You’ve seen it on some TV programmes or driven past small-holdings and seen canines and chooks living in harmony. Maybe they are a working dog? Maybe they are a family dog? How do they do it? We have put together 7 expert tips to help you introduce your new dog to a flock of chickens.
Understand How Dogs and Animals Learn
Our canine companions, on the whole, are super intelligent and trainable, providing we know how they learn and what we need to do to train them. Introducing them to our chooks can be done and co-habiting harmony does exist. It’s through this small thing we call desensitization. Stay with us for a short Psych 101 and we promise it’ll be worth it.
Desensitization is a process where, through graded exposure, an emotional response is diminished and adapted to a specific stimulus.
Now, what the heck does that mean I hear you yell?
In short, you expose your dog to your chooks, from a distance. As he behaves how you expect him to, you gradually move him closer to the chooks. You eventually get to the stage, that through the gradual exposure, he’s not that interested in the chooks after all. His emotional response has diminished, and he has adapted which results in a calm response.
Start with your chooks in their coop or a fenced in area. Keep your dog on leash and feed him treats, providing he is ignoring the chooks. If he is paying too much attention to them, move to a greater distance. The aim is to find a distance where he is not having any emotional response towards them.
Grade the Exposure
Providing your dog is ignoring the chooks at a certain distance, you can move gradually closer to them. Say you start at 50 feet away, slowly reduce to 45 feet, 40 feet and so on. Continue to praise and reward him for ignoring them. Remember, you want his emotional response to diminish. Keep training sessions short, you don’t want to over tire your dog. Some dogs get hyper-aroused just by being over-tired.
The Big Moment!
You’ve finally made it to near the chicken coop or fence, providing he is still pretty chilled out in ignorance of the chooks, ask him to sit next to the fence or coop. Praise and reward. If he behaves how you expect him to, lengthen the leash, so he can move around the border of the coop or fence, he can sniff and explore. If he’s calm, the chooks may even come over to investigate. Stay calm. If he starts getting excited or lunges/barks at them, remove him to a safe distance where he will ignore them again. You may need to do this a few times. What he learns is that to be around the chooks, I must stay calm. If your chooks will stay in a coop or fenced area, this may be where you spend the time repeating the behaviour and praising and rewarding. You may sit with him with a chew or just work on some commands. Again, the aim is to encourage him to ignore the chooks.
If you plan on having free range chickens, and canine and chooks will be mingling daily, read on.
The Great Escape
When you feel confident that your dog has so far, happily ignored the chooks and not shown any aggression or heightened arousal towards them, you can let them out of their coop/area to roam freely. Keep your dog on his leash. Ask him to sit or lay down if this makes you feel more comfortable. As the chooks are roaming, providing your dog shows little interest, praise and reward him. Again, you may want to give him a chew or even a slow feeding puzzle game. He just needs to learn than he can co-exist with the chickens without interacting with them a great deal.
Patience Is A Virtue
You may have to spend a significant amount of time working through these steps, but done in the right way, it will be worth it. Whilst on leash you can walk him through the chooks, he may sniff, they may also show interest too. The only behaviour you don’t want to see is aggression, lunging or chasing. If this happens, go straight back to beginning and work on the gradual exposure again.
The most nerve-wracking part will likely be when you feel he is ready to be let off leash to mingle on his own. Again, take your time. You may pop the chickens back in the coop and let him explore off leash around a fence. You may prefer to put him on a long line (50ft) when in with the free-range chooks. This way, he feels like he has more freedom, but you still have control if it goes pear shaped. Be realistic though, some dogs just never quite make it to being able to mingle unsupervised with chooks, so watch the behaviour of your dog and make the call.
Chooks to dogs are super-interesting, like most things. The long and the short of it, successful introductions mean the chooks are no longer that interesting and your dog learns that to be around them he simply just needs to be calm. Arm yourself with some high value treats, chews and any other slow feeder puzzles; start from a distance and encourage the behaviour you want to see. Praise and reward when you do. Grade the exposure. Always stay calm and in control and don’t be afraid of going back to square one if things don’t go as you’d hoped. It may take time, but it will be worth it when you have canine and chooks living in harmony.
This post was written by John Wood at All Things Dogs.
This entry was posted in Dogs
What is a clicker?
