Continuing Education Extravaganza with Natasha Underwood

In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla speaks with Natasha Underwood from NHU Ecology and Detection Dogs about continuing education.

Science Highlight: None

Links Mentioned in the Episode:  

⁠Dog Handling Training | Kryus | England⁠

⁠College of Scent Dogs-The College of Scent Dogs⁠

⁠Mantrailing Global⁠

Where to find Natasha: ⁠Website⁠ | ⁠Facebook⁠ | ⁠Instagram⁠

You can support the K9 Conservationists Podcast by joining our Patreon at ⁠patreon.com/k9conservationists.⁠

K9 Conservationists Website⁠ | ⁠Course Waitlist⁠⁠Merch⁠ | ⁠Support Our Work⁠ | ⁠Facebook⁠ | ⁠Instagram⁠ | ⁠TikTok

Transcript (AI-Generated)

Kayla Fratt  00:09

Hello and welcome to the K9Conservationists podcast, where we are positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs. Join us every other week to discuss detection, training, canine welfare, conservation, biology and everything in between. I’m Kayla Fratt, one of the cofounders of K9Conservationists, where we train dogs to detect data for researchers, land managers, agencies, and NGOs. Today, I am super excited to be talking to Natasha who runs and Hu ecology and detection dogs, which is a newly formed ecology service. With over four years experience in ecological surveys and over three years experience in training and handling detection dogs. Natasha has completed and continues to attend rigorous training courses to ensure both handler and dogs meet industry requirements for competency and continues to develop or her continuation and personal development by shadowing experience wildlife detection, dog handlers and attending courses, conferences and training events with with a strong view that learning and personal development should be continuous. Natasha and I have been connected online now for a while, kind of through, you know, just through Instagram conservation dog world, it’s not that big of a world. And Natasha has also taken advantage of some of the offerings that we’ve got a canine conservationist. And one of the things that we’re going to be talking about today with Nitasha is something I really, really admire about her, which is that she’s kind of constantly doing continuing education. So we’re going to be kind of diving into some of the things that she’s taken away, things that she may recommend courses that you may want to learn about and all of that. And we’re also going to talk about some of her amazing dogs because Natasha is also pretty cool in this industry for working with quite a variety of breeds for a single person. So with all of that, Natasha, I’m so excited to talk to you. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us a little bit about the dogs that you share your life with. And we’ll kind of jump into breed from there.

Natasha Underwood  02:04

Yeah, hi. I’m Natasha. I’m trying to call this newly trained detection dog handler. I mean, where do I start? So the dogs that I’ve got currently, three dogs, I’ve got River, my Dalmatian ran a working cocker spaniel. And I’ve also got my boyfriend’s dog, which is Molly a Springer Spaniel. So I have river who was my first as I would say, trial dog, she was a bit of a guinea pig. She’s sort of the pet that tries everything out and the new dog that I’ll, if I do something wrong, it doesn’t really matter. She’s the first dog I trained in scent detection. She’s taught me how to build the drive, train the indication, read, body light, her body language or an off odor. She’s won many similar competitions, because there are quite a few somewhat competitions with her from sent ops, and detection dog trials in the UK, which are more operational styles less so than finding lots of heights, we’ve only got one or two maybe out and then as you get higher up, you don’t know how many heights are out. And in 2022, she won her high peak Award, which was the highest scoring dog of the year. So she’d be everybody in that, which is pretty, pretty impressive for the Dalmatians out there. I did have high hopes that I could even get our operational level. So we did push her. We pushed ourselves as a team. What longer more clips complex searches, rough, rough terrain. However, the more I pushed her the more realized River and her poor injury couldn’t keep up with the physical demand of operational work. And this did affect our performance. So rivers got an injury in her pool. She did it when she was a bit younger when she was pup she twisted and she had a fracture really small bones called the sesamoid. Joint in our poor and when she was taken to the vets, they didn’t pick up on it at the time, and it pushed and pushed and it took a year to get diagnosed. And then it’s already arthritic. So surgery wasn’t an option. So at the moment, she’s, you know, she’s got an arthritic poor. I’m pushing her to do such a physical because it’s physical. It is conservation side of everything. It’s rough terrain, it’s climbing it’s it’s difficult on the dogs and their bodies and you want a dog that’s physically fit for the job. So from that we I pulled her I couldn’t I couldn’t push her. She doesn’t owe me anything. She’s you know, she’s Dalmatians. to pet dogs, she doesn’t really need to prove anything. So she can still do normal dog activities. I do kind of cross some things with her, as long as I’m not pushing her every day, like operational is gonna be Yeah. So we, with her, we’re sort of putting some work competitions on hold, and choosing a new challenge at the moment with her man trailing. Where I’m starting to still work her brain and her nose, but as well as me being able to learn to handle her in a different way using them. So it’s been really eye opening during the man training with her because it’s so different from area searches. So that’s why when you pick dog because you just throw her into these situations, she’s like, Yeah, I’ll do it. And yeah, it’s learning from her is brilliant, because she’s such a expressive dog, especially with scent. She’s just so easy to read, and such a great beginner dog. So I’ve been quite grateful with her.

