How Does One Go About Using Border Collies?

Along the Atlantic Flyway, which lies along the Atlantic coast and the Appalachians, geese have been a major problem for decades. At this time, a land owner/manager can call upon any number of service companies who use Border Collies to haze geese off client’s property. However, here in Colorado there are only a couple such services, in the Denver Metro area.

Darby watching the Canada geese from her truck.
Darby watching the Canada geese from her truck.

One avenue many have followed is to obtain a dog of their own. When this method of hazing geese was first being experimented with, many of the dogs were either someone’s pet or adopted from a local shelter. Now days, there are a number of trainers offering dogs for goose control. These dogs can seem pretty expensive, but can be well worth it in the long run, especially if the dog is needed for multiple properties. You should have good long conversations with the trainer to find a dog that will fit you and your needs.

Take into consideration how many months out of the year you can use your dog. The Colorado Division of Wildlife only allows hazing with dogs for 8 months of the year. You need to have a plan for a high energy, bored dog, during that ‘off season.’

 

Adopting A Border Collie From A Shelter

While I desperately want to see these beautiful dogs adopted out of the shelters, I really have to advise caution with this avenue. These dogs tend to have no training and low socialization skills. They also bring ‘baggage’ with them such as, stubbornness, undefined fears and bad habits. Many things that their past owners could not deal with, and now you would have to deal with, as well as training the dog on goose control. At first blush it might seem to be a cost effective way to go, but in the long run can mean a lot of extra work, heartache and grief.

If you choose to adopt, try working with a Border Collie Rescue, where the dog has been fostered for a while, in a home environment. The Fostering family can give you terrific insight into the dog’s personality. You may be able to work out a situation where you can try the dog out, and still have an avenue to return the little guy or gal, if things don’t workout.

A major factor to consider is that not all Border Collies will chase geese. Some will chase geese at first, but will tire of not being able to round up their critters and herd them back to their handler. Honestly, gathering is what the Border Collie considers successful work, not spooking things. My Skye went after geese a total of two times, effectively sending the geese off. I cheered and told her how wonderful she was, did everything I could to let her know this what I wanted. The third time I sent her out, she ran out about 20 feet, stopped to look at the geese. She then turned around, sat down, and gave me a tipped head look of “Just how stupid do you think I am?” No matter what I have tired, the geese don’t even show up on her radar now. This is a dog who willingly works sheep all day, but sheep she can gather and control, they don’t leave the ground!

Darby swimming after Canada Geese.
Darby swimming after Canada Geese.

Another thing you cannot be sure of is whether or not the dog will swim. You see, one thing a wild predator will not do, is follow geese into water. It is too much effort for an unlikely catch. This is why the Canada geese like to hang out on or near bodies of water. They can always fly into the water and wait for the predator to give up and leave. Open water is especially a safe place to spend the night.

A goose dog that will follow the geese into the water, and chase them around in the water is a terrific asset. The first time a dog follows a flock of geese into a pond, you can watch the shock and confusion among the geese. It is very unsettling for them, that a safe haven is no longer safe. They quickly develop a deep respect of the dog, and soon may not even try for the pond.

Fawn walking into a pond.
Fawn walking into a pond.

Unfortunately, not all Border Collies will care to swim. My Fawn, who I consider my good right hand takes a lot of encouragement to swim after the geese, especially once the water turns cold. On the other hand, my Tug is a wonderful swimmer. He is not fast on land, like Fawn is, but in the water, he is a very determined Border Collie. The geese seem to stay around a while longer, trying to figure this strange predator out. This gives him time to herd them back and forth. He actually will take classic shepherd’s flanking commands to push the geese from one end of the pond to the other, or to split the flock up. In a few short minutes, the geese figure out that Tug is really after them, not just fetching a ball like other dogs they have seen. Their once safe haven is not so safe anymore, and they begin to take off in groups. As each group takes off, Tug turns his focus to any geese left behind, until they too, take off. Once they all take off, I’ve seen Tug swim in circles, looking for more geese. He is always disappointed that they have left.

Tug swimming after a Canada goose
Tug swimming after a Canada goose
One of the tough things about training a dog, is (be honest with yourself), you may not even know what the end ‘product’ or trained dog should look like. What commands will the dog need to learn and how do you teach that command?

 

Purchasing a Border Collie Trained For Goose Control

Yes, this is more expensive, but can make the road a whole lot smoother. A trainer who specializes in this can talk to you and determine just what you need in a dog. There are dozens of questions to be answered before you can be matched with the right dog. Everything from how large a property (or properties) you have to deal with and what kind of property, to where the dog will live, and will there be more than one handler in the dog’s life will come into consideration.

A good trainer can not only guide you in the choice of dog, but can give you some training on how to handle the dog. They will already know that the dog will go after the geese, work for more than one person if needed, and swim when needed. Most of them are able to send along a video, and be available by phone to help you. May able to actually travel
to your location to help you get to know the dog.

Goose Dogs – Goose Dogs For Sale

What ever way you choose to go, take your time deciding, this will be a living, breathing, thinking and feeling creature. Personally, I feel these dogs do best if they are able to go home with their handler, and I have found it is good PR. The general public always warm up to me when they learn that my dogs are a part of the family. This home life can really enhance the working relationship between dog and handler, each being able to better read the other.