You love how your bird feeder (which you fill with top quality birdseed) allows you to observe the beautiful wild birds native to your area. Unfortunately, your dog thinks every outdoor delicacy is part of his personal smorgasbord, including fallen birdseed. If this is the case, it's certainly best to prevent him from dining on food meant for your feathered friends. Regular ingestion of birdseed can cause a digestive blockage, and bird droppings (found on fallen seeds) contain bacteria. The easiest solution is to block access to the area where you keep your feeder. However, if this isn't an option, here are a few tips to help you get the problem under control.
Tip #1 - Keep your dog on a leash when he is outside in an unfenced area to prevent him from running to bird feeders to eat the wild bird feed. If the bird feeders are inside the fenced portion of your yard, move the feeders so no birdseed can drop into the yard below where the dog can reach it.
Tip #2 - Tether your dog -- only for short periods of time -- as part of his training to leave the birdseed alone. Use a tether with a lead long enough to allow him to move around, but short enough to keep him away from the birdseed and feeder pole so he cannot wrap around it. Use this method as a "time out"; when your dog attempts to eat birdseed, tether him after a firm "no" for several minutes. Repeat the exercise to help him associate eating birdseed with a time out. Do not leave him on the tether as a way to keep him from the birdseed; many areas now have laws that prohibit owners from tethering an unsupervised dog.
Tip #3 - Teach your dog to follow spoken commands, such as Leave It, so he will leave the birdseed -- and anything else you want him not to eat -- alone when you utter a command. Your dog should already see you as his pack leader; teaching him commands should be part of his everyday training. The Leave It command, well-trained, will solve the birdseed-eating issue as long as you're able to call to the dog when you see him approach birdseed.
Tip #4 - Shake a noisemaker, such as a can full of rice or dry beans, at the dog when he goes for the birdseed. When he stops, startled, divert his attention to something else, such as a chew toy. Shake cans are useful to distract your dog from an unwanted behavior; if he hears it each time he goes for birdseed, he will associate the negative stimulus of noise with attempting to eat birdseed. Do not overuse the shake-can method; if your dog becomes desensitized to the noise, he will ignore it.
By Lori Lapierre
Veterinary Partner: Scavenging Outdoors
The Dog Speaks: Shake Can
The Whole Dog Journal: Be Cautious While Tying Your Dog in the Backyard
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Birdseeds
"The Roanoke Times": Dogs Cannot Eat the Same Foods as People
Cesar'sWay: Dog Training Tip: Teaching the "Leave It" Command
WebMD: Training Your Pet Through the Life Stages
The Humane Society of the United States: The Facts About Chaining and Tethering
About the Author
Lori Lapierre holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science in public relations/communications. For 17 years, she worked for a Fortune 500 company before purchasing a business and starting a family. She is a regular freelancer for "Living Light News," an award-winning national publication. Her past writing experience includes school news reporting, church drama, in-house business articles and a self-published mystery, "Duty Free Murder."