Why Your Dog Kills Birds, + 5 Prevention Tips

by Stuart | Last Updated:   March 25, 2021
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You might become distressed when your dog comes back to you with a bird in their mouth. Wondering if this is a normal phenomenon of dogs?

Well, it is normal for dogs to kill birds due to their hunting instincts.

Not all dogs will follow the chase through to a kill, many just enjoy running after birds. Dogs are not as skilled as cats in chasing and killing birds, some dogs just get excited by bird hunting.

Russian spaniel dog killed a pheasent for hunting

Reasons behind a dog killing a bird

Now that you know that dogs chase and sometimes kill birds, let’s explore the reasons why your dog keeps chasing and killing birds. 

Dogs have predatory instincts

Dogs have this tendency to kill birds because it’s in their genes and DNA. This sounds bizarre but is true in many cases. 

Dogs are closely related to wolves and are descended from wild canids. Hunting was the standard practice for their wild ancestors to survive. They would have hunted small mammals such as birds and mice. 

This behaviour is still rooted in what their ancestors used to do. Despite the fact that dogs don’t actually need to kill and eat birds to survive, hunting is part of their DNA today.

Dogs instinctively derive great pleasure from chasing, attacking, and even killing birds.

1. Killing to impress their owner

Dogs have a pack mentality with a clear hierarchy of leadership in the pack. Their wild ancestors would have lived in packs. Today, you and your family are their pack. Your dog likely sees you as the leader of that pack and can do anything to please you.

When your dog kills a bird and then brings it back to you, it’s their way of trying to do their bit for the pack and impress the pack leader, that’s you!

2. Killing to get attention

Most dogs love being in the spotlight. Dogs enjoy the attention and excited reactions from all the family members. So they may display negative behavior to attract attention.

Dogs often do things that you will find awful or annoying. Chasing and killing a bird seems like a feat to them. They may kill a bird in order to amaze and impress people around them. They think that bringing a dead bird will prove them as a smart dog in front of you.

3. Killing due to hunger or a dietary issue

Sometimes, the amount of food you are giving to your dog is not enough for it. They remain hungry and want more than what you feed them.

Due to hunger, a dog might attack birds and eat them to fill an empty stomach and satisfy a big appetite. Another possibility is that your dog isn’t getting enough meat-based protein diet. They satisfy their meat cravings by dining on birds roaming around. If this becomes a regular feature, you must reconsider his dietary requirements.

Getting professional advice on the issues related to your dog’s diet is always a promising idea.

Pet Parent Tip: If you are unable to figure out the reason behind bird killing, speak with your vet. Explain the problem of bird chasing and get a professional recommendation on your dog’s diet.

How to prevent dog killing bird

You can’t wipe out your dog’s prey drive, but you can manage it. Try to start bird training as soon as possible, during puppyhood. It is easier to train a dog when it’s young. However, even older dogs can be trained as well.

Bird training, recall training, and “leave it” command training can help train your dog to avoid hurting birds. Here’s how you can bird train your dog:

Take your dog to an area with many birds: 

Visit a place with a big number of birds. You can take your furry pal to a park filled up with pigeons or a field where sparrows and crows feed.

The leash method: 

Use a leash to have greater control over your dog. Start with a short leash and walk around with your dog leashed. 

Correct undesirable behavior: 

Whenever your dog shows interest in birds, distract them by walking quickly in the opposite direction. Once you are away from the bird, reward your dog with a treat.

Consistency and repetition: 

Repeat this training about thrice a week until your dog no longer shows interest in birds.

Teach the No and Stop command: 

Teach them a firm “No!” or “Stop!” This will let your dog know that they’re doing something they shouldn’t. Give them incentive if they stop and come back when called.

Leash method with a longer leash: 

Now, with a longer leash, walk your dog near birds. If they show interest or attempt to chase the birds, grab the leash but don’t pull them. Instead, call them and walk them away from the birds and then give them a meaty treat.

The recall command: 

With the recall command, you train a dog that’s just taken off running to immediately stop and return, on cue.

The “leave it” command:

The “leave it” command is for damage control. You essentially train your dog to instantaneously stop anything that they’re doing, on cue. For instance, to immediately let go of the bird that they’ve already caught.

Traditional bird training methods may take a lot more work and some perseverance. Incentives like rewards and praises can be very effective during bird training. You will definitely notice a big difference in their behavior and trainability.

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Health concerns for dogs killing birds

Realizing that your furry friend kills and eats birds can be upsetting. You might be wondering whether eating birds can negatively affect your dog’s health.

Well, if a dog eats a bird, there is a sufficient chance that they will remain healthy and it won’t bother them. Eating small animals and birds has historically been part of dogs’ feeding habits. So, their digestive tract is well adapted to it.

However, there are certain concerns about eating wild game and dead animals. Your dog can get infected if it eats an infected bird.

