When Wild Geese and Dogs Meet
Pugs Vs. Geese
While I was going out to photograph a flock of Canadian geese that just came in to the area, Tess waited patiently in the truck with her sister Gracie. I had found a good spot to park along the pond that would give me a great view to photograph from and also allow the pugs to watch from the truck window. After 10 minutes of waiting for me to finish taking photographs, Tess poked her head up over the door panel and gave out a small woof letting me know it was a good time for her to get out and go do her business.
I made sure that the area was safe from other vehicles turning into the parking area, harnessed Tess and Gracie, and proceeded to help them get down out of the truck. In less than 10 seconds, the quiet pond I had been photographing became boisterous with honking. I looked over my shoulder to see 15 Canadian Geese swimming as fast as they could towards Tess & Gracie. Neither dog had barked at the geese or attempted to take chase after the geese, but the geese were bent on getting to them.
Tess & Gracie ran to the back side of the parking lot, away form the waters edge, not even noticing the noise or the geese. They were determined on doing their business and following a scent that fascinated them. The geese began to quiet down and move away from the shore when they saw the dogs go farther away from the water. I started to wonder why we were the recipients of all that commotion from the gaggle of geese. The dogs did not approach in an aggressive manner nor did they leap from the truck barking their fool heads off. The geese were fine while I was on the shore taking photographs, so what was it? Then it struck me, it was spring.
Should towns and cities use trained hunting dogs to haze geese out of public parks and ponds?
Overprotective is in a Gooses' DNA
In spring, we may be beginning to shake our bones awake and start to adventure out, but these birds are finishing their migration. They are searching streams, lakes and ponds for a nice little island of mud and reeds on which to build the nest. Geese prefer to graze, so they swim the stream, lake or pond making sure that there is enough local food to feed the family. The gander (male goose) will protect his goose (female goose) from any harm, protect and defend their new home for the upcoming season.
I have heard tales from bird hunters about geese trying to drown dogs. Come to find out, it is true. Canadian geese have an innate fear of foxes and wolves. They associate domestic dogs with their wild counterparts. There have been reports of Canadian geese and swans actually succeeding in drowning dogs. These types of birds will achieve this goal by luring the dog to deeper water then stand on the dogs’ back. Some will also hold out their wing to keep the dogs’ head down in the water.
Some people have reported seeing a gaggle of geese surround a dog; begin pecking at it while others try to get the dog under water so they can jump on top of the dog. Usually the pets’ owner can rush into the water to scare off the geese, but this is not always the case with swans. A cob (male swan) will protect his family and nest very aggressively. Cobs do not care if the potential threat is a human, dog, cat, duck or even a goose.
Diffusing the Situation
Geese are quite skillful at reading body language. This is due to their superb eyesight. As the goose approaches where you and your dogs are, make firm eye contact. This will demonstrate that you are not an attainable target. This can deter the goose from further persuing it's attack.
Make sure to keep your shoulders square with the goose. Have the dogs right by your side and slowly back away from the goose. You want to remove you and your dogs from the nesting area. As soon as there is enough distance between the goose and you, the attack should stop due to the goose no longer seeing you as a direct threat.
Do not show that you may be submissive in your body language. Refrain yourself from hitting or striking out at the bird. Doing so can get the attention form other geese including nesting females. The more geese that join in the defending of the area, the more trouble you will have in diffusing an already tense situation.
If, by chance, the goose tries to take flight in close proximity, cover you face and duck, but do not completely block your vision. Remember to move perpendicular to the birds path in order to avoid the wings and feet.
Dog Safety Tips
While you are out enjoying a hike with your dog or dogs , remember to keep them leashed near lakes and ponds especially during the nesting season.Most hiking trails that do allow dogs, also require dogs to be leashed at all times for everyone’s safety.
If you see that geese or swans are actively using the pond or lake, be aware of their activity. Chances are you will not encounter an incident with a goose or swan, but as the photo shows, Tess was still curious while waiting for her turn to enter the truck and the geese began their return to defend their nesting area.
© 2013 Susan McLeish