Safest dog breed to keep with poultry? Golden Retriever?

acer(6b western NC)December 4, 2009

I grew up with Australian Shepherds and don't remember them killing any birds, but maybe being a kid I just missed it. Our Aussie/lab mix "played" a half-grown duckling to death a few months ago and is suspected in the recent death of a prize drake that had its throat torn out.

My girls really want a Golden Retriever. Are they more trustworthy, as a general rule, than other breeds? I know they're bred to retrieve ducks, but I didn't think that meant they like to kill them. My understanding is that a well-bred golden is extremely gentle to the point of being useless as a watch dog. I know that personality varies a lot within breeds, but I'm just looking for a general idea. Plus, I always thought of goldens as being pretty "homogenized" - that is, they all look and act pretty similar compared to other breeds. I did want a good watchdog but I guess now gentleness is more important, especially with young kids in the household.


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It's not the breed of the dog. It's the training the dog receives. We have a black lab. He loves chickens, ducks, peacocks, turkeys etc. He has adopted baby ducks and they would curl up and sleep with him. Our chickens have a nest beside his bed where they hatch eggs. The baby chicks think he is just another mom.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2009 at 4:57PM
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luke_oh(zone 5 NE Ohio)

It's not always the breed of dog but I have had 2 goldens and 2 yellow labs. I think that the labs can't be beat. It's my experience that the females are easier to train. Just my experience. My male lab was always around when we had lambs and watched every one of them being born. He didn't herd the sheep but would walk out in the pasture and the sheep would see him and follow him to the barn. He was great. Both my labs and my goldens were fine around chickens. of course there are exceptions. Regardless of what breed of dog that you decide on, check around and get a reputable breeder that breeds for companionship. Good Luck. My 2 cents. Luke

    Bookmark   December 4, 2009 at 6:16PM
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I have to agree - it's not so much the breed as the training. We always had Australian Shepherd/Heeler mixes and after they were taught NOT to bother the chickens, cattle, sheep, goats - then they were great and trusted with them. Most dogs will chase by instinct and when the chased animal runs, it's a game - often with bad results. It's hard to break after it starts - best to nip it in the bud - it takes a lot of time, but worth it in the long run.
We had neighbors with German Shepherds that were always a problem with chickens and livestock.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2009 at 6:24PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

For the most part the breed differences are primarily a case of mental preorganization. The Terrier breeds for instance are predisposed to picking up prey and shaking it back and forth, to kill rodents. With enough time and attention virtually any dog can be safe with livestock. As for "safe" breeds herding breeds are less likely to cause you problems than hunting breeds are. The retrievers were bred to go and grab downed waterfowl, so birds are especially tempting to them, and once it has got one any fighting will lead to fighting back.

The question you should be asking is "How do I train my golden retriever to be safe around my animals?". The simplest way to prevent any issue is to prevent interaction, both by restricting the dogs access to the livestock and by scolding the dog for showing interest in the livestock.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2009 at 11:12PM
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Herding breeds are hunting breeds that have been intensified through breeding. The drive to herd animals is the pack mentality that leads wolves to drive prey to the dominant wolf. In the dog's mind, herding is hunting. What the dominant wolf (us) wants to do with it after they drive it to us is none of the dogs concern. Therefore, any hunting or herding animal who understands that you are boss and bird belongs to YOU ONLY should be fine.
I have Queensland Heelers. They will chew a cow in half if she needs it but I have yet to have a dog kill one of my birds once they are old enough to know better. My dominant dog will move out of the way to let the turkeys eat out of his bowl and he's not the freindliest chap you'll ever meet.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2009 at 6:36PM
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Acer - This is a subject near to my heart. I believe you cannot beat the livestock guardian dogs (lgd's). These dogs are gentle with stock, children and you. They eat little, sleep mostly during the day and will take their job seriously. The great pyrenees is my dog of choice - it would be happy to watch over your flock. On another note I see a high frequency of hyper-extended knees in my office from bigger dogs running into their owners. Our dogs have never run into us or our children. They are bred to not injure the sheep/goats/poultry they are protecting. They are not overbred either. There was a testing station in Idaho, USA that studied a variety of these types of dogs and you might find their information on the web. I think you are in a fortunate position to research and decide on a good dog for your circumstances. Good luck.


