> <<I've heard you can't break an egg
> suckin' dog, but is it possible to break a duck killin' one? Any advice
> besides get rid of him?>>
Just a few comments/questions to add to the helpful hints so far.
sorry to hear J.J. is killing your ducks.
First off, just for the record this is a pretty natural sequence of
events if a young rowdy dog is permitted access to loose, runnign easily
killed birds--a big no-no which I'm sure you know now and don't need me
to tell you. It doesn't mean there is anythign wrong with J.J.; most
young dogs are natural born killers of poultry, they may not bite down
hard enough to kill them right off but they find the fluttery birds very
exciting and can't resist chasing and the birds are fairly easy to grab
and delicate enough to be easily killed even if the dog doesn't bite
down hard. Once dead the dog usually has a lot of fun throwing the bird
around and eventually discovers the feathery package contains meat which
is yummy, much better than dry dog food. J.J.'s behavior is pretty
natural dog behavior--they are predators--and doesn't mean he is
abnormal, immoral or a murderer. But as he has killed more than one now
it may mean he has learned how to kill and has this as a goal (not just
the chase part); if this is the case you have a much harder problem than
you would have if he is still at the chasing/grabbing stage and still
killing by accident rather than intent (which the young domestic dogs
seem to do for a while at first).
AT this point you probably need to clarify your expectations of J.J.
Do you expect him to be lose around ducks and not bother them even if
you are not present?
Do you want him to learn to herd the ducks and leave them alone as long
as you are around, but will not expect hime to leave them alone if you
aren't present (and will pen the ducks then)?
These things have different implications for training, I believe. As
Sandra mentioned, some methods that could possibly work to get J.J. not
to touch ducks, might make him not want to herd them, either. Plus, it
is sometimes easy to get a dog not to go near some object of interest in
your presence but a different matter to teach him not to go near that
same object when you are away.
The first, most common mistake would be to punish J.J. to long after he
has chased/killed a duck, when you find that he has a dead duck in his
mouth. To punish even a moment after the duck chase is ended makes a
huge difference in whether the dog will make the connection between the
crime and the punishment, or not. If you didn't even see J.J. kill the
duck, but just find him with the dead duck, it could only do harm (I
think) to punish him because he will not be capable of associating the
punishment with the action of chasing and killing the duck. He will only
associate the punishment with you, and possibly "having hold of the duck
in your presence"--so he might learn to either drop the duck when he
sees you or he might learn to run away from you so he can eat it in
peace. Neither of these is effective in preventing him from the initial
action of chasing and killing--so it is not (I think) adviseable to
punish him if you find him with a dead duck after the action is over.
John Holmes writes an excellent summary of this in regard to the attempt
to teach a dog not to chase rabbits. _The Farmer's Dog_ by Holmes is one
of the best training books I've ever read, for any sort of training, not
just specific herding. He emphasizes that in dog training timing is
everything and if the timing is wrong, punishment will be likely to
teach the dog something other than what you intended to teach. Lots of
people teach their dogs not to come to the command "come", because they
punish the dog for not initially coming, but do so after the dog finally
Even if you catch J.J. in the act, he might learn to leave the birds
alone only in your presence, and wait til you are gone to kill them.
This does not mean he is being sneaky, it just means he only learned not
to kill them in your presence. Unless somehow you can teach him either
(a) that these birds are always hazardous to his health whether you are
present or not, or (b) get him to really care about the welfare of the
birds somehow so he wants to protect them instead of killing them (not
sure this is something for training alone, may rely heavily on tapping
into some instincts he already has or doesn't have).
>Having already taught him the command "GENTLE!" when he got too rough with the stock, I
> just persisted with that command whenever he started to get rough. He got
> the idea within about three days.
This is just what our family has always done with dogs and poultry. We
had tame poultry that could be held while the dog snuffled it. It is
important to set it up so the dog can be "successful" and get used to
doing what you want it to do, and be praised for that. If the poultry is
really wild and struggling in your hands, the dog might not be able to
keep calm and won't experience success, so not really learning
self-control/gentleness, effect might be more like teasing the dog. What
we did was if the dog was just gently smelling (pretty excited at first
but not grabbing) it would be praised and repeatedly told "be nice" or
"gentle" in a calm and slow voice. If the dog attempted to mouth, it was
told a sharp loud "no, bad" and the interesting bird taken away for a
moment. Then reintroduced with the soft, calm "be nice". smelling the
bird up close, for these dogs, was apparently rewarding enough that they
learned this quickly. They seemed to also learn that these birds were
"ours" and they were only permitted to get this close when we said so.
