Jess the Goose DogThere are some things that every school must have, for example teachers and classrooms. But in the case of the Royal Alexandra and Albert School another essential element is a dog called Jess. Jess, a 6 year old border collie, is the first known Goose Dog to attend school in England.
Set in 260 acres of parkland, the Royal Alexandra and Albert School is no ordinary school. Not only does it provide state education to over 900 pupils (including 420 boarders) but it offers courses that make the most of its unique setting. Head of Land Based Studies, Bob Greenhalgh and his team of Land Based Studies students, help the Park Warden to maintain the parkland.
One of the ongoing headaches for PE teachers in the School is trying to keep their pitches free of bird droppings which are a health hazard. The Canada Geese that take up residence by the main lake leave droppings on the cricket/rugby pitch that sits alongside it.
Then one day Bob found the solution to this problem. In fact he found it in a field chasing the School’s sheep. Jess had escaped from her owner (for the umpteenth time) and had gone out to round up sheep for fun. It turned out that Jess was a sheepdog who was not quite good enough to make a career of it, so was living with a local resident. The owner had been having trouble with her since she kept escaping to go and play with sheep. The sheep in question were pregnant ewes so Bob was very concerned, but he saw the potential in Jess.
The relieved owner happily agreed to let Bob have Jess for a week’s trial and all went well. Jess has now embarked on a new career which does not involve rounding up sheep, but, instead she chases off geese. Her sheep dog training has given her a good grounding, and despite her age she is learning the new skills required for scaring geese. She has already branched out and can chase off seagulls too.
Bob explains “Jess is being trained to move the geese on by running at them. Any dog can do this but a flock of 50 or 70 geese can be very intimidating to humans as well as dogs. I have seen geese chase a fox that was stalking them.
He continues “Jess is proving to be an excellent goose dog. Once she spots them and is given the command - they are gone AND she comes back when called. This method is very popular in the USA but less so in this country. We use other methods but so far have not had to shoot the geese – this is usually the standard response but not the most effective.
“To be an effective goose dog Jess will also need to learn other skills such as chasing geese when they are in the water and stalking the geese. She is learning the new commands and has had a few successful forays into the water, but she still needs to become more consistent. Pupils are also learning the skills of working with a goose dog and Jess is adapting to take instructions from different people.”
Since Jess joined the School in February there has been a noticeable reduction in the number of geese making their home in Gatton Park and this has made the school’s pitches safer.
And now Jess has a new career she has stopped chasing sheep. She is usually too tired!