Kayla Fratt  06:01

That is so cool. I’m sorry, I’ve got to interrupt because I’ve got like four things out to chase down. And we will get to read and Molly as well. But, I mean, yeah, I’ve got so many questions that we’ll get to about, you know, the differences in the breeds. I’ve never worked with a dowel, like I’ve trained them in shelter contexts before, but I’ve never worked with one through a working context and have no idea what they’re like, I’ve never had one in any of my classes. But I definitely will want to come back as well to the man trailing and some of the work you’ve been doing there. Because I’ve been having a lot of fun watching you do that online. And I was just out today, I’ve got a friend whose cat slipped out the door and is missing. And we took the dogs out and my dogs are not trying to track or anything like that. And they’re not trying to find cats, but I was like, you know, we can take them out in the woods behind your house. And if there’s a carcass, you know, they’ll show interest. And if there’s a live cat, they’ll show interest. And you know, I just spent the whole time traveling around being like God, I wish I wish I would train my dogs to track because it would be so nice to be able to help in the situation more than what was actually doing. So yeah, I’m really excited to hear more about more about river. But I’ll stop interrupting you and you can go to rent now and then we’ll jump back into all of the all of those different threads that I want to pull on.

Natasha Underwood  07:22

Bro, so start with run. Yeah, yeah, right ran. Yeah, I got her in 2021 and I was aiming to get Springer. But one thing led to another and a little cooker puppy. Was there instead. So yeah. What

Kayla Fratt  07:42

is that story? How did you? Why Why? Why Springer. overclocker. And how did you end up accidentally getting a Cocker? Yeah,

Natasha Underwood  07:49

I was I was talking to a breeder and I was all lined up for a nice spring. And then I was taken to see a Cocker puppy instead. And it was something about her. She was quite independent, and I quite liked it. But she also she had something about her that was just, she didn’t like people. And I just thought, Oh, you poor puppy. Let’s help you out. And just take her on and see what happens. Because I liked I liked the mom and I like the dad. So I thought well, we’ll see what happens with her. And oh my god. She’s taken me on a huge journey in regards to dog training and thinking outside the box for training because this little little lady for the first 16 months of her life. We struggled with over arousal during search and simple act of sniffing drove her over the threshold in terms of the excitement levels, like blade of grass, you know, anything just like a football pitch. This dog was in just a manic state of like I’ve just got to sniff amazing search drive, but it was trying to bring it back in real back in and try and get her to work with me. Rather than just being missed self employed. I’m going to do it all by myself.

Kayla Fratt  09:14

The thing that scares me about spaniels?

Natasha Underwood  09:17

I think crockery it’s definitely a crock of thing more than the spring Springer for my first manual because they are seem to be more biddable in that way, but obviously you’ve got variation within breeds, you get some causes that are really biddable, and then you get some Springer’s that are really independent, but yeah, from what I’ve seen, the spring is just a little bit more rewarding tamed than the Cockers that are just like frantic. But yeah, a lot of training and exposure on a long line with her building up her obedience and her listening skills in lots of different environments was key for her I’m playing in lots of different environments. So I would start out in the house, then we would move to a car park because there was no vegetation, I think for her to sniff too much. And then we would move into the garden because the garden was extremely exciting sort of back onto woodland. So we have all sorts of smells in the garden, and then build it up from there. So move it into different places, woodlands, fields, you know, make it more difficult for her. And just, yeah, building on that environmental stuff with her for the first year and helping her develop her control and regulate her emotions. And letting her do what she loves sniffing but also having our listening ears and our mind switched on and not being just frantic all the time. And so between her first and second birthday, we did a lot of gundog training, so I did a lot of gundog training with her. And a lot of detection dogs. People are kind of like no, you don’t want to like control. You don’t want to have them like looking at you and stuff. But for Randy was extremely important. We had a bit of this. Yeah, so we did do a lot of Gundel training to get the cue clear communication, build on that obedience emergency stops those important things like directions. And working as a team. That was a big thing, too. So independent balance.

