The Australian Shepherd, or Aussie for short, is an intelligent breed of dogs. The intelligence level of Aussies often makes people wonder whether they can do other things apart from hunting. One of such discussions that often come up is whether Australian Shepherds can protect other domesticated animals, such as chickens.
Australian Shepherds will probably not protect chickens from intruders because of their non-aggressive nature, but their watchdog qualities will make them bark loudly to alert owners to suspicious activity. Aussie’s make excellent watchdogs, but they are not as good as guard dogs.
The rest of the article will discuss:
- The qualities that make an excellent guard dog for chickens.
- The difference between a watchdog and a guard dog.
- How you can train Australian Shepherds to guard chickens.
Why Australian Shepherds Probably Will Not Protect Chickens
While it’s easy to see how intelligent Australian Shepherds are, we often can’t run away from the question of whether they can serve as livestock guards.
Australian shepherds have qualities that will make them protect your chickens if it comes down to it. However, they are not excellent livestock guard dogs because of their size and easy-going natures.
Aussies Are Herding Dogs
Aussies are herding dogs, born to work with humans and livestock, which means that they cannot be aggressive. This is a quality necessary in a guard dog. While the Australian shepherd will not physically engage with and fight off any intruder, it will alert its owners of any suspicious activity, making it a good watchdog.
They are sturdy, hardworking dogs that are intelligent and trainable.
Their herding nature gives them the instinct to chase prey, bark, nip, and bite to herd other animals, including your chickens. They will not intentionally harm your chickens, and you can teach them to herd and even protect your chickens.
Difference Between Watchdogs and Guard Dogs
Both guard dogs and watchdogs are protection dogs and can be security measures owners can use for safety. Let’s talk more about these differences.
What a Watchdog Does
A watchdog does not engage an intruder or a trespasser. Its only job is to alert the owner about a trespasser, usually through loud barking. A good watchdog should be able to discern what constitutes a threat and what isn’t.
Aussies are attentive and intuitive dogs, making them excellent watchdogs.
Although they may not engage intruders physically to defend your chickens, they will alert you to their presence by barking loudly. It is important not to confuse hyper-vigilance in dogs as watchfulness.
Aussies are watchdogs and would bark only at suspicious activity, while hyper-vigilant dogs will often bark and react to everything out of fear and lack proper socialization.
What a Guard Dog Does
A guard dog will also act as a watchdog, barking loudly to warn intruders and alert owners. However, it doesn’t stop at barking but takes it further by engaging and attacking the trespasser.
A good guard dog has an intimidating size and should differentiate between friend and foe. Aussies are friendly and do not have the aggressive nature that is important in a livestock guard dog. That is not to say that you cannot train Aussies to guard chickens.
Australian shepherds possess some of the qualities that make good guard dogs, such as calmness, intelligence, and obedience.
Qualities of a Good Guard Dog for Your Chickens
When it comes to chickens, you need a dog that will be tough on predators but gentle on your chickens. You want a dog that will stay with your chickens and not one that is prey-driven, often chasing prey and leaving your chickens unguarded.
Here is a list of qualities a guard dog for chickens should possess:
- The dog should have a low prey drive. Your dog should not roam off or chase down prey, leaving chickens unattended. Australian shepherds have a high prey drive and will chase game or anything that moves from them, such as cars.
- A good guard dog for chickens should be solid and fast. Foxes, coyotes, raccoons, hawks, or minks are poultry predators that are everywhere. To protect your chickens, you need an intimidating dog with a large size and muscular strength that can easily scare off any predators.
- The dog should be attentive and alert. Attentiveness in this sense means that the dog should be cautious and aware of impending threats from predators. Additionally, the dog should be able to discern what constitutes a threat and what doesn’t. Aussies shine in this regard because they are attentive and visually sensitive dogs that will alert you of suspicious activity.
- The dog should have a rough coat to withstand the elements outside. Outside living capabilities are essential for a dog that will protect your chickens. A rough coat will protect the dog from extreme temperatures.
Can You Train Australian Shepherds To Protect Chickens?
Even though Australian shepherds may not have the aggressive qualities required for protecting chickens, they still possess some protective qualities such as watching out and barking loudly at suspicious activities to alert their owners.
You can train Australian Shepherds to protect chickens, and if you are dead set on getting an Aussie, getting two or three to do the job is a good bet. Furthermore, Aussies are brilliant dogs that are obedient and easily trainable.
How To Train Your Australian Shepherd To Protect Chickens
Australian Shepherds can be intelligent and easy to train. However, it is essential to remember that patience is key to success. You should not yell at your dog if you get frustrated. Instead, opt for positive reinforcement. Give your dog a special treat when it responds to your commands. I recommend Stewart Freeze Dried Dog Treats (found on Amazon.com). If you are having a difficult time selecting the perfect treat, these contain only one ingredient and are made in the USA. Your dog will love them.
Here are the steps you should take when training an Australian shepherd to protect chickens:
- Start by socializing your dog correctly. Socializing your dog with other people or animals teaches it to understand normal behaviors and to differentiate between dangerous and harmless people or animals.
- Introduce your dog to the chickens and let them get used to each other. Your dog should only interact with chickens through a fencing net at the beginning till they become familiar. You can keep your dog on a leash until he begins to get comfortable and calmer around the chickens. Furthermore, dogs have a strong sense of smell, and you can familiarize your dog with the chickens’ scent before physically introducing them.
- Remove any of your distractions when training. For example, your cell phone can be a great source of distraction for you, and you need to give your Aussie your full attention. Teach your dog commands such as sit, down, come, stay, and leave before exposure to chickens. Male dogs require neutering to control their hormones, thus limiting aggressive behavior.
- Teach your dog how to identify chicken predators. Your dog may have a good idea of some wildlife predators such as foxes, raccoons, or minks. However, you may have to teach your dog to identify birds like hawks and crows as predators. Additionally, ensure your dog always stays close to the chickens at all times and reward it with treats.
Good Alternatives to Australian Shepherds for Protecting Chickens
If you are looking for a more aggressive dog that will attack an intruder while remaining gentle and affectionate with the family, you should consider the following alternatives:
- Pyrenean Mastiff
- Tibetan Mastiff
- Great Dane
- Anatolian Shepherd
Australian Shepherds are brilliant and hardworking dogs. Although they may not attack intruders, they make excellent watchdogs with their attentive and intuitive nature, often barking loudly to alert owners of suspicious activity. These qualities also make it easy to train Aussies as guard dogs to protect chickens.