One of the first questions we get about our dogs is whether they are our pets or just employees. Once we assure the client that our dogs are members of the family, their next question is often “I know they’re well-trained, but how are they trained, exactly?” It’s not a question that can be answered quickly, but for the sake of brevity during a business meeting I usually stick to one of the most important aspects of training any dog: consistency. They’ve both been obedient from a young age simply because they have had expectations set for them from the beginning. Dogs love routine and pick up on it quickly- if you have a dog, you have already seen this demonstrated when it’s almost time for dinner.
Dogs don’t want to be kept guessing, and taking away some of the questions they have about your expectations of them can actually help them use their problem solving skills for other, really exciting tasks (like figuring how to clear a field of geese)! Stability should be a cornerstone of dog ownership in general, but it is absolutely essential for a working dog to understand your expectations. We are passionate about this concept and believe it leads to beautifully well-balanced dogs.
The importance of recall
This concept of consistency goes both ways. If your training commands remain uniform you should certainly expect your dog to perform with consistency. If you’d like to give your pup a job such as goose control, ask yourself how eager they are to do what you ask of them every single time you ask. Can you guarantee that, when off-leash, your dog will stop in its tracks and come when called? This is known as recall, and a lack of predictable recall is a huge safety concern. While it is important that the dog returns to you right away if they are about to physically disturb a goose, it is even more important that you can stop them from chasing a bird right into the street. If your dog’s recall isn’t quite polished enough to translate to a career in chasing geese, you can always improve this command with regular training sessions.
The drive to work
Another one of the most important considerations when selecting a pooch for this line of work is how motivated they are to pursue prey. Some dogs consistently have no drive to pursue prey, and some will chase anything that moves until they’ve caught it. If you hope to use a dog for goose control, they must walk a thin line between the two ends of the spectrum. If your dog has no desire to pursue geese, they pose no threat whatsoever to the birds and will be completely unsuccessful at removing the geese. These are very bold birds who aren’t even a little bit concerned by a dog who is simply existing alongside them. I’ve actually seen geese wait until the dogs are only 15 feet away and charging towards them before even considering flying away! You’d be very surprised how much it takes to ruffle their feathers.
However, if your dog is too eager to pursue the geese and manages to grab one, you are violating the protections put in place by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1916. That’s not great publicity for a business trying to market their services as humane and non-lethal. Many clients contract with a company like Driven Wild to avoid this issue and maintain their positive public image.
Acting as a leader
One often overlooked component to using your pet dog for goose control is the role you’ll play as their handler. It’s important to consider how you feel about being responsible for teaching your dog many new tricks and commands and practicing them routinely. Not all dog owners have the desire to put in the hundreds of hours of training it takes to create a successful working dog, and that’s okay. If you fall into this category but are still hoping to use dogs to reduce the goose population on your property, it may be best to leave that work to the professionals so you have more time in your day to enjoy your newly goose-free greenery.
Keep your goals realistic
Even if you and your dog are the best of friends, it may be best not to mix business with leisure. Be realistic when assessing whether your dog can succeed as a goose dog. If your main priority is teaching your dog fun new tricks you two can practice together, it may be best to stick to a leisure activity like agility. If you’re serious about using your dog for goose control and you feel he or she is a good candidate, the next step is to begin training your pet commands specific to this line of work. It may be helpful to consult a trainer in your area who can suggest commands and how to teach them. It’s not a quick process, but if you persevere you can create a great working bond with your pet dog.