Kayla Fratt  11:24

So you know, I know like with my border collies I’m constantly thinking about building independence and building that rain genus and getting them to go out. And you know, I think I’ve talked about this before on the show, when I was looking at the litter of puppies that niffler came from he was the puppy that the first time they ever went outside. He just like boldly marched off into the wilderness and was fully ready to make himself into hock food. And I was like, okay, that’s the one I want. But if I was looking at a litter of Cockers, I’m not sure that’s the puppy I would have picked I would have maybe picked the puppy that was most interested in me.

Natasha Underwood  12:00

Yeah. Mom person would do. Yeah. Right. Yeah.

Kayla Fratt  12:04

Which actually, yeah, I’m kind of curious. When you say she didn’t like people? Was she just kind of like, aloof and disinterested? Or was she actively kind of nervous with people? Yeah, she

Natasha Underwood  12:13

was nervous, proper tail. Yeah, she’s really in a bad place with people. And, and she, the breeder had a setup going as a therapy dog. I thought this dog cannot be a therapist, because she needs her own issues sorted before she can help someone else with their issues. So that was definitely not the right thing to her. And I just thought, you know what? She’s either way she’s going to do okay with me, because I’m not going to give up on her. And luckily, she has turned out quite well. So the first year I was in a few moments where I was nearly in tears, because it was just so difficult getting this done. We’ve worked with me and listened to me. But yeah, after she turned to, there was so much massive improvements with her. Honestly, she started taking the scent work out to new places, if she could do all the obedience stuff in those places. I could start taking the sandwich stuff and she was more biddable. I take her to higher route, like what I would consider high arousing environments, and she would listen and be able to do a stock with soy. And if she could do all of that and take food, that was another thing. She was so highly aroused, she would not take anything like food wise cheese or anything. So I can always test her if she takes a bit of food, which normally everywhere now I know she’s got her brain switched on, which is a nice way of testing. Yeah, yeah, she’s got a healthy level of arousal, we’ve got that communication now, she can think stop and think and problem solve. So at a time, when she’s, you’re in that high arousal state, she’s not going to sink, she’s not going to stop and think and problem. So it just go bulldozing through, and they don’t take that time. And sometimes they can get quite frustrated, especially if especially for a little caca that wants everything 100 100 miles per hour. She’s got to stop and think it becomes really frustrating because she can’t do it 100 miles per hour. But yeah, now at this stage. She’s at the point where she’s, you know, a healthy level of arousal she’s able to communicate she’s actually now at a level where I reckon she gives it operationally ready. So we’ve started to imprint her onto things so like baton bird, and hope to be assessed externally when we’re ready. So that’s quite nice ending to the horrific story. It was at the beginning. Totally,

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Kayla Fratt  14:45

I mean, gosh, the journey we should do a whole like, adolescence series where people just talk about their dogs and particularly, I think, between like, one and three years For me with niffler was a lot rougher than I expected. I think I kind of had the idea that it would improve more after his first birthday than it did. And it really took more like to his third birthday to really start seeing that. And it’s tough. Yeah, it’s just, it takes time.

Natasha Underwood  15:25

It does take time, especially if they’ve got other things going on in their heads. And if they’re so high drive, I mean, that will rent she’s the search drive in her to just put her nose down. At the beginning was for no reason you just love doing it. But now she’s got a purpose, it becomes more meaningful for her. But it is so nice to see your work and enjoy her work. And have that sort of bond and communication between us now because it’s so strong. It was lovely to see the the improvement we’ve we’ve had throughout these few years.

