Bailey knows a lot of tricks that will get her treats. The purebred Australian Shepherd knows how to sit, lie down, stay, roll over on command – and even how to balance a treat on her nose and flip it into her mouth.
She also knows the word “geese,” and what to do when she hears that word while making the rounds of TPC Sawgrass PLAYERS Stadium Course in a golf cart with her owner Mike Cooper.
“You want those geese?” Cooper asks her one recent day when they stop at a lake where two Canadian Geese are standing at the edge.
Bailey barks, as if to say “yes,” and then runs toward them. The geese fly into the water, paddle quickly to the other side, and then fly off.
“Geese are not afraid of people, and will just side step a golf cart,” Cooper says. “But they hate dogs.”
Since Cooper, assistant superintendent of the Stadium Course, began bringing Bailey to work, “she’s reduced the population of geese significantly,” he says.
Since geese are afraid of dogs, they don’t like to hang around places where they are likely to encounter them. They’d rather go someplace else, so they fly off, and are not harmed in any way.
Geese and some other water birds, such as cormorants, are common golf course pests, because “they poop all over the grass and bulkheads,” Cooper says, and geese pluck at the grass, “which messes it up.” Having a trained golf course dog chase pesky birds away is an environmentally friendly technique for getting them off a property. One used by golf courses around the country.
Bailey started going to work with Cooper when she was a year old, when he worked at the Grand National Golf Course in Auburn, Alabama. On her first day, “she went after geese hard core, which was great,” he said. She was a natural.
When Cooper started working at TPC Sawgrass in 2011, geese were a big problem on the course, and golfers were complaining. Cooper mentioned that his dog Bailey could solve the problem, so he was told to bring her.
Now, everyone loves her.
Coworkers bring her treats, he says. “She’s a big morale booster on the job,” and “any chance they get, they play with her and pet her.”
She’s also popular with golfers who are charter members, and play the course all the time. “They know her name better than mine,” Cooper says.
Bailey will turn 10 in August, so she’s had a lot of experience as a golf course dog. Cooper brings her to work every day, except when it rains. She never actually catches any geese, and isn’t permitted to jump into any lakes to go after them. But that’s OK with her.
She likes coming to work, Cooper says. She likes being around people, and she’s outdoors all day long chasing geese, birds, and squirrels.
“She’s got a good life.”