If you’ve ever seen the viral YouTube video of a Golden Retriever snuggled up to a Pekin Duck, chances are you want to recreate the beloved bond at your own home.
However, this farmyard friendship defies the typical predator-prey relationship between these species.
It’s unnatural for dogs and ducks to cohabitate peacefully, but you may be able to train and socialize your dog to befriend ducks, ducklings, and other livestock. If properly trained, a dog could even serve as a guard dog and companion for your ducks.
Many factors determine the success rate and amount of time it will take to socialize your four-legged and feathered friends.
However, it largely depends on the dog and its temperament.
Keep reading to learn how to train your canines and pet ducks to co-exist peacefully and keep both species happy, healthy, and stress-free.
Dogs Are Predators
As natural predators, it’s instinctual for a dog to chase, herd and hunt other animals.
(Especially when animals are running away from the dog.)
This evolutionary trait is part of a dog’s predatory heritage and is extremely difficult to overcome.
Although it’s challenging to counteract animal instincts, dogs are extremely intelligent, loyal, and highly trainable.
These traits are likely why dogs were one of the first animals to be domesticated and are still popular pets and companions today.
It’s best to introduce the animals when they’re young and impressionable.
Puppies are much more likely to form a bond with ducks or ducklings than mature dogs, as they lack the protective instincts mature dogs possess.
Although its ideal to form a bond when both animals are young, adult canines may be trained to co-exist with ducks and other livestock.
If you already have baby ducklings or adult ducks, you might consider choosing a specific breed.
A well-trained dog could even serve as the protector of the farm and as a safe companion for your ducks, geese, chickens, and other livestock.
Ducks Are Prey Animals
While dogs have the upper hand in the relationship, it’s important to understand how your ducks may respond to their presence.
Ducks and other waterfowl are considered prey animals and have unique characteristics to help them escape predators and threats.
Wild ducks will be more reactive to dogs and other prey animals than domestic ducks.
Because of these instincts, the mere presence of a canine may startle the ducks and make them anxious or distressed.
This is especially true if the ducks are constantly being chased or harassed by the dog.
Like dogs, it’s best to introduce your pets when they’re still ducklings.
A mature duck who hasn’t been exposed to dogs will likely feel more threatened and stressed.
However, a baby duckling lacks fully developed prey instincts and will warm up to dogs and other farm animals more quickly.
Ducks are flock animals and feel safer and happier in a group.
Ducks will become depressed if they don’t have other ducks or animals to provide companionship.
Initially, a dog’s presence will likely cause a duck stress.
However, ducks and dogs can learn to cohabitate peacefully and even provide protection and companionship.
Create a Dog-Proof Shelter or Habitat
Regardless of the presence of a dog on the farm, your ducks need a shelter to protect from weather and other duck predators such as coyotes, raccoons, hawks, and other large birds.
A duck habitat will have swimming water from a deep water source.
A clean water source for swimming and bathing is an extremely important feature of duck housing.
They’ll also need a duck house or similar shelter to provide shade and a feeder.
Additionally, keeping the ducks in a fenced-in area is recommended to keep out predators.
Whether you’ve already created a duck pen or if you’re establishing a new habitat, make some small tweaks to dog-proof the area.
For example, create a large hole or door for the ducks but too small for the dog.
If the dog is about the same size, you may need a fence around the area to keep the dog out.
Ensure the fencing is deep in the ground so your pup can’t dig underneath and get into the duck housing or fenced-in area.
Read more about housing ducks and the costs of owning ducks in this article on our page.
Best Guard Dogs For Ducks And Livestock
Some breeds may adapt better to cohabitating with ducks and other livestock.
While there are many factors beyond the breed type, it’s best if the canine has a low prey drive, high trainability, and an overall calm demeanor.
Furthermore, there are even some breeds that excel at protecting livestock, poultry, and other farm assets.
Livestock Guard Dogs, also known as LGDs, protect farm animals and livestock from predators by marking their territory, barking or growling at predators, and other verbal or physical threats.
Livestock Guardian Animals are usually large “working dog” breeds and weigh over 100 pounds.
Other commons traits found in many LGDs include:
- Highly territorial
- Vocal dogs who won’t hesitate to bark at predators or other threats
- Peaceful unless provoked
- Comfortable living outdoors
- Excellent sense of sight, smell, and hearing
Some of the most common breeds of LGDs include:
- Great Pyrenees
- Maremma Sheepdog
- Other Sheepdog Breeds
- Anatolian Shepherd
How to Introduce Your Dogs And Ducks
Although they have competing prey drives and instincts, dogs and ducks are both social animals and may be socialized to get along and even enjoy each other’s company.
Introducing new pets is a safety concern for both animals.
It’s important to be cautious, take protective measures, and progress slowly through the introduction.
