Why Use Border Collies For Canada Goose Control?

Border Collies have something no other breed of dog has! This something is called Border Collie “eye” but it really refers to more than just the eyes. It is a whole way of moving that the shepherds bred for in Scotland over countless generations.

Stalking, The Body Language Of The Hunt

Have you ever watched a house cat sneak across the living room, stalking a toy? She is in ‘hunt’ mode, and it is characteristic of all predators, the world over. The head is down, shoulders hunched, tail carried low and the hips low. Each foot is placed with careful attention. Each step is quiet, and careful to avoid missteps. And, though out the stalk, the predator’s eyes are riveted on their prey. This is a body language that is instinctively recognized by any critter in the world. If you are a mouse, and don’t recognize this body language, you will be lunch in very short order!

A cat's body language while hunting is mimicked by Fawn and Tug as they approach some sheep.
A cat’s body language while hunting is mimicked by Fawn and Tug as they approach some sheep.

House cats, African lions, cougars, foxes, wolves and even our companion dogs stalk in this manner. By the time a puppy gets his little feet under himself, he starts to practice by stalking his litter mates and any other thing that might present itself for play.

For the ancestors of our modern dog, as well as the predators of the world, stalking is how they got “dinner on the table.” Wolves often use their stalk to herd their prey, wearing them down and looking for the sick, old or injured in the herd. A small pack of wolves can control a huge herd of caribou.

So, What Is The Border Collie “Eye?”

This stalk is what the shepherds of early Scotland began to use in controlling their flocks of sheep. They bred for dogs that could control the sheep with their stalking, but they also bred for endurance and biddability, or the willingness to work with and for the shepherd. The actual act of moving in for the kill needed to be controlled, or the shepherd would be losing sheep way to fast!

Sheep moving away from Fawn, a smooth coat Border Collie.
Sheep moving away from Fawn, a smooth coat Border Collie.

The resulting breed of dogs became known as Border Collies. Some wonderful web sites with information on Border Collies and their history can be found at:

Border Collie eye at work at a sheep dog trial.
Border Collie eye at work at a sheep dog trial.

As the stalking action was bred for and refined in the Border Collie, it became something of a signature of the breed. During this stalking, the dog’s total focus is on the sheep, the dog staring at the sheep. This staring can be quite unnerving, as any Border Collie owner can tell you! This has become known as the Border Collie “Eye,” and like any inherited trait comes in varying degrees.

A ‘loose eyed’ dog hardly looks at their sheep, and subsequently has difficulty exerting control over the sheep. At the other extreme dog can be so strong that both the dog and sheep freeze up, staring at each other. It is like they are all hypnotized, and it is nearly impossible to get any work done with this type of Border Collie.

While the Border Collie’s stare and focus is a major factor in his control of his livestock, it is really only a part of the over all body language of the ‘eye.’ It all comes back to the stalking action. Indeed, there have been Border Collies who were able to work and control their sheep nicely even though they themselves were blind. Relying on scent and sound to keep track of the stock, such a dog still employs the age old stalking motion, turning their face to the stock, and ‘staring’ at them.

Using Border Collies To Deter Canada Geese

Some 20+ years ago, a fellow by the name of David Marcks was a golf course superintendent in Connecticut, and grappling with the problems too many Canada Geese causing damage to his golf course. After trying all the known methods of repelling the geese, he tried the idea of using dogs to spook the geese away. Experimentation with several breeds of dogs often brought initial success, but most dogs soon tired of the sport of chasing the geese. Most had been bred to fetch something back, and were frustrated when they couldn’t actually fetch anything.

Border Collies proved to be the best bet, showing a willingness to go out after geese, time after time. As any Border Collie owner will tell you, they can be obsessive, compulsive, and high energy. Add in the Border Collie “Eye” and you have a dog that can be steadily used to haze geese.