letter July 22, 1999

HI Sandra - just wanted to give you an update on Jake - he's doing wonderfully!! He has started to try to herd the goats and chickens, and last night the neighbors cows got into our field....poor Jake wanted to help in the worst way! He would run out to them, and then, when they got a little to close, run back to the fence and just sit and watch, very quietly, not all goofy and hysterical. Sort of like he was thinking hard about what to do. The children (actually everyone) adore him, and he is very, very well socialized to people!

He is a very mellow (but not too mellow) puppy - which is a pleasant change for us as our other dog, Digby, who is a dear, is on the hyper side. Jake likes to watch me milk the goat and he barks when she comes off her stand - then he 'helps' put her back in the stall!

Question - He has a tendency to use his teeth on the back legs of the goats - was wondering if this is 'acceptable' herding behavior? He doesn't seem too rough, but I didn't know if it was OK for him to do this.

He is at my feet right now chewing on his toy...is getting tall, probably weighs close to 12 pounds. Has your other collie whelped (sp?) yet?

I attached a photo of Jake and my daughter MArike - hope it comes through...

Hi Elaine - thanks for asking first - it'd be fine if the list would like to see the photo....he is such a sweetie!! Today he was the one who managed to get the chicken back in - not my older dog!! He is just wonderful!!



Saturday, Nov. 13 1999 Have a question for the list - we have a confirmed chiken killer I'm afraid. Yes, Jake has discovered the wonderful excitement of chasing and then murdering our hens....ugh. Have caught him at it both in the chicken pen (a large enclosure) and outside the pen when the birds are free ranging....have yelled, screamed, etc. all to no avail...our other dog does not participate, but doesn't stop him, either. How about electric collars???? We are getting desperate, and I can't leave him outside alone anymore for fear he'll do it again (been 7 or so birds ...) We were going to get some Indian Runner ducks for him to learn herding with, but haven't yet, and now I don't know if i should.

Any ideas?



Sandra replied:

In our experience, any dog with herding ability is going to be tempted by poultry at one point or another (some might say any dog, period, herding ability or not!). The key is usually to catch it at the beginning before it becomes a habit. We have rehabilitated a chicken killer after one or two kills, but 7? We did have one older dog that could not be broken, no matter what. It seems like a pup ought to be able to be re-trained, though.

This might not be a very popular opinion, but I don't think that yelling at him is going to accomplish much. The only thing that has ever worked for us is STRONG physical correction. It needs to be strong enough that you shouldn't have to do it more than once or twice. I guess I have always felt that it is kinder in the long run to do whatever is needed to break a habit that will eventually lead to the exile of the dog if it is not curbed.

What I have done is not ever allow them to chase the chickens at all or even move them until they are trustworthy. If he is already confirmed in this habit, a shock collar might do more good than anything else. His father has responded to one very well in other contexts (never used it on his mother or sister, but I can imagine that it would be even more effective on them).

As for herding training, if he is killing poultry, I wouldn't train him on ducks. He's obviously already gotten beyond ducks in his confidence. Sounds like he needs sheep! If you have a trainer nearby, you might discuss with him ways of toning Jake down so that he is more controlled in his handling of the livestock. With an eager youngster, things can get out of hand quickly if you don't stay on your toes for awhile. With our dogs, the crucial time was between 3 or 4 months and about a year. After that, we could relax.


Linda replied:


Re: herding training, a lot of links and info. can be found on my website. The best way to approach herding training is to find a local trainer (as it is as much or more the human that needs the training!). But in general, the steps are: first, basic obeience (down, sit, come) away from stock. Really, really reliable downs/sits/comes, under distraction, and at distances. Then start the training with calm, cooperative sheep. A young dog put on flighty sheep will be overstimulated and learn that chasing is a whole lot of fun.

