DUBLIN -- With a glint in his eyes, Chantz spotted the target. Under partly cloudy skies with a cold breeze blowing against his face, he crouched down to be a little less visible. His exterior demeanor was calm, but inside he was ready to spring into action.
When the timing was just right, his handler let Chantz loose.
In a matter of seconds, the speedy black Labrador sprinted across the park and charged at a gaggle of 80 to 90 Canada geese. En masse, they honked their way into the sky and away from the Dublin Sports Grounds.
Mission accomplished. For now. But the goose-dogs hired by the city to chase away the birds have to be ever vigilant.
Canada geese are beautiful birds but they have
"The damage they cause has created an ongoing maintenance concern for the city," said Paul McCreary, director of the city's parks and community services department.
The droppings the birds leave behind are unsightly and unhealthy for park users, especially for the young children who play baseball and soccer on the fields next to city hall. In addition, once the geese mate, the goslings instinctively learn that the fields are their home, and will add to the population and the problem.
One solution has been to use fertilizer that also repels the birds, but it's expensive, labor intensive and doesn't always work. Various
"By virtue of state and federal wildlife protection laws, the city cannot take it upon itself to physically remove or harm these birds or their nests and eggs," said McCreary.
Enter Chantz and the other dogs of 4Paws Goose Control. The geese view the dogs as coyotes or foxes, which are natural predators. In this case, however, the dogs are highly trained and only run at the geese and do not try to grab them.
"Once people realize that the dogs don't hurt the birds, they are very supportive," said Denise Laberee, a dog trainer and co-owner of 4Paws, a San Lorenzo company. "The dogs are not actually chasing them, they just run towards them until they fly away."
In addition to Chantz, Laberee and co-owners Vicki Stewart and Mike Ford also use three border collies, Shelby, Kylee and Abbie. All are taught to not touch the birds, even if a goose may be injured and unable to fly.
There have been as many as 250 geese that have called the Sports Grounds home. In just the first week of using the working dogs, that number has dropped by more than 100, as the geese grow weary of flying away from the dogs two to three times a day and find another place to rest and sleep. In this case, it appears that the water treatment plant on the other side of Interstate 580 in Pleasanton works for this flock.
Dublin is paying $1,000 a month on an open-ended contract for the services, as there's no precise way to determine how long the dogs will be needed before the birds move on.
While the geese learn quickly, they also can be determined birds. Often, after the flock is initially driven away by the dogs, a scout team of a few geese will fly back looking to see if the dogs are still there. If they are, the geese stay away.
"We just keep sending the dogs out, and eventually they (the geese) give up," said Laberee, who says her company also works at two business parks in Walnut Creek, a golf course in Castro Valley and park space in Alameda.
While the geese are Canadian in origin, they apparently like the Bay Area just fine. In fact, according to Laberee, flocks in the area no longer return to Canada and instead choose to live year-round in the more temperate region.