Conservation Detection Dogs work as part of a team alongside their handler to search an area and locate a desired target. Even though to dogs, using their nose to hunt is as natural as breathing they need specific training to perform such a task.
Being comfortable and confident within the areas that are to be searched is vital if the dog is going to perform the task to a high standard. Link, a German Shepard, came along during summer 2021 to get used to busy roads with the hope that he will be operational and working on the roadside this year.
Teaching a dog to search is a large component of training a Conservation Detection Dog, using their natural hunting ability we can teach them specific ways of searching. Searching along a pre-defined line makes working along a transect much easier and more accurate.
When the target odour is found by the dog the handler needs a way of identifying the find, this is known as an ‘indication’ and could be a sit or a down position. To begin with the dog is taught to indicate on a piece of Kong.
Once the dog is proficient at this the Kong is combined with the desired target odour, after a while the Kong is gradually removed resulting in a dog that can find and indicate exclusively on the desired odour.
All this training is a continuous process and just like humans, dogs need to frequently practice the skills they have learnt to be able to perform to a high level.
Steve Gilham | 18 January 2022