I have a Blue Healer / German Shepherd mix. She is about 6 months old. Just recently she has started attacking the chickens in my flock. I can't tell if she is being playful or intending to hurt them. I think this all started because I threw some old chicken parts into the compost after processing and she got into the compost. Has she now made the connection? Her purpose is to supervise the chickens. How do I train her and discipline her to not hurt the birds?
She is extremely sweet and friendly to people and we try to give her lots of love and attention when the chickens are put away.
Both heelers and German shepherds are actually herding dog breeds, not livestock guardian breeds. They have a much higher prey drive than true livestock guardian dog breeds, which were developed for low prey drive and high nurturing behaviors. Even with a livestock guardian pup, it is not advisable to leave them unsupervised with poultry or stock until they are much older and responsible. A 6 month old pup is like a child and it is easy for play behaviors to escalate into chasing and other prey behaviors. Eating dead poultry does not lead to chasing and attacking live poultry. It is pretty much play and play is fun and self-rewarding. I would not leave them alone at all. The best course of action is to confine your pup in a pen next to the poultry and only allow contact when you are supervising. The easiest and best solution would be to have your dog patrol around the poultry enclosure and not in it. I'd give her lots of time and prevent any more chasing or worse accidents. She can be a good farm dog outside the enclosure. If the poultry is free-ranging, you will probably have to build an safe enclosure for her.
Since your dog is a herding other than livestock guardian dog, she may never truly be reliable with poultry and I wouldn't risk it until she is much older and you have been able to determine if she is going to be reliable. Guarding poultry is the most difficult task we ask of dogs since their flighty behavior can be exciting for dogs. Even livestock guard dogs were developed to protect stock not poultry.
posted 5 years ago
Thanks for the quick reply. If I were to get a second dog that were more geared to protecting poultry and eventually livestock would that help calm the existing dog down? What is a general rule of thumb for introducing the existing dog full time to the flock? What breed of dog would work well for protecting poultry?
posted 5 years ago
My advice? Keep the existing dog as a good general farm dog. Another dog probably won't calm her down and her bad habits may encourage the new pup to do the same. It's not advisable to keep an LGD and another non-LGD together for that and other reasons.
Most LGD breeds can learn to guard poultry but it's a the hardest thing we ask them to do. They were developed to guard sheep and goats and other stock not poultry. I will post a link to an article I wrote that includes info about LGDs and poultry.
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