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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Breeder,Behaviorist, formerVet Asst
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 19766
Experience:  Former vol Vet Assistant.Breeder 18+ years Dog trainer / behaviorist
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My blue heeler killed 5 of my chickens while I was gone on

Resolved Question:

My blue heeler killed 5 of my chickens while I was gone on Saturday. He has not done this before and has been around my chickens for 3 yrs. These were hand-raised, not hen-raised. My neighbor's dog killed in his presence last month. What can I do to train him not to kill my chickens? He showed no interest in killing them when i was present. thanks.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 5 years ago.
Hi Sir or Madam,

My name is Jane and I've been a professional answering questions concerning dog health and behavioral issues here since 2006. Over 13,000 of my answers have been accepted by customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you.


It sounds like this happened when you were not home.

Are you sure your dog did the actual killing?

Do your chickens have a roost where the dogs can not get to?

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Yes, I was gone for 4 hrs. came home and my dog was standing over a dead chicken, out of breath, and his nose was brown (I guess from burying the others). and he acted ashamed. Yes, the chickens do have a
roost they can get to, but the wind had blown it fixed. These were young chickens, about 6 weeks old. He had been watching me care for them for weeks, they spent the cold nights in the kitchen, days out in a covered pen. He is a jealous dog, jealous of the cat, other dogs, people. I wonder if he was
jealous of the time the chicks took.
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 5 years ago.
I don't think he was jealous. I think it was related more to prey drive. Blue heelers are breed to be a cattle dog and thus love to run and are high energy. A chick or chicken running along the ground would be a very strong lure. In addition, he may not have even meant to kill the chick but when to play with it and as I'm sure you know, chicks are very fragile.
The best thing you can do is make them an area where the dog is unable to get to them at all. Many people where I live use dog kennels for their chickens. Mine used to be free range until every dog in the neighborhood decided they were their snacks.
You can try and train him not to bother the chicks and chickens but it will be a difficult job and you will need to work with him several timesa day. I'm not positive you'll be able to do it totally either since it does involve prey drive but you can try.
You will need a chick or chicken that you can use to tempt him. You will have your dog on a leash. Take him near the chick and the minute he even looks at the chicken, you will give him a correction. A correction will be a quick short tug on the lead and a low toned firm "NO". It will probably take quite a few corrections until he pointedly ignores the chick. Once he does that, then give him a thin slice of hot dog as a treat. This provides negative reinforcement for even looking at the chicken and positive reinorcement for ignoring them. Practice at least 2-3 times a day for at least 15 minutes each time.
Once he seems to be ignoring the chicken consistently, then you might try putting a basket muzzle on him (to prevent him biting the chicken) and seeing how he does just trailing the leash. If he continues to ignore the chicken, reward, reward and reward him. If he doesn't, give a good correction. Repeat until he is never chasing or looking at them.
At this point he should be cured of chasing them, but you won't really know for sure unless he has the opportunity to see them off leash and doesn't hurt them and you really don't want to take a chance on him hurting one by trying to be sure. And of course, he might not hurt on one time and do so another, but with training at least there is a chance he'll leave them alone. All of my adults wer trained to ignore them when the dogs and chickens were in the yard together, but if a chicken flew into one of their kennels, that was too much of a lure for them. They wouldn't bite the chicken usually step on it.
All you can really do is to try the training, add some bells on your dog's collar to warn the birds that your dog is close and try to keep them contained as much as possible.
I hope this information has been helpful to you.
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