    Bookmark   December 5, 2009 at 9:43PM
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johanna_h(Z5 SW MI)

1. Train train train.

2. Try to get a dog with low prey drive. If they love to chase moving things (like balls), then moving chickens will be a stronger temptation.

I have two Briards (French herding dogs). They are uncle and niece. He is 100% reliable with the birds, only interested in, ahem, what they leave behind! She cannot be trusted with them at all -- given any access, she will chase and kill. They had similar training, but were introduced to chickens at different ages. He was about 2 years old, had extensive training already. She was a puppy. I guess she got too excited by them before she had learned to calm herself.

So I agree with all the other posters. Train, train, train.

Here is a link that might be useful: Busy Solitude Farm

    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 11:03AM
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gandle(4 NE)

Every Pyrennes we have had was not only safe around poultry but very protective. We used to have a coyote ptoblem but with these gentle giants around, no more. I truly believe when a coyote sees one of these massive dogs it just thinks to itself,"I don't think so" and goes away.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 2:01PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

cpp6318 I think there is more to it than that. Herding dogs have also had their propensity to bite (hard, as oppose to nipping) reduced. While there is a pack drive to lead the target to the pack, some breeds of hunting dogs who also have this drive and who see you as the alpha will bit at prey. Something like a pointer I would think would be one of the least effective herders possible.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 5:19PM
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I think it would be better to raise a puppy around the birds rather than to prevent interaction.

& I too love Great Pyranees.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 4:35PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

If the dog never has a chance to get withing 5 feet of the birds there will never be any problems, that was my point.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 9:17PM
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Naomi Miller

I have to agree with the majority of the previous comments. I raised Chows for years and heard how awful their disposition was and that many were afraid of them.... not mine, they were raised to be docile and loving pets and not once did I have one of the ones I kept or those placed in homes ever turn on anyone. I have had two pit bulls, notorious for their evil ways, and mine would fall over and wet themselves if anyone would even look in their direction, lol. I currently have a beagle, a lab mix , a yorkie and a heinz 57...only the heinz is allowed near the livestock.... he goes in the chicken coop with me, alerts me when one has left their 'pasture' and even totally ignores the dozen guineas that roam the land. All the others although raised the same as he, are terrible about wanting to chase and conquer... but I did not raise them from pups, they were rescues. My son recently gave me a Mastiff that is now 4 months old and she has wanted to chase the birds, but in a puppy play manner... we have taken a stern hand at making sure she is exposed to them and reprimanded when she becomes 'aggressive'.... she is allowed free roam of the land now and does not show any aggression.... and it has only been 4 weeks.... she still gets excited when she sees guineas squawk by but looks at us for her reprimand, lol..... any breed, if handled well, can become docile, it does not have nearly as much to do with breed as it does training..... know your breeder.... visit their set up and see how they raise their animals... meet the pups parents... and start early with a strong hand in discipline...... that is my 2cents, lol......

    Bookmark   December 10, 2009 at 1:05AM
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gcmastiffs(z10 Florida)

The breed is not important, if you train the dog properly. I have a Jack Russell Terrier that was rescued as a feral dog. She lives with 38 Chickens, 9 other dogs, and Cockatiels. She was wanting to kill the baby chicks, and did get a few when I first got her. A few chicks dug out of the coop, under the double wire, and she killed two. You would be amazed at how well chickens can dig/tunnel!

I corrected her, and discouraged her from any interest in the birds. I did not let her out without constant supervision. My birds are free range, on acreage. She learned to not even look at them, with our use of body language and 'uh uh' commands.

She still hunts and kills squirrels, rats and rabbits. That is allowed, to protect my fruit trees. A rat recently cost me $700 in damage to the A/C system in my van, so I'm happy that she tries to keep the population in check. We live in a rural area, suuounded by woods.

My Mastiffs were easier. They do not have a strong prey drive. I have 8 Mastiffs, an elderly Rescue Pug, the JRT, and none are a danger to the chickens.

Below is a photo of a puppy and birds. 'Eric' is 200 pounds now, at 13 months. The chickens steal food out of his jowls.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   December 12, 2009 at 5:08PM
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Find a guardian. My dog is half Pyrenees and half Anatolian. Although large and intimidating to strangers, she is the most gentle loveable dog you'd ever meet. She's a wonderful pet. They're bred to guard the flock, and to do no harm except to those who threaten the flock. Very rare to find a mean guardian dog.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 10:07PM
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