Also, with the young pup or dog on leash at first, we could take the dog
around the yard and if the dog rushed the poultry, it could be corrected
at the same time preventing harm to the birds. The dogs we had soon
learned not to do any sudden moves towards poultry, leach corrections
only and just a regular collar, not a choke (but these were not very
keen dogs anyways and perhaps a choke or prong would be more effective
in the case of dogs very keen to rush and grab--I dunno, a real trainer
would know). They then would eventually be trusted to trot around the
yard loose with the birds, and make circles around the birds to avoid
scaring them. And none of our dogs ever became poultry killers--but they
all had the potential, I'm sure.
We never had any serious need to have the dogs herd the poultry, and I
know nothing about real herding, so I don't know whether these
techniques would be discouraging to the beginning herding dog. But I do
remember having one dog help us gather up chickens sometimes and the
fact that she knew not to scare them seemed to really increase her
helpfulness--she would approach them slowly and they would move away (in
the direction we wanted) without panicking and scattering.
John Holmes says two of his BC bitches would, on command, capture an
individual chicken or duck in her mouth without harming it. But he says
that many/most could not do this because it is difficult or impossible
to teach a dog how hard/gently to bite down. Some dogs in same breed
will have softer bites than others.
For this reason it is really interesting to me that Sandra's Jacob
grabbed the guineas but did not bite hard enough to harm them. I want to
call this a soft mouth and find it very desireable for my own situation.
(But then they may have a harder time learning to bite hard on the rats,
another thing I'm not sure of).
> They advised "hot wiring" a dead chicken (in your case, duck)
> and placing it in plain sight.
This method is described in Koehler's book on dog training, only the
"prey" animal was alive. It seems to me (theoretically) to wire a dead
animal would teach the dog not to touch a dead animal, which would be
really useful if there are dead animals around (like if you knew
somebody in the area uses poison) but not so effective to prevent the
dog from chasing and biting a live, fluttery exciting running flapping
I remember specifically that in Koehler's book the "prey" animal is
alive, but I will have to look it up to see how he manages not to
electrocute the poor thing. Doesn't seem a very nice thing to do either
to the "prey" or the dog but IF it really could be done safely with no
risk of electrocuting either the prey or the dog or any humans I
personally would not rule it out (but I might hire an electrician and a
veterinarian to work together to get it absolutely right). Perhaps a
wolf or coyote would figure out that not all the ducks are always
wired--but being hungry they would have more reason to keep trying.
Hopefully the dogs are not so keen.
> Tying one of their kills around their neck
> in a way they cannot rid themselves of it for 3 or 4 days is also a tried
> and true method, particularly in hot weather.
I never understood why this is supposed to work. Some people say it did
work for them, some say it didn't. None of the poultry people I've
talked to put any faith in it. I have never known a dog to dislike the
smell of a rotting animal, mine always seek out the dead ones and want
to roll in them, the yuckier smelling the better, so it seems like the
rotton bird being there isn't more unpleasant to the dog than having a
ball or any non-rotting object tied to its neck. Some trainer (Koehler
maybe?) said that when the dead-bird-tied-to-neck works it is because
somehow it happened in such a way that the dog was able to make the
association between the action of killing the bird, and subsequently
being shunned by his humans. Nobody wants to pet or even get near a dog
with a rotten bird tied to it. But if the dog doesn't make that
connection between his chase/kill and the subsequent shunning by humans,
seems to me the method would be completely ineffective because the dog
has no idea why the people are shunning it.
Sandra said: > It seems like the first step might be to get complete
"stop" control of the
> dog first. If you can drop him every time he gets in too close, he may
> start to get the idea, unless he is really a confirmed killer.
This seems really important, and probably separate from the "gentling"
exercises. Our dogs learn to be gentle with cats up close but will still
chase them so these are not taken care of with one fell swoop. it seems
to take separate lessons for them to learn to stop during a cat chase.
Especially if the dog already has killed, as J.J. has, he may be able to
learn self control up close to a calm bird but lose control and bite a
bird he is chasing. But both seem very very useful things to teach, both
the gentling and the stop-during-chase.
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