I've started a number of dogs on ducks but much prefer cooperative sheep as ducks generally are never as cooperative as sheep, making them excellent for intermediate level dogs learning more sophisticated maneuvers, but harder for beginning dogs, which often tend to be too boisterous for them. I have, however, worked a confirmed poultry killer on ducks (not my dog, a friend's) who worked just fine, because I was right there and he knew he had better behave. In the same way, some herding dogs cannot be trusted unsupervised around sheep. After Jacob is well started and working smoothly, you might try ducks (as he could then learn that poultry is for herding not for killing), but it will simply depend on the individual dog whether he could work poultry safely under supervision or not. Since I expect you aren't going to be focused on trials, but more on general farm work, it may be better in your case to have him simply have an aversion for all poultry. It's great to have a dog that can work all kinds of stock, and it may be possible for him to work poultry under command even after training to leave the chickens alone, but it also is often the case that some dogs just can't resist temptations. I agree with Sandra's advice with regard to that.

Good luck!

Linda R.
Pacifica, CA
Herding on the Web:


Amy replied:

Hi Carol,

> As for herding training, if he is killing poultry, I wouldn't train him on > ducks.

Jake is a littermate of Judah. They are only 6 mo old which alot of dog trainers will tell you is too young to start training. They are just puppies and as Sandra said harder to control. I've always followed the advice to wait to train until they are 18mo to 2 yrs. The thinking is that by that time they have settled down and have a longer attention span. It's seemed to work with the dogs I've had. This doesn't mean you don't do anything with your young dog. This time can be used to develope a good bonding relationship with a strong foundation in basic obedience. You should have a good reliable recall on your dog as well as the ability to stop him from a distance with a command ("lie down" or some such ). Most trainers will also tell you that whenever you do decide to start exposing your dog to stock in a training situation that you need to keep working them regularly. If I'm going to commit to spending 3 or so days a week, at least, training I want it to be as profitable as possible, with a dog that is ready emotionally. One last thought. If you decide to go ahead and start a formal training program with Jake, make sure to keep it very upbeat and positive. Pups especially need this as their confidence level may not be as high as the older dog and you wouldn't want to turn them off of work by demanding too much. Just some thoughts. Hope maybe there is some info here you can use.



Wed, Nov 17, Carol wrote:

HI again everybody - can' tell you all how thankful I am to be on this list!! It's wonderful to read everyone's thoughts on farm dogs and chickens. I tried Sandra's idea - let Jake in the chicken yard and hide in the barn - when he started to go after them I ran out (that was fun trying to catch him !!) and lit into him with a switch _ should have worn gloves though as he was beside himself and trying to use his teeth... Anyhow, I was very liberal with praise and did some fun obedience work after that, and he was, oddly I thought, MUCH more responsive to commands. Well I set him up again and he did nothing....caught him glancing at them sideways but then, just as quickly, he looked back at the barn (I was hiding again) and just decided to lay downin front of the barn. HE so wants to please!!

Well yesterday the kids let him out without his leash on - I saw him from the window run right past the geese and pick up an old stick and toss it around...then he took off and I ran to the door as I was sure he was after chicken....but nope, was just an old kid's toy he was playing with... I called him in after that as I didn't want to push my luck! But I am very pleased so far...will keep working with him.

I think, in 20/20 hindsight, that I made the first mistake letting Jake chase the geese - Digby, our other, older dog (a retriever cross) chases bothth e geese and the chickens, but never hurts them - in fact I use Digby to catch the loose chickens - he chases them into a corner and then gently holds them with his mouth or a paw - he has never once tried to kill one....well I let Jake follow Digby's lead, and Jake tries, I think, to play with them once he catches them - when I find dead chickens they are never bloody or half eaten - most seem to die from shock, or perhaps broken necks, or internal injuries...

I agree it must be a fine line farm dog 'owners walk - you don't want to instill a fear of the poultry in them, or the feeling that herding them is wrong, and yet, they can't just chase them around pell mell, either...

We'll keep working with Jake (any idea what to do with smelly gas??? :) ...other than the chicken problems he's a good boy. we're going to spend the winter doing some obedience work at a local dog trainers - nothing too intense - mostly to create a strong bond between us and set up the foundation for good herding work later on. Many thanks again to everyone for all the wonderful suggestions!!


HI Sandra - here's another one -they were taken about two months ago. He has filled out quite a bit since then. He's quite a handsome boy, isn't he!! :) Jake had ONE prick ear for the longest time (boy did he look kinda silly) but they are now both folded over at the tip.
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