Man’s best friend has turned out to also be good for rousting geese from parts of the Johnson County landscape.
Geese Police of Kansas City, owned by Dave and Julia Swickard, does the job with a team of four highly-trained border collies, and four trucks. Geese Police is headquartered in New Jersey; the Swickards bought the Kansas City area franchise three years ago and have been busy ever since. They operate from their 160-acre property in Stillwell.
The Swickards focus on moving geese from both commercial and residential properties. Clients include Block Realty, CB Richard Ellis and various homes associations.
“It’s amazing how many people hate geese,” Dave Swickard said.
Geese Police offers various packages for its service, including year-round and an “as needed” option to send the geese flying off to another location. The company uses Border collies because they are natural herding animals.
“The reason other dogs do not work as well is that a herding dog gets in a stalking movement that imitates that of a natural predator to geese,” Swickard said, “It’s a wolf-like glance.”
Q: How do the dogs’ help get rid of these pesky birds ?
“We bring them every day so the geese perceive them as a predator,” Swickard said. “It’s consistent harassment. In the beginning, we come two to three times a day for about two weeks … and we stagger the time so the geese don’t get used to a set time and congregate later. We play off that, by nature, geese are lazy and don’t like to move.”
Swickard said his service was moving a resident goose population — ones that were born here and don’t migrate — and they can be stubborn to move. It takes about six to eight weeks to “re-pattern” a flock, he said.
“Our job is getting the geese off of your property,” he said. “We work hard to keep our clients happy and we offer a 100percent satisfaction guarantee.”
The Swickards’ dogs — Gail, Bruce, Duff and Maid — are trained beginning at the age of 2. The dogs come from selected breeders who know the skills needed to qualify as Geese Police.
“They all have to be able to swim, and that’s unusual for Border collies,” he said.
Training continues once the dogs arrive here, and they go from herding sheep to pushing geese out of an area.
“The collies are trained not to harm or even touch the geese,” Swickard said. “All of our methods are certified by the Humane Society and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.”
The main task of Geese Police is resettling the birds elsewhere, but the company also does a little clean up from the waste geese leave behind.
“I follow the poop,” Swickard said with a chuckle. “The average goose eats about four pounds of grass daily and poops a pound and a half daily.”
The busiest time of year is spring when the geese have had their offspring.
Q: How did you get into this business?
Swickard had been in the mortgage business and saw it going downhill. He began to think about other options.
“I loved the outdoors and grew up on a farm and liked the environment,” Swickard said. “A friend saw border collies doing this on a golf course and called me with the idea.”
Swickard searched the Internet and found Geese Police. He went out to several properties in the area asking whether they would be interested in a geese eradication program.
“I had a resounding ‘yes,’ and I contacted Geese Police,” he said.
Q: What are the challenges of operating a business with animals involved ?
Being a first-time business owner proved challenging for Swickard.
“That’s what is nice about being part of a franchise — the help you get out of it,” Swickard said.
Name recognition was another issue.
“Getting our name out there was challenging,” he said. “The service we offer is unique and people tend to remember us. (It’s) convincing people to give us a try.… We do demos with all new accounts. Once they see the dogs in action it clicks for them.”
Gas prices have also had their impact on Geese Police.
“Gas is our No. 1 cost, so we try to economize by doing work in proximity of each other,” he said.
Q: How has the weather affected your business ?
This summer’s heat and drought have moved Geese Police’s season up by about 30 days, which has resulted in more business.
“It’s been great,” Swickard said. “Typically in the winter our work slows down, but we’ve had more accounts this year.”
And just like people, the dogs have needed extra measures to cope with the weather, such as special haircuts for this time of year.
“We do everything we can to take care of them,” Swickard said. “We have fans on them to keep them cool.… They’re great employees. They love the work and they don’t complain and they’re easy to train.”
Swickard said there are a handful of competitors in the area.
“I started out south because of where we were working.… We’ve got a foothold in Overland Park and now we’re moving north,” he said.
“It’s a great business and it fits perfectly with my desire to work outside rather than behind a desk. And to be able to work with dogs is icing on the cake.”