A clicker is a little box with a button that gives a “click” sounds once pressed, In the ‘50s it was mainly used as a training device for dolphins and cetacean, but it quickly became extremely popular among dog trainers.
Why use a clicker instead of just voice commands?
Using only voice commands to train your dog can be quite challenging and confusing. The same word can be pronounced with different intonations and used in different contexts, while a clicker always produces the exact same sound, giving you the opportunity to train your dog in an efficient and straightforward way.
- Arm yourself with patience
- Choose a suitable training place, without many distractions for your dog
- Start the training when your dog is still hungry, otherwise the treats won’t be much of an incentive
- Make sure your dog has already peed so you can have its full attention
Step 1: positive reinforcement (clicker, treat)
The clicker wants to be a training device based on positive reinforcement. With clicker training you want to encourage and reinforce a particular positive behaviour rather than punish your dog’s “bad” actions. As a first step, you will need to teach your dog to associate the sound of the clicker to a prize. Click the device and immediately offer a treat to your dog. Repeat the action for around 10 times then take a break. Repeat this at various times during the day and in different places so that your dog will associate the clicking sound to the receipt of a treat, regardless of the location.
Remember that the “click” sounds becomes a promise, so if you click the device by mistake you’ll still need to treat your dog.
Step 2: teaching the action (command, action, clicker, treat)
Once your dog learns that for every “click” sounds he gets a treat you can start the proper training. For instance, if you want to teach your dog the command “sit” you will need to command the action with a specific word and gesture of your choice (and that will always stay the same). As soon as your dog sit, immediately press the clicker and give him a treat. Repeat the cycle “command-action-clicker-treat” until your dog has learnt it.
If you’re not confident or not sure you can train your dog with a clicker, do contact a professional dog trainer.
Immagini prese da The Company of Animals UK
This entry was posted in Dogs
In August the Danish Bulldog Club hosted a bulldog show in Denmark, where Omlet sponsored prizes for the ‘Most Beautiful Head’ category! We had a chat with the organisers to learn a bit more about the bulldog and find out why they focus so much on promoting the healthy bulldog.
Why is there a focus on promoting health in bulldogs at this show?
We focus on promoting bulldog health at all our shows and the reason why we have so much focus precisely on health is that many bulldogs (many different varieties) unfortunately have become more and more at risk of illness.
We believe it’s important to show the healthy dog that can breathe, move freely, is not bothered by allergies etc.
What are the signs of a healthy bulldog? And what are the most common health problems in bulldogs?
A healthy bulldog can move around freely. Meaning it is not physically limited. Open nostrils that do not create breathing problems, and it’s important that they are not overweight since this can put pressure on their hips etc.
The most common health problems are skin problems, hip/elbow dysplasia, breathing problems/narrow nostrils.
For those interested in getting a bulldog, what can they do to ensure they buy a healthy one? And how can you help your bulldog stay healthy if you already have one?
When buying a bulldog, the best way you can make sure it’s healthy is by seeing documentation for the parents such as x-rays of the hips, elbows, back etc. If possible, it is best to met both parents, but at least you need to see the mother.
Likewise, it’s important that you familiarise yourself with the breed and for instance go to a show where you can see and meet different dogs and breeders.
When you have your bulldog, the best thing you can do is to keep it slender/muscular and in good shape. Make sure it gets the right amount of exercise, food and lots of love. Remember that the bulldog is not just a sofadog. A bulldog needs exercise and stimulation just like other breeds.
What is the best thing about bulldogs compared to other dog breeds?
The bulldog is a very versatile breed which is suitable for everything from family dog to a hardworking training buddy.
The dogs enormous personality makes it a fun and loving member of the family and its muscular body og strong determination makes it the ultimate training partner for everything from obedience to weightpull.
Generally, the bulldog easily adapts to the individual family’s needs.
How many different varieties of bulldog are there and do you host shows for all of them in DBC?
There are: English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Old English Bulldog, Leavitt Bulldog, Renascence Bulldog, Continental Bulldog, American Bulldog etc.
However, in Denmark the American Bulldog is illegal.
So far, we only host shows for the OEB and Leavitt Bulldogs.
What might people not know about bulldogs?
They are super charming and very stubborn but they bring out smiles and laughs every single day.
***Winners of the ‘Most Beautiful Head’ category – sponsored by Omlet***
This entry was posted in Dogs