Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - PETS - Anne Box­hall abox­hall@big­

WANT to hone your dog- train­ing skills? Set­ting off and at­tend­ing chicken camp might be just the way to do it.

Ho­bart’s first taste of chicken camp, led by world- renowned trainer Terry Ryan and lo­cal be­havioural trainer Jade Foun­tain, will be next week.

Hav­ing spent two months work­ing with Ryan in the US, Foun­tain can vouch for the fact train­ing chick­ens is a whole new ball game.

It chal­lenges dog train­ers to let go of old train­ing habits and pre­con­ceived ideas.

Chick­ens move faster and be­have dif­fer­ently to dogs, so the trainer’s tim­ing and ob­ser­va­tions need to go up a notch.

Take noth­ing for granted when train­ing chick­ens, es­pe­cially when it comes to the amaz­ing range of things they can be taught to do.

With pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment in the form of layer pel­lets and cracked corn, chick­ens can be trained to un­der­stand signals, roll dice, make choices, move ob­jects and com­plete ob­sta­cle cour­ses and agility runs.

YouTube sports sev­eral en­ter­tain­ing clips of sharp- eyed, smart- think­ing chooks com­plet­ing a se­ries of com­plex tasks dur­ing chicken camp.

And it’s not all about train­ers re­fin­ing their skills.

You get the im­pres­sion the chooks may en­joy the men­tal stim­u­la­tion that comes with sharp­en­ing their prob­lem skills.

Foun­tain confi rmed that, through train­ing, chick­ens form a bond with their han­dler and could be taught to load them­selves into a crate on cue – a par­tic­u­larly prac­ti­cal trick in times of emer­gency, such as bush­fire.

Chick­ens, which are no­to­ri­ously hard to round up, can be taught to calmly and ef­fi­ciently load them­selves up for a trip to the vet – an­other use­ful train­ing out­come.

For more in­for­ma­tion on this and other an­i­mal train­ing top­ics, visit www.face­­i­malBe­haviourMat­ters.

For those who want to build their dog­train­ing skills, as op­posed to chicken-train­ing skills, sim­ply pick up a copy of Ryan’s hugely prac­ti­cal book The Tool­box for Build­ing a Great Fam­ily Dog.

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