- Dogs should never, ever, ever, be unsupervised around livestock. I know, this may not be what you expected to be at the top of the list. The fact of the matter is dogs have those big sharp teeth for a reason, they are predators. Cows, goats, chickens, sheep, rabbits, etc., are all prey to them. There are some exceptions to this rule; mature, well trained dogs, and livestock guardians for example. Even a dog you would normally think would be no threat, like a 6 pound chihuahua, is a threat unsupervised.
- Dogs have instincts. Yes, Fifi is a sweet, adorable little fluff ball. No arguments there. And although you think Fifi would never hurt a fly, she would. Whether you want to accept it or not, dogs see, smell, and hear different things that incite their predatory instincts. A running chicken or goat, is no longer a pack member...it is something wounded, in distress, and ready to be hunted. Also realize once a dog has set its sites or shifted into a more instinctual state, it probably won’t listen to you.
- Training is essential. It is so important to have a well trained dog. A dog should know it’s rules and limits, and when given a command should follow it. Training is an amazing way to bond with your dog, and lets them know you are in charge. The top four commands, in my opinion, would be, stop/no/leave it, heel, come, and be gentle. (Be gentle is one I use for our dogs when around baby chicks, or other delicate things!) If you have a young puppy that is constantly in a state of motion while you are doing chores, I would suggest using a leash and attaching it to your jeans/pants. That way the dog must stay close to you and can’t slip off and get into trouble.
- Exercise makes a dog happy. If you plan to introduce your dogs to a new critter, exercise is your new best friend. Take your dog on a long walk, swimming, play fetch, get them tired. A tired dog has released all it’s extra tension and energy. It makes a huge difference in my dogs mood and behaviour.
- Be consistent. Just like having children, you should always be consistent with your dog. Make rules for them to follow and always reinforce those rules. When you have a puppy that chases chickens, it is not funny. The puppy may be clumsy now, but eventually it will be agile, and it will end up killing.
- Know your dogs body language. Body language is one of the only way a dog can communicate with you. It is crucial for you to know what your dog is feeling, and how he may react to a situation. If you can tell when you dog is getting over excited, you can remove him to keep any accidents from happening. The more you watch your dog, the easier this will be.
It wasn’t my dogs fault that she got the chicken, it was mine. I shouldn’t have put her in the situation where her instincts could be too much for her. Lesson learned. Chickens are hardy, and dogs will always be hunters.
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