Chickens With Attitude, or How to Challenge Assumptions

Bella and Chickens.jpg

If you haven’t heard, urban chicken farming is hot—especially here in Portland. In my neighborhood alone, there are nearly half a dozen coops that my mom has to avoid when she takes me on my daily walk. No matter how hard I try, I can’t control the urge to go on a chicken chase…

That’s why I thought it was funny when a friend told me about a series of chicken workshops where workshop participants use reward-based clicker training to shape the behavior of chickens.

Why chickens? Supposedly, they are faster than the average dog which helps the trainer improve his or her timing and coordination skills. They'll also balk if they don't like the way that they are being treated. More important, since most dog owners or dog trainers don’t have any experience working with chickens, they don’t bring the same emotional baggage to a training session as they do with their pets.

To me, the underlying message is this: Stay curious and playful. Open your eyes and find new ways to look at old problems. Set aside your old assumptions. Approach each relationship with a clean slate.

This doesn’t mean you have to start breeding city chickens in your backyard (please, no more cocky chickens who taunt me from across the sidewalk). Look to your loyal, four-legged friends instead. A dog can walk the same route a hundred times and we’ll still stop to sniff whatever catches our fancy. It’s like we’ve never been there before.

There is a saying, “In the beginner’s eye there are many possibilities, in the expert’s eyes there are few.” Fortunately, we dogs see ourselves as perpetual beginners. We see everything as new, so everything has possibilities—even if it involves chasing chickens down the street.

Have animals helped change your assumptions or the way you look at the world? Please share!

By Bella the Boxer, adapted from her book Secrets of a Working Dog: Unleash Your Potential and Create Success. Visit