Yup, you read that right! I know this is a dog blog (and sometimes a cat blog too) but it turns out that dog trainers work with chickens to become better dog trainers.
Chicken Training: It's for the Birds! Well, actually, it's for the dogs!
Austin Dog Trainer, Cara Vacchiano, recently spent a week in Washington State training a chicken. Why would a dog trainer want to train a chicken? The answer is not To get to the other side!" It was, Vacchiano explains, to become a better dog trainer!"
Chicken training is actually a popular way for dog trainers to practice their training skills and brush up on principals of operant conditioning. In fact, dog trainers are paying thousands of dollars to do just that! What makes the chicken training experience so valuable? For starters," says Vacchiano, you cant force a chicken to do anything it doesnt want to do. If you want to train your chicken to peck a target, you cant take its head and push it into the target much like you might push your dogs back end down to make it sit."
If you tried to push your chickens head to make it touch a target, the chicken would just shut-down and youd get nowhere. Your only option is to teach the chicken that good things happen when she pecks the target. This is similar to one breed Vacchiano works with frequently: greyhounds. You can push on a greyhounds back end until the cows come home. They often just get stressed out and stop trying to figure out what the crazy person pushing on them wants!" Using positive reinforcement with their chickens, Vacchiano and her classmates were able to have them pecking a triangle-shaped target in just a few short sessions. Next, they taught it to ignore a circle or square shaped target.