Our border collies get their start as working dogs herding sheep and poultry. Extensive herding work gives the dogs the experience and discipline they need for goose control work. We train daily - with farm herding work as a basis for the goose control work. In addition, our dogs have competed in sheep dog trials throughout the Northeast and every Wild Goose Chase NE Border Collie participates in herding demonstrations several times a year at festivals and fairs.
Tara was born on January 16, 2017, and is the youngest member of our pack. Tara was born on Taravale Farm, home of one of our sheep herding mentors. Her grandfather was a champion herding dog from Wales. As a young pup, Tara was always sure of herself and quiet but also very playful. As she grows, none of that has changed.
Tara is now learning how to be a working Border Collie by listening to her instincts and listening to her handlers. She is learning to obey what her handlers ask but also has a mind of her own. These traits are very useful in the making of a good working Border Collie. Tara learned goose-control work very quickly and has a strong drive to work without being foolish. As a pup, she has shown great poise around the sheep and poultry on the Johnson Homestead and does not get rattled even by the tough old ewe (female sheep) that tends to boss almost everyone around.
Blade was born on October 10, 2014, in Western Ontario. He was bred by Mary Thompson, a top working Border Collie handler. Blade's mom, Paris, was one of the best sheepdog trail dogs in Canada and the United States. Caleb traveled the long distance to Mary's farm and brought the small pup back to his new home.
Always a sweet if not a silly young dog, Blade can be shy at times though boldness seems to be showing as he grows. His character and facial expressions seem strikingly like a wolf. He is extremely athletic often does flips and somersaults to catch a stick and can be seen joyfully bounding through tall grass on goose-control visits or walks. He is a very good herding dog, can be relied on to listen to instructions very well and is amazing to watch working swimming geese from the bank of a pond or a lake, running like the wind and then stopping on a dime when asked. At sheepdog trials, he has proved a formidable competitor and won his first blue ribbon in 2017.
Jim was born on May 28, 2008. He was bred in England's Lake District and his father, Killiebrae Laddie, was the English Herding Champion in 2008. Jim was brought to the United States as a pup and grew up in New York, but he never was taught much and didn't get out much either. At age six, Jim was found online, on Craig's List, and rehabbed for a year. We took over after that and Jim became a member of our pack/family.
Jim's socialization has progressed immensely, and he is learning to herd and how to be a working Border Collie at a very late age.He has come a long way and has taken several 5th places with Caleb at the novice level at sheepdog trials - a big achievement for being trained so late in life. Jim has become a strong goose control dog, and goes about his work with enthusiasm and is often the most aware dog on the job.
Skye was born on November 5, 2010, from the only litter of pups we have bred. Her mother is from Texas with ancestry from Wales, and her dad is from New Hampshire, bred in Connecticut, with ancestry all over the UK. Skye has always been a very active female, and is very much the lead dog, being the oldest female in the pack/family. Skye seems to have inherited her mother's poise and thoughtfulness while getting determination and bit of impatientness from her father.
Skye has never been patient, but is mellowing with age. She works very hard but is often snuggling at night on a living room couch with Eric. She has had success at sheepdog trials, winning several blue ribbons in 2016.
Nash was born on 2-4-2012. He and his litter were being sold off a back of a truck on a road in Dutchess County, New York, and so they were rescued. A lovely couple adopted Nash and he lived with them as they moved to New York City and started a family. Nash proved a handful, perhaps the city was not to his liking. We agreed to take Nash on on a trial basis because it was not clear as a mix breed how he would work out in a working home. After many starts and a lot of training Nash has found a permanent home with us. No longer is he scared of the bugs and insects of the countryside and though he is probably not at all any part a herding dog he has fit in as guardian of the homestead when he is outside with the pack/family, keeping the gardens and livestock safe.
Nash is full of enthusiasm and has become a favorite of visitors and people the goose control crews meet. He is very good at goose control work, when pointed in the right direction, and can work with the livestock on the Johnson's Homestead.He seems very proud and happy if not overjoyed at times with all he has learned.
We have lived and worked with Border Collies since 1992, and have run the goose control service since 2002. It is sad that several dogs have passed away in that time. They all have been part of our family and important members of our "crew." Whether their name was Merck, Will, Faith, Tarr, Ben or Rhos, they are greatly missed and will always stay in our hearts.
How do you train a goose dog?
Our border collies begin their training as working dogs by learning to herd sheep. While herding is instinctive to most Border Collies, it takes time and patience for the dogs to learn a full repertoire of commands, such as go to the right, go left, move straight up to the livestock, stop on command, and come back to the handler. As their training progresses, we introduce poultry. Extensive herding work gives the dogs the experience and discipline they need for goose control work.
