Collies prevent fowls from staying too long
Article reprinted courtesy of The
Berkshire Eagle, May 21, 2002
LEBANON, N.Y. -- A flock of Canada geese on the wing is
an exhilarating sight. But exhilaration often becomes exasperation
when the birds take up residence on parkland, a golf course
or a pond, where their droppings can create serious health
and safety problems.
an abundance of short, tender grass for grazing and water
for drinking and security, golf courses are particular favorites
of the birds, although any open space with water nearby
is a potential habitat.
years ago, the Canada goose was nearing extinction because
of loss of habitat and excessive hunting. Today it has made
a comeback and become one of those species of wildlife --
along with the raccoon, the opossum and others -- that has
learned to survive in close proximity to people.
And, since Canada geese are protected under federal law,
harming or endangering them in any way can result in severe
what is a landowner to do when Canada geese descend en masse
for a visit of indeterminate length? Go to the dogs -- specifically,
from Roman and Viking dogs, border collies have been bred
for centuries for their exceptional herding ability. The
highly trainable dogs use a predatory, wolflike gaze to
mesmerize and threaten their quarry, but they are also quite
unique combination of intelligence and gentleness is what
attracted Eric Johnson, proprietor of a newly established
goose control service, to border collies.
in New Lebanon, N.Y., Wild Goose Chase NE operates in the
Berkshires, northwest Connecticut and New York state's Capital
Region and is the only service of its kind in the region,
its owner said.
"Down in Westchester (N.Y), Dutchess (N.Y.) and Litchfield
(Conn.) counties, people know about this kind of goose control
service and know it works," Johnson said. "Up
here, it's a new concept.
geese can be aggressive with people, they have an innate
fear of predators such as the arctic fox. The border collie,
with a similar silhouette to the arctic fox and similar
predatory behavior, seems to trigger that fear," Johnson
geese to abandon their nesting or feeding grounds takes
anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on
how entrenched the flock is.
a contractual agreement, with fees dependent on the distance
he must travel, Johnson and his dogs make two daily visits
of about 20 minutes each to a site to pester the geese.
the while, Johnson is continually directing his dogs, to
come in on the geese faster or slower and from different
directions. Persistent, consistent disturbance is what motivates
the geese to find other nesting or feeding areas.
a goose control service is not something to do lightly because
of the time it takes and the expense," said Johnson.
"But there are not that many other options out there
to rid properties of geese."
collies can be trained to chase geese without touching or
harming them. The dogs are excellent swimmers and can chase
geese on water as well as land. They work silently so they
don't disturb humans or other wildlife.
also love to work and please. Their satisfaction comes from
carrying out their handlers' commands," says Johnson.
collies are known for devotion to their handlers. The bond
between Johnson and his dogs, Faith and Will, is especially
strong because Johnson raised and trained the dogs from
8-week-old puppies. Other operators of goose-control services
purchase already-trained dogs, said Johnson, who noted that
a well-trained border collie can sell for as much as $5,000.
a border collie is a major commitment, requiring daily sessions
of up to an hour in length. But the work pays off.
with border collies is a very mental process," Johnson
said. "The more you understand how and why your dogs
work, the better the results. Dogs, like people, have very
different personalities. Will is very energetic. He really
wants to work with you. Faith is extremely smart, with lots
of spunk for a dog her size.
has no qualms about standing up to a 500-pound pig,"
Johnson continued. "But she's also more sensitive than
Will, so I try to be more lavish with my praise for her."
Faith and Will worked with Johnson at Hancock Shaker Village
in Pittsfield, where he was manager of the farm program
for 12 years. As a result, they are highly socialized and
Besides understanding dog behavior, Johnson must understand
prey behavior and come up with a plan that uses both to
maturity of the handler plays a big part in the success
of each venture. I've found the best approach is a calm,
easy one. After all, the whole idea is not to hurt anything,
just to convince the geese to move on.