Kayla Fratt  16:02

Yeah, yeah, definitely. No, it’s really worth it. But it is. It can be a long, hard road. And yeah, we’ve got Yeah, we’ll do like a lifetime series. I think this this year, because I’ve also been thinking a lot about washing dogs and you know, career changing dogs. And we were trying to get a couple episodes organized on that topic, which is something I’d love to circle back to as far as river goes as well. And retiring dogs, because I’m starting to think about that with barley. You know, he’s 10 years old, every season that we work is very potentially his last at this point. And yeah, there’s just a lot to be thinking about over the, over the career of our dogs. So yeah, let’s, let’s talk a little bit about Molly, and then we’ll dive back into all of this other things. We’ve got so much to cover today.

Natasha Underwood  16:49

Yeah, so Molly is my boyfriend’s dog. She’s brand spanking new. She’s coming up two years old now. And I’ll tell you what, she’s a textbook dog. She’s lovely. Honestly, after having read, and then having a go with Molly, it’s, it’s lovely to have a bit of a textbook dog that you can just start from scratch and train. She’s currently being trained on Kong and potentially be using a future when the right project comes along. So you haven’t got anything really set up for her. At the moment. We’re thinking maybe bedbugs or something like that something different or her? Yeah, should you really did you

Kayla Fratt  17:30

pick your boyfriend because he’s got a springer that wants the job. That happened? I’m like I I would like that. I would like a partner who comes Asperger’s?

Natasha Underwood  17:42

Yeah, well, he, he had her and she was never going to do anything I hadn’t like, had worked together for a year and I hadn’t even done any scent work with her. And just one day she bulldozed out the at the front door, following Ren who was doing practice or training search on Kong. And she bulldoze their way out. She was like, I’m not having any of this. I’m going to do it. And I’m like, Well, you can search but you’re not even on Kong darling. So you can just carry on. And lo and behold, she found the conch. She didn’t know what to do with it. But she found the Con and she goes, Well, this is what you’re looking for. And it’s funny and I take them out for walks. I’ll take River and Molly out for a walk and I’ll place out some scent for rent then find afterwards. So I’ll take her out separately. And I’m walking along and I turn around Molly’s got swelling in her mouth and like what do you put in your mouth she goes and spits out a bit of Kong. I’m just like, okay, maybe you an indication rather you trying to pick everything up and move it about you wanted to do some some work. So I’ve just been playing about with her. And she loves to search she loves to find a tennis ball. She’s you know that textbook drive of a Springer Spaniel loves it loves a ball loves to search for a ball. She’s extremely biddable compared to run. Like she always wants to know what you want her to do, which in a way can be a bit like for me as a detection doc. And I want her to have a bit more independence to just keep searching without me needing to tell her where to go. But there you go. It’s tit for tat. It’s, you’ve got one or the other. So we can work on getting Molly a bit more independent where we’re running run in but it’s all good experience for handling and training. Yes, that’s where we’re Molly is at the moment. She’s sort of just starting out on call and learning her indication. We’ve kind of got to the point where she knows she needs to sit and not touch it because she used to want to try and pick it up because everything needs to go in her mouth. So we’ve got rid of the putting things in her mouth and she’s now sitting but it’s now getting her to sit and stare. And you know sit and look but it’s getting it’s a process. Yeah, it will get there. Yeah, yeah.

Kayla Fratt  19:58

So yeah. Okay, I think we’ve got three different threads I want to pull on before we go back to go back to your continuing education talk. So why don’t we, you know, I’d love to just talk a little bit more about this decision to not continue working with river. Because I’m sure that was hard for you, it sounds like you two have a really lovely working relationship. And she is really biddable and willing to work for and with you and try these things. So what, you know, I guess the physical injury makes it a little clearer cut. But what was that decision making like for you, um,

Natasha Underwood  20:34

it was hard, it was quite upsetting. But I came to the decision that she doesn’t owe me anything. I mean, she’s, she’s won lots of things in assembler competition stops, she’s now doing monitoring. I mean, she doesn’t need to be operational to be happy. When it comes to the Spaniels, they live to work, that’s a different sort of mindset. For reverse, she’s quite happy to just Bumble along do a bit of this do a bit that she doesn’t need to work to feel like she’s satisfied. Whereas Ren trying to get her to rest on a rest day is the most difficult thing I’ve ever tried to do. She’s they’re pulling on your top, she’s barking at you, she’s having a right fit about wanting to go out. Whereas she was quite happy to like, you know, chill out, chill out. So it was easy in the sense that she’s not a needy dog that needs to work. But it was quite sad in a way that she probably could have done it if she didn’t have the physical. Yeah, the physical problem that we’ve got, but better say she doesn’t owe me anything. So it’s nice to just have a do bits and pieces that she can do. And she’s still doing the man trailing, which is again helping me out learning more with her

Kayla Fratt  21:58

so totally. Yeah, yeah, that’s

Natasha Underwood  22:00

that’s the good thing about it. I don’t think if she continued doing the operationally stuff, I don’t think we would have done the man trailing. So I think there’s a silver lining in every grade crap cloud.

