Bird Dog Training

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.

Lynn Leach is Bird Dog Trainer - Trains Dog to Chase Birds Away From Plane
Lynn Leach trains bird dog to chase birds away from airplanes at Vancouver Airport.

Pepsi and Dew were the first two bird dogs (airport dogs) that I trained to work at YVR, followed by Traveller's six months of intense training. Trav is now the full time bird dog at Vancouver Airport, and Striker is learning to be a back-up bird dog. Downriver Chaser, born on Canada Day July 1, 2005 has begun her bird dog training, and will soon be learning about airport etiquette and rules.


Downriver Traveller STDs

Trav is now working as a bird dog (airport dog) full time at the Vancouver International Airport. He loves his job, and loves his handlers! He is very lucky to be working with some great people. Although John, Chuck and Greg are his main handlers, every one of the wildlife officers at Vancouver Airport treat him wonderful, give him special attention and enjoy his company!

Ralph was the wildlife supervisor throughout my first two years as bird dog trainer at YVR, and is now enjoying retirement in the beautiful Okanagan. Ralph was instrumental in providing me with orientation to the airport environment for bird dog training. To help this project be successful, I spend time assessing bird dogs and choose an airport dog that meets all mandatory criteria. A few of these criteria included good work ethics, trainability, biddibility, well adjusted temperament, good conformation and the willingness to work with a variety of handlers.

Trav, a bird dog at vancouver airport working in water
Trav, Bird Dog at Vancouver Airport, Working in Water

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.

Lynn Leach, bird dog trainer and Trav, airport dog, working in water
Lynn Leach, Bird Dog Trainer, and Trav, Bird Dog

Training for these bird dogs involves way more than just chasing birds. Safety and following airport rules are most important. Traveller is very dependable - he knows which areas require clearance from his handler(s), and he knows when he has the freedom to go about his job as he sees fit.

He trusts his handler. Often, he cannot see the bird(s) that he is being sent after. He has learned to obey, and that there will be a reward of a chase if he does. Great Blue Herons stand very still, and are hard for people to spot and 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 for Trav - he can see them easily, and they respond to his movement quickly.

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 Trav's jobs is to help them decide not to rest near the main traffic path of aircraft.

Trav, airport bird dog, working Snow Geese 
Trav, Bird Dog, Works Snow Geese

Trav works well with the wildlife officers to accomplish this. He loves to swim, and enjoys having the run of the marsh lands and beach.

Trav has been trained that his job is to keep the airport clear of all bird activity. This means that we don't have to give him directions, we just send him off to check his fields and ditches.

He often runs the length of the ditch, stopping only if necessary to convince stubborn ducks to leave the area. He then crosses to the other side and returns only when he is confident that the area is clear.

Thursday the 23rd.
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