do not run, the dog will quickly learn to spook them in order to satify this drive. I have one (1) who will toss a ball against the house in order to make it bounce back towards her. They will figure out a way to enertain themselves.
The only thing that I can advise is to keep the dog separate from the chickens when it cannot be under 100% supervision.
I know-I've raised at least one (1) "chicken killer". The lady who owns him tied the first dead chicken around his neck and he wore it for a couple of days until it fell apart. I understand her logic, but of course it did not change his behaviour as he killed another the next week. She now keeps him away from the chickens.
He also killed a kid goat, and it was again the prey drive issue. He would occasionally bark at adult goats, but the adults would usually ignore him or slowly move away. The kid goat evidently jumped and ran which caused the prey drive to emerge. Did he mean to kill it; who knows? He certainly meant to catch it.
Bottom line-this male is not trusted around chickens or kid goats unless his owner is present, and at those times he is manageable off-lead. I think there are just some strong genetic instints that are difficult to suppress 100% of the time with many dogs.
"Training Dogs" by Colonel Konrad Most, goes into some detail on this (pg.30). Basically, in involves setting up a scenario with the dog, and chicken in proximity, and applying correction when the dog shows any intrest in the chicken. Enough unpleasant association with the chicken will take out the "Chicken" drive ;) Similar training is useful with cats. True learning is accomplished in the "here and now", so they can redirect this behavior if it's recreated for them in a situation that you can fully control and instantly apply proper correction. Since what the dog's experience of the chicken is, association by smell, sound and motion, this wouldn't fix for cats since they smell, sound and move differently. The "context" is what matters, for how the dog, not the human, "senses" the situation.
The old fashion way is still the best.
Fasten a heavy live chicken to the collar of the dog. After he has carried it around and had it flapping in his face for four hours he will not WANT to look after a chicken.
Cruel maybe but it has worked for many a farm dog.
My dogs actually go into my chicken house with me while I collect eggs, they sniff the chickens, but do not try to hurt them. I first took them around the chickens on a short leash and made corrections when they seemed to want to go after the chicken. As time went by the leash got longer and longer, then eventually no leash at all. I normally am in my yard with my dogs when the chickens are loose. When the chickens run the dogs will chase them. All I have to do is tell the dog to stop and it does. The dog needs to have excellent obedience skills so it will stop on a dime when you tell it to. Still, I normally do not let my dogs out without keeping an eye on them, except when they are in their fenced in part of the yard.
My dogs will let my cat, chickens, rabbit etc come up to them and not harm them, but they will chase them if they run. I think they are just playing, but a big dog chasing and playing with a small animal can be tragic. Accidents happen no matter how good the dog is. Point is why leave the dog out with these small animals? Even though German Shepherds are herders sheep are normally more the size of the dog and cannot accidently be stepped on and killed.
Use some common sense when dealing with such matters and make sure the dog has an excellent foundation of obedience training.
Sort of along the lines of what darylehret said....
Get an electronic collar.
Let the correction come from the chicken...as far as the dog can figure. I have seen this work with a number of "prey" animals, without killing the prey drive in the dog.
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