Ducks are absolutely adorable and dogs are Man’s Best Friend, so it seems only natural that pet-loving people would eventually want to bring the two together. But is that such a great idea? After all, while you may have images of adorable ducky and doggy friends playing together, dogs are carnivores, after all, and might see dinner, which understandably might cause your ducks to see them as threats.
Still, if you’re a dog and duck person, it’d be a shame to be forced to choose between the two, which is why you’ll want to take a deeper look at how ducks and dogs interact, and how you can train the latter to get along better with the former.
Of Dogs and Ducks
Anyone who’s seen Finding Nemo knows Bruce the Great White Shark’s society tries to convince other sharks that “Fish Are Friends, Not Food.” You basically have to do the same thing to your dogs and condition them to see your Ducks as Buddies, Not Breakfast.
Now, you might not think that there’s any reason to worry – after all, there’s nothing remotely shark-like about a Shih-Tzu. Still, if you have a larger dog such as a Retriever or Labrador and especially if you have a hunting dog, they’ll have predator instincts that you’ll need to train out of them. Alternatively, you’ll want to train them to recognize that some ducks (namely, the few you are keeping as pets) are not okay to harass and hunt.
One of the most important things to keep in mind here is that ducks and dogs, like human beings, are individuals with different personalities. Too often we make the mistake of thinking of animals just in terms of breeds. While that definitely makes a difference here, the fact of the matter is that not every Collie or Muscovy can be expected to act the same way.
Some dogs are more aggressive than others.
Some ducks are more skittish than others.
Some dogs and ducks are more good-natured, some are calmer, and some are more energetic and eager to play.
In addition, there’s the question of how different individual ducks and dogs interact with each other. Just as some people may be jovial overall but just not gel with specific people, you may have a happy, go-lucky dog that’s bad luck around your ducks.
Be sure to monitor the time your dogs and ducks spend together closely, and separate them at the first sign of trouble. Even if you have aspirations of conditioning them to make them be friends, one bad experience can undo weeks of work.
One way to increase your chances of getting your ducks and dogs to get along is to condition them that way as early as possible. Animals can react hostilely toward unfamiliar creatures, but tend to be far more accepting of and even affectionate toward familiar friends. Bringing up dogs and ducks together under close supervision from the time they’re puppies and ducklings can give you your best bet of raising lifelong furry and feathered friends.
If you’re going to do this, it’s probably a good idea to hold the ducks in your hands the first time they’re introduced to your dogs. That way, you can pull them away easily if things go south.
Give Them Shelter
Cue Mick Jagger. If you were a duck left to fend for yourself with nowhere to go and potential predators everywhere, you might be singing (or quacking) “Gimme Shelter,” too. Ducks need shelter to keep them from “quacking up,” and that’s especially true when it comes to protecting them from dogs.
To make sure that your ducks’ shelter truly protects them from your dogs, you’ll need to make sure that your dogs can’t get in, and that means paying special attention to the doors and hinges. Your ducks’ pen should snap shut, stay that way, and not be opened by any mechanism that could be manipulated by your dog. The material the pen is made of must also be sturdy enough to stand up to your dog’s teeth, or those of other potential predators for that matter. In addition, you may want to consider spraying unpalatable scents around the ducks’ pen if your dogs approach your ducks or do anything else remotely untoward around your ducks. Ideally, the shelter should also be insulated so your ducks are not exposed to cold and the elements.
Finally, you’ll want to consider putting fencing between your ducks and dogs. This adds an extra layer of protection for your ducks and can help your dogs better understand which places are and aren’t okay for them to be. It’s usually a good idea to raise the fencing to at least four feet high and make sure it extends all the way to the ground so your dog can’t jump or climb over it or wriggle underneath it.
How to Train Your Dogs Around Ducks
If you really want to make sure that your ducks and dogs get along, you’ll need to train them, especially the latter. There are plenty of ways to do this, with the “right answer” for you likely to be different from those for others. Just as every dog and duck’s personality is different, every solution is different in its pros and cons and how those may apply to your particular pets.
For example, if spraying a scent around the pen doesn’t work, you can try spraying your dogs directly with a light spritz of water from a water bottle. Then again, if your dogs are already pretty water-happy, that may not be much of a deterrent. Instead, you may want to try using a clicker as a way to ward them off, using sound rather than a spritz of water as discouragement.
On the flip side, you may want to try and give your dog positive reinforcement for good behavior around your ducks. This can be especially helpful if you do it early on, thereby conditioning your dogs to associate the ducks with this positive reinforcement – why attack the “bringers of treats?”
You can even make this into a game or training exercise. Before you do anything else, you’ll want to play with your dog (and who can say no to that?) for a good 15 minutes at least so they burn off some of their excess energy and are perhaps a bit less eager to chase ducks around. Once you have done this, attach a leash to them and attach them to a tree or hold the leash near the ducks so they can start to become “acquainted” with the ducks without them immediately being able to rush after them. After you have done this, set a timer for about 15 minutes, let the dogs go (under close supervision, so you can intervene if anything goes wrong) and let them start to interact with the ducks. Set a timer, and give the dogs treats for every 15 minutes or so that they don’t harass the ducks.
Repeat this enough times, and they should soon be on friendly treat-seeking terms with your ducks.
With the right conditioning measures, and taking different breeds and personalities into account, you can work to ensure your ducks and dogs are the best of friends.