Flyaway Geese has surprises up its paws

The herding dog demonstration at the 2024 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show offers unexpected fun this year, says owner.


cookies and cream colored border collie lying down on astroturf
Flyaway Geese founder and owner Rebecca Gibson brings her popular border collies back to the 2024 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show for demonstrations this week. Photo by Darren Carroll

When the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show promises “an interactive experience you won’t find anywhere else,” that vow also applies to the vendors on the trade show floor. Case in point: Perennial trade show favorite Flyaway Geese. Founder Rebecca Gibson says to expect some surprises at her demonstrations in Phoenix.

“It’s going to be a demo unlike any they’ve ever seen from us,” Gibson assures. “I don’t want to give away too much, but it’ll include audience participation, and it’ll be more of a show this year than just education.”

Gibson and her expertly trained border collies have been coming to the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show for 25 years, and though Flyaway Geese’s appearances are always a delight, she’s aware that sometimes it’s necessary to shake things up.

“We’ve done it for so many years in a row now, and I don’t want them to get bored,” she says. “In the beginning it was about trying to educate the superintendents on the dogs’ purpose. I think we’ve saturated that piece of it so much that I don’t want them to get tired of hearing about it.”

Certainly, in the years since Gibson first started training and selling dogs to golf course superintendents and other outdoor maintenance professionals as a wildlife control tool, the attitude toward dogs on the golf course has gone from skeptical to practical (and social) necessity.

“25 years ago, people really looked at them as a tool. 80 percent of the dogs then lived at the course and just did their job,” Gibson says. “I had to push back then and remind my customers that they’re not a lawnmower. You can’t just put them in a kennel when they’re done.”

These days, she says, she has to remind superintendents not to spoil the dogs too much.

“I have to push them to make the dogs work, remind them not to overfeed them, make friends with them, but don’t cater to them too much.”

Along with the demonstrations and information on how to get one of Gibson’s dogs for your course, Flyaway Geese is again partnering with Envu for a giveaway. One lucky superintendent will get to bring home a four-legged assistant.

Gibson says catching up with past winners and customers at the trade show — she says she sells an average of 20-30 border collies per year — is one of her favorite parts of her annual visit. “A lot of my customers reach out to me this time of year to ask if I’ll be there. They love to see us and talk about the dogs.” 

Gibson says border collies are ideal for geese and wildlife management on a course because of their ability to move livestock and animals with their eyes.

“When a border collie herds, they go out and around something to bring it to you. It convinces the animal to move by stalking it, like a wolf or a coyote might, but without the desire to harm it,” Gibson says. “You can chase geese off with any breed of dog, but if you want them to stay gone for a while, you have to convince them there’s a predator on site. These dogs don’t pose a danger to the birds, but the birds don’t know that.”

To get a look at Gibson’s herding dogs for yourself before the end of the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show, visit booth 2047 on the trade show floor. Demonstrations will take place from 9:40-10:00 a.m. and from 12:15-12:30 p.m. Entries for the giveaway are accepted at the Envu booth, booth 1150, until 12:00 p.m. Feb. 1. The dog giveaway will take place at the GCSAATV stage, booth 1556, from 2-2:30 p.m.

Abby Olcese is GCM’s online editor