Kayla Fratt  22:13

Totally. Yeah, I definitely at some point will need some sort of excuse to kick me in the butt to do like, I would love to do some sort of like six week man trailing, tracking like intensive thing with one of my dogs at some point in my career and just really kind of learn how to do it. It’s not going to happen while I’m in a Ph. D. Program, which I don’t think we’ve talked about, you’re gonna be doing all of this. I’m drowning. Well, you’re, you’re in your Yeah.

Natasha Underwood  22:50

I think the first year is probably where you do drown a bit because you’ve got so much research to do. I mean, my last half a year. So I’ve got about six months to do my writing up. And then I’m done. So I should have finished this summer. Yeah, so I mean, yeah, where do I start with the PhD? I’m at Plymouth and I’m do PhD on lowland peatland restoration, water quality that’s working with Wessex water Natural England and the RSPB, which is quite nice, because I’m still in the loop of the ecological side of things. I’m in my final year. So we’re writing up the thesis, which is heavy. Yeah. And trying to reel everything in total, the loose ends and get everything on paper is just such a massive job. But starting early is definitely helping. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah. The PhD is going it’s in the background of everything else that I do. Yeah.

Kayla Fratt  24:00

Yeah. It’s crazy. That’s so cool, though. Yeah. And I didn’t realize kind of how it’s it’s related to, you know, conservation and ecology, but it’s, yeah, I didn’t realize that it was separate from the dog stuff. Yeah,

Natasha Underwood  24:14

it’s a shame that I couldn’t incorporate them with it. There wasn’t anything really, unless I wanted to go into like, water leak detection, which I don’t think I’m fully set up already to even do myself.

Kayla Fratt  24:31

It’s amazing, but yeah, sounds hard. But

Natasha Underwood  24:35

I’m just thinking like the setup they need. I mean, just drinking water for the dogs. I’m like, you can’t even use tap water for that or something like that. Yeah, yeah. The setup for that would be quite complicated, but definitely something I’d be interesting to, to learn about because I know there’s a few down here in southwest the UK is I saw a post Yeah, there was

Kayla Fratt  24:58

a really good Tomcat data uh the Australasian conservation dog conference a couple years ago from someone who did it. I think that’s why I heard

Natasha Underwood  25:05

heard Yeah. ahead of them. So yeah, whose it is quite separate but quite related. It covers quite a broad range of ecological monitoring, so looking at plants and vegetation on the wetlands, and before and after restoration on the peatland. So what we’ve been doing is looking at the water quality on the Somerset levels, it’s quite poor phosphorus there in a rate of decline in the quality and peatland is also degrade. So we’re trying to look at ways of reducing phosphorus and also improving the peatland. So the vegetation surveys and looking at the invertebrates, then also taking the water quality sampling or before restoration. So they took some diggers on site and did some scrapes and pools and ponds. And now I’m testing the after effects of how has that affected the ecology on there’s improved biodiversity has it improved, the water quality, all of those sorts of things. So it’s quite broad in the way of monitoring. So it’s quite nice to have quite a broad PhD.

Kayla Fratt  26:25

Yeah, that’s very neat. Well, okay, so I want to go back now to I think we’ll tackle breed selection, and then we’ll be able to dive into because the man trailing stuff, I think ties into your continuing education. So you know, so what, what is it like working with a Dalmatian? I know that river isn’t operational, but what what is it like? And, you know, particularly Why was a spaniel, your next thought versus a shepherd, a collie? Catalog? Lab? You know what we’re, yeah. Where were you? Yeah.

