Birds be gone!
YVR – Vancouver International Airport is the only Airport in Canada using bird dogs to help control bird activity. Lynn Leach is Vancouver Airport’s bird dog trainer.
Downriver Traveller STDs
Trav was the first full time airport bird dog at the Vancouver International Airport. He loved his job, and his handlers! He was very lucky to be working with some great people. Although John, Chuck and Greg were his main handlers, every one of the wildlife officers at Vancouver Airport treat him wonderful, give him special attention and enjoyed his company!
As bird dog trainer, I conducted a study in 2003. During the bird dog study, I interviewed breeders and trainers from 23 breeds. The Brittany Spaniel and Border Collie scored very high in most of the criteria. As the airport dogs will have every summer off, and come to Downriver Farm for their annual holiday, it made sense to choose a breed that could learn herding during their vacation time.
After choosing a dog, the next step was to match the bird dog handler with each bird dog. The wildlife officers were all offered a chance to apply if they were interested. During this first stage of the project, we were quite lucky in that every person who showed interest also showed great potential for becoming a good bird dog handler. Six weeks of full time one-on-one bird dog training helped to create a good partnership between the bird dog and handler.
Flight came on strength after Traveller retired at 12 years of age. She enjoys doing the bird work however she is super sound sensitive, and the airport environment can be very loud and have many distractions for the dogs.
Flight has continued to work at YVR for several years, however because of her sound sensitivity, we’ll be letting her retire early when we have our second Hungarian Mudi trained and ready to take her place.
True to her breed, Flight enjoys herding livestock during her down time at Downriver.
Flight aims to be prepared for her retirement years, when she will scale back to the relaxed life of working stock on a small farm.
After working with 3 border collies successfully (Trav & Chaser retired as old dogs & Flight is still working), we decided to add a Hungarian Mudi to the program. Our first Mudi is named Pilot, and he is working out wonderfully!
Training for these bird dogs involves way more than just chasing birds. Safety and following airport rules are most important. The dogs are not allowed to exit buildings or vehicles without permission, nor are they allowed to cross surface changes without clearance from handler while working. This is to keep them safe from traffic.
Often the dogs cannot see the bird(s) that they are being sent after. They have learned to obey, and that there will be a reward of a chase. Great Blue Herons stand very still and are hard for people to spot. The dogs are much lower to the ground, and their vision is not as good. The bird dogs often need to be directed to a Heron. Gulls and ducks are fun because they can see them easily, and the birds respond quickly to the dog’s movement.
Snow Geese can be a real hazard to air traffic. These geese stop every winter to rest and prepare for their trip to Russia. One of the dog’s jobs is to help these geese decide not to rest near the main traffic path of aircraft.