Ensure your dog is well trained and versed in certain cues and commands before introducing the animals.
Tips Before the Meet-and-Greet
Make sure your dog gets plenty of food, attention, and exercise.
Dogs tend to exhibit destructive behavior such as chewing, barking, digging, etc., when these needs aren’t met.
A tired, well-fed dog is less likely to exhibit a strong prey drive and more likely to stay calm during the introduction process.
- Take your dog on a long walk or run
- Play a long game of fetch
- Set up a puppy play date with a neighbor or take your dog to a local dog park
Place a Fence Between Them
Before a formal introduction, let the dog see the ducks from afar.
Ensure a protective barrier such as a fence is kept between the animals during this first step!
This will allow the dog to adapt to its natural predatory instincts at first sight.
Over time, your dog will become accustomed to their presence, and their prey drive will decrease.
Monitor the animal’s body language for aggressive behavior.
Once you’re confident your dog has accepted the duck’s presence on the farm, move to the next step.
Place the Dog on a Leash
After the dog has adjusted to their new farm friends, slowly introduce the animals in a controlled environment.
Start by putting the dog on a leash and bringing the canine into the duck’s habitat.
Depending on the dog’s size, you may need 2 people present for extra protection in an extreme scenario.
Let the dog close to the duck, but make sure to monitor the dog’s body language for aggressive behavior.
If the dog seems curious and calm, you might even let the dog close enough to sniff the bird.
Signs of aggression will vary, but the most common examples of aggressive body language include:
- Growling and snarling
- Snapping or biting
- Raised, still, tail, which might also be bristled
- Raised fur along the spine, also known as hackles
- Rigid body posture, slightly leaning forward
- Ears pinned back or flat to the head
- Quickly separate the animals if your dog exhibits any of these behaviors.
Monitor the Dog Off-Leash in a Controlled Environment
You may need to repeat the exercises above a few times before you’re ready to let the dog loose.
If the dog has shown restraint and good behavior in a leashed setting, the next step is to let the dog off-leash.
Only move to this step after you’ve monitored their interactions on multiple occasions and are confident you control the dog or dogs.
It’s also important to monitor the ducks for signs of distress.
Never leave the animals unsupervised if you’re wary of the relationship.
Training Methods for Dogs
There are various training methods to use if you’re having trouble with your pup’s impulse control.
Positive reinforcement, clicker training, and shock collars are a few methods that have been proven to help redirect a dog’s attention, tame prey drive, and improve overall behavior.
When it comes to introducing your farm friends, you’ll want to make sure your dog already understands certain verbal commands such as Sit, Stay, and Leave It before the meet-and-greet.
Author’s Note on Training: Cut your dog’s breakfast portion down to allow for the extra calories from the training treats, and buy small, bite-sized treats to reward your dog for positive behavior.
Positive Reinforcement and Verbal Commands
Positive reinforcement is an extremely powerful tool to shape behavior in many different animals.
In this type of training, you’ll use rewards to entice your dog to exhibit certain behaviors.
You show your dog how you want them to behave by giving treats or rewards rather than punishing bad behavior.
Use praise, petting, toys, and treats to achieve the desired behavior.
Additionally, positive reinforcement training helps establish communication and strengthen the bond between you and your beloved pooch.
How to Use Positive Reinforcement:
- Say the command.
- For example: Sit, Stay, Come, Heel, Off, Watch and Look.
- Keep the commands short and simple, and make sure to use the same word repeatedly.
- Give the treat or reward immediately after the desired behavior
- Make sure the treat is appealing to your dog. It may take some time to find the right treat if your dog is a picky eater.
Clicker training is a form of positive reinforcement training using a small plastic device called a clicker.
If verbal cues and positive reinforcement alone aren’t solving your behavioral problems, you might consider clicker training.
The clicker makes a distinct “click” noise which alerts your dog they’re going to receive a treat.
Before adding verbal commands, start by making the noise with the clicker and immediately giving the dog a treat.
Add in verbal cues after your dog has learned to associate the clicker with a treat.
How to Use Clicker Training:
- Give verbal command
- Use the clicker after the dog has performed the command
- Give the dog a treat
Shock Collar Training
If your dog is easily distractible and positive reinforcement training methods aren’t working, you may need to look into using a shock collar or electric collar.
Although it may seem cruel, high-quality shock callers are extremely helpful tools for disobedience and training issues.
Many shock collars come with a range of shock intensities, vibrate settings, or other noises to get your pet’s attention.
How to Use a Shock Collar:
- Give the Command
- Trigger the collar AFTER your dog has ignored your command.
- Repeat command
- Give praise or treats after your dog has completed the desired behavior.
We only advise using shock collars as a last resort and in conjunction with positive reinforcement and other training techniques.