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An age-old problem with a twist: my dog chases chickens...in an African village

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  • An age-old problem with a twist: my dog chases chickens...in an African village

    I'm serving in the Peace Corps in a small sub-Saharan African country right now, and I share my life with an 8-month-old pariah mutt -- or Ridgeback mix, if we're really feeling fancy. In a culture where dogs are usually beaten and viewed as borderline verminous, Chalo is the most popular creature in the village, my best friend in this country, the thing that keeps me sane, and in general an absolute delight. There's just one problem: he has discovered the joy of the chase. And chickens are his favored prey. And in a rural African village, chickens are everywhere and they are people's livelihood. A dog who chases chickens -- even the dog of the local white lady, who is usually given a lot of affectionate leeway -- isn't going to be tolerated for long. For his own safety and for the sake of my work, I need to stop this now.

    The good news:
    - Chalo comes obediently about 95% of the time. I can usually call him off even in the throes of the chase.
    - Knock on wood, he doesn't catch to kill. Every time I've caught him with a chicken, it has been the same scene: he just pins a hen to the ground and plucks her back feathers out. Nothing else. Like he regards it as a toy. The hen doesn't love the experience, obviously, but she comes out of it alive.
    - He doesn't chase EVERY chicken he sees. In fact, he shares a yard with my own hens, who he generally ignores. But at least once a day, the spirit catches him and he barrels after them.

    The bad news:
    - I've tried everything I can think of and I'm running out of ideas. I catch him in the act and tell him "no." I redirect his attention to a positive chaseable item like a toy. I take him for runs to drain him of energy. I practice the command "Leave it." At one point I threw a shoe at him mid-chase. But he still persists. It is such a self-rewarding behavior that, if he has the chance to chase, he takes it.
    - The chicken chasing is the most visible issue, but it is becoming a more generalized problem too -- to a lesser extent he has gone after motorcycles and oxcarts, and he cannot resist chasing his two cat-sisters (who I'm convinced are the root of the problem because they allow themselves to be caught and love the game as much as he does).

    The local dog training advice -- "throw rocks at his head" and "just keep him chained up at all times" -- are obviously not techniques that I'm willing to consider. I AM considering having a shock collar sent to me, but I've never used one before and I'd really rather treat that as a last resort.

    Any suggestions/ideas/words of wisdom?
    How have you rehabbed your chase-addicted dogs in the past?
    Is there hope...or do I need to just resign myself to the fact that this might just be a "manageable" behavior and never a "curable" one?

  • #2
    Can you keep him confined when he is not on a leash?
    What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


    • #3
      If you can't have a fence, then I agree with tying him out on a long clothesline or something. As long as he has shade and water, there's nothing inherently cruel about it as long as you take him for exercise walks.
      I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care. ~ Dave Barry


      • Original Poster

        Oh, I should have clarified: I do have a fence around my small yard, which is where he stays. Unfortunately the only shade is by the chicken coop, hence the constant temptation...which he sometimes ignores, and sometimes doesn't.


        • #5
          It's not that difficult. Unless you want a dead dog.


          • #6
            well, he needs a shade structure.

            and short of throwing rocks at him (I can't throw, so I'd be terrified to plonk a villager in the head, or kill the chicken...) I'd say embrace the idea of the shock collar. beats having a dead dog and mad village!


            • #7
              I'd leash him out of the yard. Tie him out when you are out doing chores. Build him a simple shelter in his yard.

              We have three farm dogs that share our yard with poultry. Two are bird dogs! One is a GSD with a high prey drive. I have used tie outs, leashes and a separate area to train them. Every chase has it's own rewards so you need to stop any chance he has to chase chickens. 5% is too much. I'd ask for toys to play with instead of a shock collar. Give him some vigorous exercise with a toy.

              How do you like the PC?
              “Pray, hope, and don't worry.”

              St. Padre Pio


              • #8
                Well, this won't be the popular option, but he needs to find out that chasing chickens is in fact not fun. Shock collar, leash, cable tie, fence him in. I imagine catching the chickens and ripping out feathers may in fact bruise the meat of the birds as well making for a no good carcass and wasted meat. Anyway, I agree with the others, it's tough love now or dead dog later. You are living in a country where people don't coddle nuisance behaviors, they get rid of them.
                I LOVE my Chickens!


                • #9
                  I don't know how to stop your dog from chasing the chickens, but a friend who's an RPCV had a 4-legged friend wreaking a similar kind of havoc in his village in Kyrgyzstan. One day he came home and there was no more puppy. I think that was when he started to lose it there, so I hope you find a resolution soon - even if it's not perfect, it would certainly be better than losing him.


                  • #10
                    Plucking feathers can send a chicken into shock because it can tear the skin. That's why we use a scalder before we pluck our chickens when we dress them out. The muscles beneath can get infected.
                    “Pray, hope, and don't worry.”

                    St. Padre Pio


                    • #11
                      Some of you do not understand the challenges of living in an African village. Fair enough.

