Conversation with a Chicken-Chasing Dog

When Hans and I were out of town recently, the dogs’ schedules were disrupted because while we had house-sitting help, it wasn’t possible for the dogs to go in-and-out-and-in-and-out quite as often as they were used to doing.

This meant that they were either inside or outside for extended lengths of time. And that meant Pearl had plenty of time to get up to mischief in the yard.

With all this time on her paws, Pearl decided it was fun to chase chickens. It was all about the chase and nothing about the catching. But she did manage to pin down a chicken or two. Then she’d let it go, no real harm done. The chicken would ruffle its feathers and walk away, and Pearl would flop down on the ground and enjoy her victory.

I had a conversation with Pearl about the problem, and while she reluctantly agreed to stop chasing chickens, she never quite understood why I’d make such an unreasonable demand. “They like it,” she insisted. “If they didn’t like it, they wouldn’t run.”

I explained that chickens aren’t like cats, who will sometimes engage in a friendly game of back-and-forth chase. (The ones who aren’t interested just lie there and ignore her.)

“I know chickens aren’t like cats exactly,” Pearl agreed. “But I’m sure they don’t mind being chased.”

“Has a chicken ever chased you back?” I asked—because the young cats who enjoy playing chase will turn and chase her too.

Pearl had to think about this one. “Well. Maybe not. But I’ve seen them chase each other. So I think they do like it.”

She can’t be convinced that she’s wrong, but at least she has agreed to confine her chasing to the other dogs and the cats who’ll chase her back. I suppose that for now, it’s the best we can do.

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