Natasha Underwood  27:00

So I’ll start with river and working Dalmatian, very similar mindset to a pointer. I would say. They’re quite independent. They’re very opinionated, as I’ve heard quite a few reports from pointed out owners. It sounds quite a lot of like a Dalmatian. They like to chat and talk and tell you their opinion. extremely intelligent, extremely intelligent breeds. A Dalmatian she thinks she thinks like her problem solving. She just gets it. And I quite liked that about her. She’s, she’s a problem solver, she will solve solve problems. And that made her quite good for the scent detection side of things because she would work odor, she would problem solve it. And she was quite clear minded in that, in that sense, compared to something like a spring or a Cocker they were well with my experience with the springs in the caucus, they’re a bit more black and white where, whereas river would overthink things, which can I mean, it can hold her back in a way or overthinking can hold her back because she overthinks things and like stares and silly things. You know, you think that she she’s doing it for years and years, and then suddenly she overthinks it and that becomes Yeah,

Kayla Fratt  28:27

that does sound very pointer. Yeah, you’re right. Yeah. So

Natasha Underwood  28:31

yeah, she’s been interesting breeds work. And she’s always good fun to work. I mean, she’s a bit of a goofball as well. They’re quite clowny they’re always a class clown. Yeah,

Kayla Fratt  28:45

okay. Oh, that sounds fun. And, yeah, I mean, I know dolls have a lot of working, you know, behind them. They’re just not a typical breed. So then when you were thinking about, you know, we already talked a little bit about how you were looking for a springer but what, before you got your Cocker? What um, yeah, what led you to Springer. Cocker instead of Yeah, like a lab or a shepherd or a collie? You know, some of these other common breeds not that the Springer is an odd choice, but I’m just curious about everyone’s thought process.

Natasha Underwood  29:21

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Um, yeah, so from Dalmatian, I decided I wanted more of a working breed that was sort of easier to build that drive should already have a drive there was damage and like you say they’re not from working stock anymore. So they sort of lose that drive that you’re looking for. So you’ve got them build it all back up or be lucky that they have a bit of that drive. So I was thinking Labrador Springer. Cockers some sort of gun dog breed. Yeah. And I stuck with spring isn’t the Cockers because of size for where I’m living at the moment? It was just a Labrador and other big dog like river. It’s two big dogs then I’m thinking in money feeding them wise space, just thinking Spaniel, it’s gonna be a bit easier to fit in and sneak in the front doors well. So yeah, I went through, I was looking for a spring up. Because I thought that’d be a nice easier introduction to Spaniels rather than getting Cocker because it’s a bit of like throwing yourself in the deep end, but then I ended up with a coffee. And, yeah, it was in lovely learning curve. And I think I learned a lot as a handler through it, so I definitely don’t regret it because she’s absolutely lovely working dog can’t fault her work ethic. Yeah, and she definitely made me a better hander at the end of it. So that was good.

Kayla Fratt  30:49

Yeah, I were looking at I don’t know between springers and Cockers yard for my next dog. We’ll see. But yeah, it’s it’s interesting to hear kind of all the differences and you know, and my next dog is probably five, six years away. I’m, you know, barley is gonna go before them. And ideally, I’m not getting another dog until I’m done with PhD.

Natasha Underwood  31:11

Yeah, fair enough.

Kayla Fratt  31:12

I don’t want to be erasing thesis writing. I don’t think we’ll see. We’ll revisit this in a couple of years and see whether

Kayla Fratt  31:28

y’all will hear in first. Yeah, yeah, we’ll say we’ll say it’s a it’s easy to have these plans as you know, you know, you oops, I love I love it. I mean, yeah, really cool. Thinking about all the different breeds, the size considerations makes perfect sense. I know. That’s usually my response to German Shepherd people. When they asked me why I don’t have a German shepherd or Val’s. It’s just like, yeah, I rent I live in a tiny place. I have a tiny car. I can’t fit a crash proof crate for either of those breeds in either of the vehicles I own. And I want to dog I can carry out of the woods if something horrible happens. You know, I could probably do a smaller female mal or lab, but you know, it’s hard when you’re purchasing a puppy to know that they’re gonna stay the right size. Yeah,

Natasha Underwood  32:22

I think if I went back and did it again, I would. Or if I’m buying a new one, I would definitely look at those year old dogs that have already gone through puppy stage and assessing. And I would get a Labrador maybe in the future that small Labrador, like you say that you can carry? I mean, River. She’s, what? 23 kilograms and I can carry that on my shoulders. So we tried. And yeah, I think any sort of Labrador spring a Cocker mix. Yes. Something that I would look for.