We train daily - with farm herding work as a basis for the goose control work. In addition, our dogs have competed in sheep herding trials throughout the Northeast and every Wild Goose Chase NE Border Collie participates in herding demonstrations several times a year at festivals and fairs.
We feel that the most important part of training a dog to do anything, including herding or "chasing geese," is to work on your relationship with the dog. This is one of the most important pieces of advice Eric and Caleb picked up at a learning sheep dog trial, and they repeat this advice often. Without knowledge and understanding, knowing how to relate to your dog is very hard.
A short history of Border Collies
Border Collies are perhaps the best known of "farm dogs." They come from a long tradition of working farm dogs that date back to Roman Times and beyond.
Farming peoples have always shared a relationship with dogs. These dogs hunted and protected both people and farm animals. They also herded, and at times, were used for "draft," pulling loads like small carts. The German Shepherd was at one time a breed that both protected and herded the livestock.
Border Collies trace their ancestry to these multipurpose dogs. They were developed as a breed in the British Isles and were given the breed name Border Collie as late as the end of the 1800s. Today they are known as a specialist and as the best herding breed, although other breeds, such as the Kelpie from Australia, have their supporters.
Border Collies are popularly known as "sheep dogs." Although it runs against the popular press, predators such as coyotes and foxes, do great damage to small livestock, like poultry, sheep and young cattle. Border Collies are not usually good guard dogs for warding off predators, but some Border Collies are more multi-purpose than others and still do a good job "watching for trouble."
Historically the breed was used to herd all sorts of livestock like poultry, cattle, and even pigs. Today you can still find BCs working on cattle ranches, open range poultry farms and diversified farms. Border Collies are even used to lead sled dog teams because their personalities allow them to cooperate closely with their "handlers." BCs are also used as rescue dogs. Some owners have found their high energy level and cooperative natures makes them great agility dogs. Some people have turned their BCs onto a sport called Flyball.
Outside of the farm situation, BCs are well known for their ability to compete in sheep dog trials, where they are almost without peer. These trials are set up to judge the individual dog's ability to herd. Small groups of sheep are herded through a course in a field, usually through "gates" and into a pen. In the most advanced of the 4 levels of "classes" in these herding trials, the dogs are told to "shed" or separate the group of sheep.
Golf course operators, schools and owners of properties with grass and water have found that the border collies instincts to "move" almost any type of livestock makes them a perfect solution to controlling the increasing problem of over population of wild geese. Commonly called "goose chase dogs," they will herd wild geese off a property usually by "pushing" the wild birds till they fly away.
Unlike most breeds we find in this country, BCs are not bred for looks or ability to be a "pet" but for their instincts and workability. Many BCs are loving affectionate dogs but they make bad "pets." Most people can not live with BCs because their instincts and high energy level make them unhappy in the common modern home.
This breed has many personality types. Some are aggressive, some are meek, some are very instictive, some BCs are a bit lazy or do not like to work. They are bred for different working attributes needed on the farm. For example, some BCs need to be bolder say, on a cattle ranch, some quieter on a sheep farm. BCs also come in different sizes, colors and hair lengths.
BC breeders and handlers can tell, early in a pup's life, something of his or her personality and working instincts. Socialization starts before 4 to 6 months of age. The pups are given plenty of exercise and playtime. The young pups should be "introduced," be around, the livestock they will be working with in their lifetime. For example, if the pup does not associate with cows at a early age, that pup will be nervous or even scared of cows.
When a young border collie starts its first lesson on how to herd with a handler, they work with quiet sheep or even ducks. Most people do not know, that sheep can be aggressive, depending on circumstance, breed type of sheep, or time of year.
The pup's earliest training will work from its instincts to "circle" the sheep or ducks and - it is up to the handler to teach balance. This means the pup needs to learn to "mirror" or get to the opposite side of the group of sheep from the handler.
Then the pup is taught to stop, and gather itself from what is almost always an excited disposition at this young age. The handler will then tell the pup to bring, or fetch the sheep to the handler.
Later, directions are taught to the pup, again in a circular fashion. These directions are to teach the pup to go to the left and to go to the right. "Away" or "away to me" is the usual command to go to the pups right, "bye" or "go bye" is to the left.
After this, the pup is taught to "drive the sheep" which is to move the sheep away from the handler. Most handlers will replace the verbal commands taught at an early age with whistle commands. It takes a few months for the pup/dog and the handler to learn these basics of herding. But it will take longer to fine tune both the handlers' and the dogs' skills.
Border Collies make a great addition to farms and lives, but it is important to invest time in understanding and honing their behavior, and developing one's own relationship to their unique abilities and characteristics.