  • Some birds are carriers of salmonella. If your dog eats such a bird that carries this microbe, it can become infected. Salmonella can lead to gastroenteritis that causes a dog’s gastrointestinal tract to become inflamed.
  • If your dog eats a dead bird that is infested with toxic microbes, it can also suffer from garbage toxicosis. This will cause food poisoning in dogs.
  • You dog may be infected with West Nile Virus. It triggers brain inflammation and is typically transmitted through mosquitoes.

Your dog might have contracted an infection if you observe these symptoms:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Mucus in Stool
  • Unusually fast heart rate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal swelling or pain
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Lack of coordination and seizures
  • Coughing
  • Discolored or pale gums

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Tips for stopping dog killing birds

It is important to stop your dog from hunting wild animals. You might be wondering how to stop them attacking and killing them in the first place.

Well, there are ways you can help your dog to not attack birds. Some of these are preventive measures while others involve training your dog to stop killing birds.

Let’s have a look at them:

1. Attach a bell to your dog’s collar

This is a conventional preventive way of stopping your dog to kill birds. In most cases, it is effective as it gives the birds an early warning.

All you do is attach a bell to your dog’s collar. It will automatically alert all the birds and small animals near your dog as and when it will ring. Bell collar will give birds a chance to safely fly away before the dog manages to chase and attack.

2. Distract your dog with something more interesting

Dogs like to kill birds because of the thrill of the chase, catch, and final kill. It’s an instinctive stuff that is wired in their DNA.

You can distract your dog from bird hunting with something else to divert their attention. Give them something like a toy or a piece of meat on a string. You can quickly start the game up and get the dog to run after you instead. This will be much interesting for your furry friend as there is a reward at the end of the line.

3. Distract your dog with a vocal command

Try to train your dog to respond to your voice command. Familiarize it with the word “Come” and “Leave.” Using this command, train your dog to come and walk along with you and drop whatever it is holding.

Vocal commands literally stop your dog dead in its tracks. Once trained, your dog will stop chasing the bird, turn back, and then come back to you. Try using it to stop your dog killing a bird next time the chase starts.

4. Distract your dog with noise aversion

Just like voice commands, some dog parents stop their dog chasing birds with sounds like whistles. You can get whistles that let out a high-pitched sound.

5. Give your dog plenty of exercise and mental stimulation

Dogs often exhibit undesirable behavior when they don’t have enough stimulation. If your dog keeps hunting birds, it might be due to a lot of pent-up energy. By giving your dog plenty of exercises, you will destroy their appetite to kill birds.

Provide tons of physical and mental stimulation so that your dog might not have excess energy to chase and attack birds. You can meet their exercise requirements by

  • Games like frisbee toss, flirt pole, and chasing balls
  • Taking your dog for long walks
  • Running around in garden or fenced yard
  • Interactive chew toys and puzzle games

6. Make sure your dog isn’t near birds when hungry

Your dog might be attacking and killing birds when you are out walking, because of empty stomach. If your dog is hungry, a flying bird will increase its hunting instincts. The bird look a lot more appetizing than it normally would.

Keep in mind that it is not healthy to feed your dog just before exercise. Maintain a proper schedule and ensure that their last meal was at least 2 hours before exercise.

7. Keep your dog on a leash

Get a leash to have greater control over your dog. It’s the best you can do before your dog is bird trained. Keeping your dog on a leash is an effective way of stopping dogs from chasing and attacking birds. You can use a retractable dog leash. It will give your dog enough freedom to run around and explore the world.

8. Discourage birds away from your home

If your dog is killing birds in your backyard, you should discourage these birds that keep on arriving on your property. You can do this until your dog is bird trained. Empty the birdhouses that you have outdoors. Clear all kinds of foodstuff that might be attracting the birds.

Breeds that are more prone to killing birds

All dog breeds can kill birds, as it’s in their DNA, but there are some breeds that are more prone to it than others. These are typically the dogs who have a high prey drive and have been bred to hunt.

  • Afghan Hounds
  • Greyhounds and Whippets
  • Airedale Terriers
  • Alaskan Malamutes
  • Australian Cattle Dogs
  • Basenjis
  • Beagles
  • Salukis
  • Border Collies
  • Samoyeds
  • Shiba Inus
  • Bull Terriers
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Doberman 
  • English Springer Spaniels
  • German Shepherds

Final Thoughts

It may seem disturbing but instead of scolding your dog, you should find ways to stop the killing of the birds.

Killing a bird does not always mean that your dog will be preying on it.

Apart from the chase and fun, this becomes the responsibility of a dog’s parents to guide their pooches about what is correct and not.

As you know that preventing this behavior of your dog is of utmost necessity, so be patient and consistent while imparting the training. Though it will be challenging, the result will be worth the pain.

If you are inexperienced at training dogs, hire a professional dog trainer who has extensive experience training dogs to behave around wild animals.

Hopefully, you have learned all you needed to know about why dogs eat birds and how you can prevent it. Remember, when in doubt, keep your dog on a leash.

Stuart loves blogging about his hobbies and passions. Sir Doggie is a place for him to share what he learns while being a pet parent. Click here to read more.