Warning: Do not read this if you are eating or easily disgusted. Our dog, Chardonnay, is a beautiful animal with long golden fur sprinkled with gray, brown eyes and a happy expression. She makes you smile just to look at her. True to her breed, she very social, loving all people and animals. Some animals, like the squirrels, foxes, and deer which share our area are sport to her. She loves to give chase, but would be disappointed if she caused harm to come to one. When I first introduced the chicks to the outdoors this summer, Chardonnay was naturally curious and wanted the chickens to run so she could pursue them. I firmly explained that they were part of the family and after time, she became bored with them as playmates. When the chickens have their free range time, I often put Chardonnay outside with them for protection against any lurking predators. Even though the Golden Retriever was bred to hunt fowl, Chardonnay knows that the chickens are to be protected from harm, not chased. It is amazing how well she understands enough to overcome any predatory instincts she may have; not all dogs can do this. I trust her completely with the chickens even though they are still somewhat cautious around the dog, especially when she runs around the yard like a nut.
Chardonnay especially loves the new pullet, our Jersey Giant named Thelma. Thelma's personality is more Maine Coon cat-like around the dog and unlike the others, she is not intimidated by a 75-pound canine. This has led to a different kind of relationship between dog and bird. Chardonnay follows Thelma around the yard, nose to butt, waiting for a "treat" to plop out. Thelma is Chardonnay's Pez dispenser with a chicken head on it.
I've written previously on Chardonnay's obsession with poop. This behavior is common enough that it actually has a name, coprophagia. It means "one whose breath smells like crap". Down south, one would say a person with halitosis has the "zackleys" meaning their breath smells exactly like their ass. Seriously, the tendency to eat poop is pretty common in dogs. The theories dogs do it range from improper housebreaking, mother's instinct to clean up their puppies' smell, poor nutrition to boredom and stress.
When we had a rabbit, my research taught me that coprophagia is a natural behavior to them as well. The reason? Recycling. If a rabbit pellet is hard and dry, all the nutrients are gone and the rabbit leaves it alone. If the pellet is soft, they send it through again in order to glean every last bit of nutrients. Although gross, this instinct has probably kept many wild animals from starving. Rabbits, however, don't hunger for the poop from other animals. Dogs like poop from any creature it seems. Deer poop is the worst because not only will a dog sample it, they will also roll in it, picking up deer ticks and a stench like no other in the process. Although Chardonnay's brain rules over the hunting dog instinct, we have no such luck with her recycling nature. She's part of the family, but she's still a dog.