                      Leash? She obviously can't leash him when she's not at home, and she's already explained she doesn't want to tie him up. Also, that would make him a magnet for other dogs/people in the village. It is commonplace for dogs to run loose in African villages. I saw very very few chained/tied dogs during my time there - most ran loose. I never saw one on a leash.

                      I would try to create more shade as far away from the chicken coop as you possibly can.

                      Make sure he has a recall, and work up to using it on the chickens. It is possible - the ranch dogs all eventually learnt not to go after the chickens. It just takes time.

                      If he does get one make sure you appropriately reimburse whoever owns the chicken.

                      I know someone who uses a shock collar on her terrier for barking. Obviously not ideal, but now he knows what is coming most of the time she just puts it on him and he stops without even needing the shock or vibration. In your situation this may be the best solution.
                      "Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tides" - Garth Brooks
                      "With your permission, dear, I'll take my fences one at a time" - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey


                      • #12
                        no personal experience here, just thought about something I read while looking for specific dog tags..............it was on a hunting dog website...........hobbles, used while training field dogs so they cannot go off track too far, too fast...........
                        would something like this work for your dog??..........he could still move about, but I would imagine the chickens would have more than enough time to get away from him.........

                        hope there is a feasible solution


                        • #13
                          The shock collar will probably work...before you go to that could you try a water pistol? (Assuming H2O isn't in terribly short supply, and you can get your hands on one.)


                          • #14
                            In this situation, I would strongly consider the use of a shock collar if confinement when unsupervised (tying, etc.) is not an option. I spent some time in small East African villages that sound a bit similar and this kind of dog behavior there would have, without a doubt lead to a dead dog, very, very quickly.

                            In the US, you would likely have many more options for containing, restraining and training your dog over a longer period of time not to chase the chickens. In your current situation, you do not have those luxuries and "fixing" or "managing" this issue will likely become a life or death issue for your dog.

                            I'm not normally one to promote harsh or unpleasant training techniques, but from your OP, it sounds like your sweet dog needs to stop this behavior *now* in order to ensure his continued safety and "special" status within the village.


                            • #15
                              I think this is an issue you can train - but you've got to do it SOON and before he reinforces it further. I use an e-collar/training collar ("shock collar") and have with my last three dogs for training off-leash behavior. I want Fluffy to know that I have a go-go-gadget arm and can touch him anywhere, on-leash or off.

                              What I cannot stress is enough is that in order to stay away from the bad-things that have earned training collars a bad reputation you *have to use it correctly.* To me, that means a way of communication, not just punishment. The trainer with whom I work - and who also does professional dogs - does training via skype! Even if you only do a session or two it might make the entire process go much better if you got some professional help. http://www.shilohk9.com/training.htm


                              • #16
                                I also agree that in this situation a shock collar would be great to try. You said he isn't doing it all the time, so a few good zaps when he does do it should teach him pretty quickly that chasing chickens isn't as fun as he thought it was.

                                FWIW, I don't reinforce with a voice command when my ACD chases something he shouldn't be chasing, he just gets the zap. The reason being that I don't want him doing this behavior whether I'm around or not, I just want him to not do it. If i voice command, he basically learned that when I told him no, the zap followed; therefore, if I'm not around, he can get away with it.
                                "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


                                • #17
                                  Double post, oops!
                                  "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


                                  • #18
                                    Any city dog has to live a life of confinement.

                                    I'm sure you are aware of how valuable almost any possession is in some villages, especially all livestock. I would think that the villagers simply cannot understand a white person's attitude to their dogs. Pets are a luxury of the developed world. It is a mark of respect to see it their way.

                                    I was born/raised in Africa, and we tried to understand the sensibilities of living and working in a rural village, and I'm sure we often came up short.
                                    Hopefully, we could make it up with first aid, shelter, employment, clothing etc.
                                    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                                    • #19
                                      Sorry about the unhelpful post above -

                                      I was thinking about our greyhounds and they learned not to chase our family which included cats, a pidgeon, and the odd rabbit (IN our garden). It seems they included them in the family group.

                                      Can you purchase a few chickens for your own yard and let them hang out under supervision? You can then donate them back when you have no further use for them? They will need to be penned overnight, etc... sounds like work.

                                      She is just a pup yet, so sooner the better. I'm not a dog whisperer, I'm sure it can be done if you are diligent. Not sure what the BEST answer is.
                                      Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
                                        Can you purchase a few chickens for your own yard and let them hang out under supervision? You can then donate them back when you have no further use for them? They will need to be penned overnight, etc... sounds like work.
                                        OP said she has chickens.

                                        He doesn't chase EVERY chicken he sees. In fact, he shares a yard with my own hens, who he generally ignores. But at least once a day, the spirit catches him and he barrels after them.
                                        Tie him up, whether you think it's enlightened or not, or get a shock collar if throwing things at him isn't working. Otherwise he's going to disappear, either when a neighbor gets fed up and disappears him, or when he chases something like a cart or motorbike and gets run over.
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