Large flock of ducks and geese on small lake.

When Dogs Meet Ducks–How to Manage Their Reaction

When you take your adopted dog out for his first fun adventures, you may run into some initial difficulties. As you venture out and explore, you and your dog will most likely encounter some new critters. You may experience an especially huge challenge around a lake or park when your dog meets ducks for the first time.

I was fully unprepared the first time my dog met ducks. We encountered a huge flock of ducks on a small lake in one of our favorite parks. Both dogs lunged in tandem toward the flock dragging me along behind. I was terrified my dogs would break their leashes and charge the ducks. But I managed to hold onto them and get them back onto the trail. Eventually, I learned how to desensitize them and mitigate their response. I did some research and with a little bit of effort made a lot of progress after a few weeks. Here are some tips:

Dogs and Ducks Are Natural Enemies

Dogs and ducks do not normally get along very well. Many dogs think of ducks as prey, and would sooner eat them for dinner than become their friends. And ducks, likewise, view dogs as threats. This is understandable since many dogs have been bred and trained to hunt and retrieve waterfowl for hundreds of years. These breeds include retrievers, pointers, setters, and laikas, to name a few.

So, the first time my Pug/Cattle Dog mixed breed dogs met ducks, they went totally nuts. I had been working hard on their leash training and getting them used to their head halters. (You can read more about leash training in my post, Walking Your Dog ). I was feeling really good about all of the progress we had made. Both of my dogs had stopped pulling so much and reacted less to other dogs we passed on the trail.

But then they met the ducks! They had apparently never seen ducks before who were just minding their own business, quacking, and swimming around. I was suddenly yanked forward with such force that I almost found myself in the lake!

The ducks immediately starting honking and started to fly away. Of course, this just made made my dogs all the more determined to chase after them. Fortunately, I was able to redirect them and maintain a strong grip. I moved quickly away from the lake and back onto another trail. But my heart was pounding and it took all of my strength to get them under control again. They were bound and determined to run after those ducks!

When Dogs Meet Ducks Try to Desensitize and Distract

I really wanted to find a way to continue our pleasant walks around this park and small lake that I loved so much. After all, ducks were a part of life like cats, and squirrels, and many other critters. My dogs would just need to get used to them.

So, after a week, I took them back, but this time I kept a greater distance. I maintained a really strong hold on their leashes. This time they were a little less crazy but still very much interested in trying to chase after the ducks. I held firm and told them to “leave it”, which I had just learned at our training classes with an American Kennel Club sanctioned trainer. The “leave it” command, among others, proved to be extremely useful.

We repeated the walk a few times, and eventually they paid less attention to the ducks. I always carried a big supply of treats in my dog pouch to help distract them. After several walks, they finally stopped reacting and just passed by the ducks peacefully.

Also, keeping a safe distance from the ducks helped a lot. One time a couple of ducks flew by right in front of our path startling my dogs who immediately reacted by barking. But the the good news is that they recovered pretty quickly when I immediately turned them in another direction.

One thing that I did not count on however, was the need to avoid the duck poop left behind. Apparently, dogs think this s a great thing to eat! Yuk! So, I had to retreat a little farther back from the lake to avoid that unpleasant temptation.

How to Get Dogs and Ducks to Coexist

In some situations, dogs and ducks can actually cohabitate. Farm owners who let their dogs and ducks run freely on their land, learn how to integrate fowl and canine. When dogs meet ducks initially, they will need to be monitored. Otherwise, you may witness chasing, barking, honking, and and a lot of fur and feathers flying around. Also, ducks will defend themselves by snapping at a dogs nose. Ouch!

To start, it might be a good idea to keep them separated with a fence. This will give them a chance to get used to each other. Or, you can walk your dog around the area where the ducks hang out. Just keep him on a close leash. Do this process slowly. Be careful to monitor your dog until you feel you can trust him. You don’t want him to decide to have a duck for dinner. Herding dogs can actually be quite useful in guarding ducks or moving them back home at night. Farmhouseguide.com has a great article about this entitled Do Ducks and Dogs Get Along?

Occasionally, dogs and ducks can actually become friends. Some people who have both ducks and dogs for pets have watched them become bonded playmates. But a word of warning is that not all dogs will learn to get along with ducks. The cute little Dachshund actually has a very strong prey instinct. Likewise, most hunting dogs would probably not be a good match with a duck. Be especially careful around young ducklings. I would never leave a dog alone with them, as their small size may be too enticing!

Ducks are a Part of Life–Good Practice for Other Critter Encounters

My experience with the ducks was great preparation for meeting other critters. There were certainly many other animals in that park and lake, that we would eventually have to deal with.

Sure enough, a few weeks after our duck encounter, we ran into a huge flock of Canadian Geese. The geese descended suddenly, all at once, on the body of water we were passing. My dogs lurched forward and tried to get closer to them. But thankfully, they mostly just barked, and we were able to move on.

Not long after that we met our first squirrel. That was a little more traumatic. Fortunately, I had become good at redirecting them. We did a quick U-turn with the suggestion that treats would be coming. That worked pretty well. I have also been practicing this similar routine when we we bump into George, the Cat, who lives in our neighborhood. I have to admit, that we are still working on our encounters with George, the Cat. But we are making progress.

So go ahead and have fun on your walks with your new canine friend. But prepare yourself for life’s little surprises along the way like ducks, squirrels, and other wild critters.