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Q: How can I handle an aggressive goose?

A:

Geese can make great pets, and thankfully, most geese do not exhibit aggressive behavior. Among those that do, it is usually confined to the breeding and nesting season in spring and early summer. Geese are generally excellent parents, and like any good parent, want to protect their offspring from potential threats. Thankfully, whether during breeding season or not, with proper management strategies, you can help your geese be less aggressive and you can learn to handle more contentious individuals effectively.

General strategies for handling geese
First, never taunt or harass your geese, and do not allow children to do so, either. Waterfowl thrive in calm, quiet environments, but will learn to be aggressive if aggression is directed toward them. Work quietly and slowly among them, never making fast or threatening advances. It is likely wise to avoid overly-taming them as well, as some may lose their fear of humans altogether and begin to feel very comfortable challenging you. If one does move toward you aggressively, do not fight them or swat at them, since this can just make their fight instinct stronger. Also, do not run away, because this gives them more confidence, and they will likely chase you. Instead, stand still, and do not turn your back. Most of the time, they are "more bark than bite." When you provide the bird no stimulus to fight, they will usually calm down and retreat.


Sebastopol geese are among the least aggressive breeds.

Special considerations during mating season
Encourage your geese to nest where they can be left alone, away from pathways, gates, doorways, and other pets. Locating their nesting boxes or nesting materials in high-traffic areas will only invite confrontation. Only bother nesting geese when it is absolutely necessary. Do not allow young children into their nesting area during breeding season! If you must approach nesting geese, move slowly and speak softly and reassuringly to them. If they charge--head snaking on the ground, hissing--the best course of action is usually to just stand still. As mentioned before, the birds will usually settle down, and then you can continue your work. Have patience and move slowly and deliberately, since they may get more aggressive the more you engage. When you leave, walk away slowly without turning your back.

Engaging with a particularly aggressive goose:
Make sure you do not get down on his level or mimic his motions with your head or body language. Instead, make yourself large by raising your arms and walking toward him slowly until he backs down. Some people report having had luck doing something like this: hold him by the neck just below his head--without squeezing--to immobilize him and keep him from biting you. Sternly say, "No!" If he won't stop, continue to hold his neck so you don't get bitten, and talk to him gently until he calms down. Repeat as needed. He will hopefully learn that "no" means "no." Whenever you are around him in the future, make sure you use the tips outlined above: no sudden movements, do not turn your back, etc.