June 2, 2011

Not Your Average Household Pet: Unbelievably Trained Conservation Dogs

 

Conservation Dogs

Hard at work or hardly working? Formed in 2000, an organization called the WDC (Working Dogs for Conservation) put shelter dogs to work. They adopted them and trained them. These aren't your average household pets. Instead of sniffing in the trash, they're trained to use their noses for work. Normally dogs are terrorizing wildlife, but in this instance, they are used to save it. They collect wildlife and plant samples from the wilderness. What is the point of these dogs? Basically, they sniff out plants and animal poop to help researchers learn the habitat, mating, and population patterns of different species.

They are trained by using similar tactics of police training for rescue and narotics detection. Drug detection dogs are used in police training to sniff out drugs where police can't see. They are also trained to sniff out missing persons. They are given a certain smell. If they find the item associated with that smell, they get a treat.

The same concept applies to finding wilderness samples. The conservation training process is a rigorious training program of introducing the smell, hiding it, and then letting the dog run in a controlled area until the smell is found. These amazing dogs are trained with a tennis ball. Yes, a simple tennis ball. They are given the ball and a good amount of play time as a reward for finding the wildlife or plant samples. The samples, or scat, are hidden in a controlled area that the dog handler and the dog are not shown beforehand. When the dog finds the scat, it's trained to sit and stare at the handler. The handler will then reward the dog with play time.

The process requires an energetic dog. The dog must contain an extreme amount of energy and toy focus. These dogs are thoroughly conditioned mentality and physically for being in the wilderness.

They offer three benefits for scientists:

  • Identifying animal habitats and population numbers
  • Identifying invasive species and reducing human-wildlife conflicts
  • Identifying food habits and hormone levels 

These dogs are not only playful, but they help scientists conserve and protect our environment. They do more than fetch sticks, they help contribute to scientifc data. While before they may have played with a dead bird, they are now working to save the animal population. We can learn from these training methods of these dogs. Even the most energetic dog can be put to good use.

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