When we started getting livestock, I was quite worried about how our dogs would take it. Duke, our oldest, is most likely a lab/chow mix. He does not like other dogs, strange people, busses, bicycles, or motorcycles. He had an incident as a puppy that really changed how he handled certain situations. Dutchess is also a lab mix and an impressive hunter. She has killed groundhogs that were almost as big as she was. I have read horror stories of dogs being around both chickens and goats, so to say I was hesitant would be an understatement. We brought 10 chicks home to a brooder situated in our living room. The dogs were highly amused, and watched it almost constantly for the first few days. I would take the chicks out and hold them safely in my hands and show the dogs. Duke always smelled them and was highly interested but didn’t seem dangerous, Dutchess tried to eat them. I wasn’t terribly surprised, they were dogs after all. It was partially because of the dogs that we created and kept the chickens in a hoop coop. They could free range fresh grass, but the dogs wouldn’t hurt them. As of today my dogs can be around the chickens with almost no worries. The same goes for being around the goats. I thought I would share a few tips and ideas today on how I keep the peace between our dogs and livestock.
I would say these are my top 6 tips for keeping dogs and livestock together. I am a firm believer that when you get an animal you are bonded and committed to it for the duration of its life. That means if it is being difficult, or causing problems on the farm, it is your responsibility to set boundaries and train your dog. There are always exceptions, and I understand that. Often times people are too lazy to put the work required into the dog, and label the dog difficult. If you truly have a high-energy dog, who is proving to be difficult to train, I do have one last suggestion. A shock collar. Now, before you enlist PETA, I do not mean for you to electrocute your dog! If a dog gets a small shock every time it goes after chickens, it’s going to start thinking those chickens are what is causing the shock. I do believe this to be a last ditch effort, however, and would always suggest trying positive reinforcement and other methods before trying a shock collar.
Now that I have said all of this, let me tell you a story. My dogs are excellent with our livestock. We do chores every day, the dogs wander through the chicken flock, and try to eat grain with the goats. About a year and a half ago we had a very difficult rooster. He was a large barred rock, and although we were working on keeping him from attacking people, he still would on occasion. Not long after we started free ranging, I opened up their coop to let them out. I turned around to go back to the house, when all of a sudden something sharp hit the back of my legs. It was the rooster. As I turned and realized it was him, Dutchess grabbed him and killed him. She has never bothered hens, only that rooster. Generally all is calm. Sunday morning the ground was covered with slushy snow. Although I figured the chickens would not go out, I left their coop open so they could go out if they wanted. When I went to lock them up, two chickens were missing. They were down with the goats. It had started snowing, and there was snow blowing everywhere and it was getting colder by the minute. We did the goat chores quickly, and tried to wrangle up the two chickens to take back to the coop. My husband caught one chicken, and I almost had the other. Once I got my hands on her, she started squawking and flapping. She wriggled out of my grasp. Dutchess, thinking there was danger, her instincts took over and she grabbed that hen and ran. Black feathers were fluttering everywhere, and my husband took off after her. He was yelling, and I was yelling. We looked like idiots. Dutchess wouldn’t let go because it was “hers” she had caught it, and she thought we were playing. By the time she let go, a very confused, dazed chicken wandered off. We looked in earnest for her, but with the cold and blowing snow, couldn’t find her. The low temperature was going to be 5 degrees, so I assumed we would lose her. Imagine my surprise when I saw her the next morning, fit as a fiddle.
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.
Homestead Blog Hop
The HomeAcre Hop
Old Fashioned Friday
Front Porch Friday
From the Farm Hop
My name is Monica, I'm passionate about farming, food, and the humane treatment of livestock.