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Geese are the perfect addition to most farms. Not only do they provide amazing eggs, but they are the ultimate guard animal. Geese are majestic birds that can add a lot of color and fun to your farm, but when a predator comes a-calling, they make a lot of noise and by flapping their wings can make themselves appear larger and more threatening. Handling them can be challenging, but if you train your Border Collie to herd geese, he can make your life a lot easier.
Border Collies are considered to be natural herding dogs. While this may be true of Border Collies and many other breeds, you still have to train them to put this natural talent to work helping you herd your geese around the farm. Bear in mind, herding is a very challenging task and teaching it to your pup is going to take some time, you are sure to find the results more than worth the effort.
The goal is to teach your dog through a series of verbal commands, hand signals, or whistle sounds to move your gaggle of geese around the farm. While there are many different advanced herding commands you can teach your pup later, for this we are looking at the basic movements; "Walk up" to approach the gaggle, "To me" to herd the geese towards you from behind, "Come by" to move the geese to the right by approaching them from the left, and "Away to me" to move the geese to the left by approaching them from the right.
Before attempting to teach your pup to herd, he needs to be checked by his vet to make sure he is physically mature enough, and he needs to have already mastered 'come', 'sit', 'stay', 'down', and 'stop'. Beyond this, you simply need to have a few supplies on hand, including:
- Geese: Of course, you need a few geese that are not afraid of dogs.
- A pen: At least one training method requires a pen to work in.
- A leash: This will help keep your dog under control and keep your birds safe,
- Treats: You need plenty of these to reward progress.
- Time and patience: You are going to need plenty of both if you want this training to be successful
Since there is a definite risk of your dog or geese being injured during the early stages of training, be sure to keep your pup on his leash. There is no hurry, give your dog all the time he needs to become used to being around the geese and for them to get used to him.
The Back to the Basics Method
It all starts at the beginning
Start out by spending several days working your pup through the basic herding commands 'away to me' and 'come by' by walking your pup on his leash around you in circles. Use the commands to have him change direction and give him treats when he gets it right. Once he has these two commands down, time to move on.
Two more commands
Next up, the 'walk up' command. With your pup on his leash, slowly walk him towards a favorite toy while giving the command "walk up." Follow this with 'to me' and have your pup push a beach ball towards you. Be sure to give him a treat when he gets it right and keep practicing until your pup has mastered both of these commands.
Bring on the geese
Place a small number of geese in the center of a training pen. (A large pile of feed is a good way to keep them in place.) Put your pup on his leash and bring him into the pen and have him sit. Give your dog and the geese time to get used to each other. This is very important.
Still on his leash, walk your pup towards the geese slowly while at the same time giving him the 'walk up' command. Once you are within 10 feet of the geese, start using the movement commands to have your pup move them around the training pen. You may have to work at this for several weeks before you can take your pup off the leash knowing he will not harm the geese.
Time to go to work
The last thing you need to do is take him outside where he can work with your entire gaggle. Start him out on his leash and work him through his paces again until you feel he is ready to go to work off-leash. Be patient, it will take him some time to completely master this skill.
The Long Lead Method
Collect a small gaggle together
Gather up a small gaggle of your calmest geese into a section of your yard where you are less likely to be disturbed. Use a large pile of feed to keep them happily in place.
Pick up the long lead
Hook your pup up to a long lead (20 feet or so) and using the 'walk up' command, allow him to approach the geese slowly. Stop him when he is around 10 feet from them.
Circle the wagons--I mean, geese
Following him with the leash in your hand and plenty of slack, walk your pup around and around the geese until they both have time to get used to each other.
Let go the leash
Let go of the leash and let it drag on the ground. Start using the four commands to have your pup move the geese around the yard. If at any time he seems to be on the verge of attacking your geese, grab the leash and give a firm but gentle tug and tell him "NO!" Call him to you and make him lay down until he has calmed down before resuming training. Be prepared to spend several weeks on this step.
No more leash
Time to put all of your training to the test, take the leash off and put your pup through his paces. The more you work with him, the better he will become at this task and the better he will feel about making you happy.
The Shepherd's Whistle Method
You're going to need a whistle
For this method, you're going to need a whistle, and not just any whistle. You need a shepherd's whistle, one that you can make different sounds with. You can order one online or find one at your local farm supply store.
Create your commands
Practice your whistle commands for each action until you are sure you know which is which. You can use the traditional whistles or make your own up.
Hey pup, listen up
Use your whistle around the house so that your pup has time to get used to the sound and to the point at which he doesn't flinch when you blow on it.
No geese, just words
Take your pup out in an empty area of your farm along with the whistle. Work on directions with him by using a beach ball and a leash. First, put your pup on his leash, walk him towards the ball while giving him the verbal and whistle command to 'walk up'. Then have him go around you in a circle, make him switch directions frequently, again using both verbal and whistle commands. Keep working at these until your pup will do as instructed whether you are using a verbal or whistle command.
Just add geese
Bring a small gaggle of geese to the yard and work your pup through moving the geese around, using both verbal and whistle commands. Be sure to give your pup tons of praise when he gets it right, along with a tasty treat.
Finally, take your pup off his leash and work him with gradually larger gaggles of geese until he can handle your entire gaggle by voice or whistle command. The rest is all about countless hours of practice. Be patient, your pup will turn into a spectacular herding dog as he grows up.
Written by PB Getz
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 01/12/2018, edited: 01/08/2021