Tecumseh welcomes four-legged staffers to keep geese out of Lakewood Park
The dogs are clearly identifiable by reflective vests which read 'Goose Dog'
The Town of Tecumseh is using highly-trained border collies to keep Canada geese out of Lakewood Park.
"Over a number of years, the geese population has grown ... and it's caused us a number of problems with maintenance — keeping the walkways clean," said the town's parks and recreation director Paul Anthony.
Apollo, Archer, Aura, Brigid, Celeste and Evelyn with Leamington-based Caora Border Collies were on the job this week, disrupting geese which flock throughout the park. They work off leash and are clearly identifiable by their reflective vests which read "Goose Dog."
The geese problem at Lakewood Park is "multiplying" on an annual basis, according to Anthony, who points to poop droppings in the park and grass being eaten as two of the major problems that arise because of the birds.
"There's mess everywhere," he said. "It's a 57-acre park — plus another four acres on the waterside — so there's a lot of open area with water and grass that they certainly like."
Parks staff have tried a number of control options in the past to try to deter the birds from nesting and settling in the parks, Anthony added.
"Border collies have been shown to be successful in other park areas which is why we decided to use this method in Lakewood."
Geese rushing toward park-goers
Lakewood Park sees two populations of geese descend throughout the year. The "migratory population" leave during the winter and return during the spring, while the "winter population" — as the name suggests — appear during the snowy months of the year.
Both populations set up nesting sites in the spring, Once the goslings hatch, they either stay for the winter or take off. But those that take off will always return home to Lakewood Park.
That results in the population of geese at the park getting "larger and larger" each year.
"With that growth comes huge costs in grass maintenance, poop cleanup, keeping the paths clean and there's also incidents of aggression in the geese. They don't like people getting in their way — especially during nesting season," said border collie handler Lindsay Logsdon.
"You will actually sometimes see geese with their wings spread out and their heads forward hissing and charging at people."
Why border collies?
Border collies are the breed of choice for geese herding, according to Logsdon who has been training dogs for about 20 years and has worked specifically with border collies for about half that time.
She said much of the training that the dogs at Caora Border Collies undergo relate to sheep herding — but they also learn to herd domestic ducks and geese as well.
"The birds are so flighty compared to sheep. It really teaches the dogs self-control and obedience skills because they can't just rush up on these delicate birds," said Logsdon, who offers geese herding services across Windsor and Essex County.
Their herding behaviour is also different from any other breed of dog, in that they take on a body position that "mimics a wild predator."
"This is why they're so successful in sheep herding. The sheep are really intimidated by their body language and will agree to move for them," said Logsdon. "The same thing happens with the birds."
Body positioning also helps border collies stand out from the average pet walking throughout Lakewood Park with their owners.
"Canada geese are very used to people's pet dogs. They encounter them everywhere they go along their migration routes, especially in parks ... As soon as the birds fly up, [pets] will go off with their owner and on their way. So the geese actually learn to mostly ignore people's pet dogs," she said.
The Town of Tecumseh is using highly-trained border collies to keep geese out of Lakewood Park.<br><br>Apollo, Archer, Aura, Brigid, Celeste and Evelyn with Caora Border Collies were on the job this week, disrupting birds which flock throughout the park.<br><br>📹: Lindsay Logsdon <a href="https://t.co/rgmdk2wngR">pic.twitter.com/rgmdk2wngR</a>—@sanJmaru
"But because of the way the border collies move, the birds perceive them as a predator and a threat. They're biologically programmed to be unable to get used to their presence or start to tolerate them."
Geese herding also serves to help the birds, since it forces them to raise their young in a more stable environment.
"This means they're going to be finding safer places for nesting, safer places for raising goslings and, in the long run, it's a benefit to the birds as well," said Logsdon.
The geese-herding program will run as a trial for the next three months and will be reviewed afterward to determine if the dogs need to be brought out for additional days and times throughout the summer and fall.