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Geese Police

Fowl-herding dog franchise won\'t take a bite out of crime


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The idea for Geese Police was hatched when David Marcks needed a job for his dog.

 
A border collie will go the extra mile to herd pesky geese off golf courses and other areas.

His highly intelligent, energetic border collie’s competence at chasing geese from the golf course where Marcks was the superintendent resulted with her being out of a job. And, unfortunately, a bored border collie is a bad border collie.

To keep the dog busy, Marcks loaned her out to neighboring golf courses. That was 20 years ago. His original dog is no longer working, but the concept is. Today Geese Police has five franchises open and a booming business that includes schools, corporate campuses, cemeteries and city parks.

Canada geese—which are a messy nuisance to any facility with water, cut grass and open space—are federally protected and municipalities have different rules governing them. While the dogs don’t eliminate the problem, they do provide an environmentally safe control of the animals, says Dianne Neveras, vice president of the company based in Howell, N.J.

Cathy Fiddler, a franchisee based in Leesburg, Va., had a similar experience to Marcks with her father-in-law’s dog. She tried Frisbee competitions and sheepherding before hitting upon geese herding. Before signing on with Geese Police, she had tried to make it as an independent. Ironically, her decision to become a franchisee wasn’t because she wasn’t making money—she was. But to be successful in this business, she says, is more complicated than it appears.

Joe Kohl, sales manager with Geese Police, would agree. “We’re particular about our dogs’ training,” he says. “We’re not someone with a pet (in the back seat) and a sticker on their station wagon.”

The trained dogs cost $5,000 a piece and the only breed used are border collies, which are natural herders with no interest in catching the geese. “They don’t have to grab anything to be happy,” he says. “They’re gatherers.”

In addition to extensive training, border collies have a natural wolf-like technique, called “the eye.” “They stalk and stare,” Kohl explains, which the geese view as predatory behavior, as opposed to being a nuisance like a dog barking or a person flapping his arms would be.

Kohl wouldn’t say how much they charge to police a site, because each one is different, but a job will often involve visiting a site two to three times a day, seven days a week. Until, hopefully the geese relocate.

It’s not all outdoor work. There’s also a business to run: Dogs have to be retrained, regulations followed, insurance purchased and sales made.

And, while the dogs aren’t treated as pets, they are treated well. Fiddler’s dogs have indoor kennels in her unfinished basement with outside access. The retirement plan ain’t bad either. When the dogs are too old to work, they move upstairs, where they can sleep on a couch in front of the TV all day if they want.

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