Kayla Fratt  33:03

River, actually not much bigger than barley. 23 kilos is pounds. Yeah, she’s Yeah, Barley. Barley is fat right now. And he is 52 pounds. So he actually weighs more than river right now. But he normally sits around 47 pounds, which is, yeah, maybe like 19 kilos. And niffler is not much smaller than that either. He’s skinny, but he’s he still weighs probably close to close to that as well. So that’s surprising. Yeah.

Natasha Underwood  33:32

Yeah, no, she’s not a big Dalmatian at all. She’s really tiny. Yeah, I wouldn’t go any bigger than that. I think personally, because I am a small person. Trying to count something you just like you say, it’s quite hard if something happens in the field. Yeah,

Kayla Fratt  33:49

yeah. And especially, you know, if you’re looking at some of these breeds can really get to double that size. You know, I could, I could do a little bit more than either of my dogs. But I’d really struggle if I was looking at, you know, a 90 pound lab or German shepherd. And you know, most of the time if they’re in working shape, they’re generally not that big. Those are usually overweight dogs, but not always, you know, some of them are just, yeah, yeah, some of them are that big because they are Inge. So okay, but we need to talk about continuing education, because that’s why I invited you here, then we’re just there’s too much to talk about. i This is why I love this podcast. So why don’t we start with man trailing? Because that’s like a totally different discipline. What are you kind of seeing as you develop your handling skills? And like scent theory skills from learning about scent that’s on the ground instead of air scenting? That’s a huge shift that yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know. Think about it.

Natasha Underwood  34:45

I mean, I thought well, taking River from area search scent work to something completely different. Follow us and I thought, oh, was she going to struggle with that? But actually after the first session, she switched on pretty quickly. The first trial she did Ah, she did. I’m confused. And then the second trial she did, she went, I know, I’ll indicate on this. And that’s not what we wanted. But no, we did not want you to indicate on the article, we wanted you to find the person it belonged to. After that sort of went through the brain. Yeah, that went through her brain. And you can see all that because she’s such, like I say, she’s such an expressive dog to work it all out. And then she goes, Ah, I see what you mean, I need to go and follow it. And after that, that day, she was getting it really great. So they start off with intensity starts. So they get to see the person, they choose them all up, like away, let’s go and find this person. And they run off and it becomes quite exciting. So you get these really high intensity starts. And then they eventually would start reducing the intensity starts to delayed intensity. So they see the person walk away, but then they have to delay the track so that they don’t go running after them instantly, sort of got a little gap between make them think what they’ve got to do. And then eventually you start with just the article not seeing the person. So yeah, it was, it’s very interesting to watch her work the scent, because with the trailing, it’s slightly different from the tracking, tracking the following footprints in the ground, it’s quite detailed, they should follow exactly that for whereas the trailing is following the scent. So the scent, if it’s on a windy day could be going all over the shop. And it all go and attach like to trees or to vegetation to buildings, you know, so you might your dog might not trail the exact route. The person went, but they really following that scent. Wherever the scent is the strongest. So yeah, it’s really cool. It’s really Yeah,

Kayla Fratt  36:52

yeah. So what else are you working on lately? What other like classes and seminars and stuff have you been going to lately because I know there’s been quite a few that I’ve seen you posting about it?

Natasha Underwood  37:03

Yeah, I mean, well, last year, I did. Obviously I did my handle of courses and things. So I’ve done several 100 courses. College has sent dogs they did a handler and instructor qualifications, which I did both that was a general understanding basic skill set for general detection, dog handling. So planning searches, search system coverage of large areas. And then I did the instructor course on that, furthering the knowledge and then also learning how to teach others. So I’ve got I do Pet Pet Dog classes and workshops and where with more experience searched pet search teams, I do set up searches for them as well. During my time on that handle Course Instructor Course I used Ren mainly and that was banned, which probably only like a year old so she was still in that sort of dodgy stages but that was a really good experience for her to such new areas because a lot of it was indoor. So she really okay in indoor environment so I could really see her develop. And she was only Yeah, a year old doing all of these massive indoor searches. I was very impressed with her. Cool. So that was really good course to attend. I’ve been attending canine behavior consultancy workshops with cat I did one with her last year she did a plane engagement I love anything to do with like play learning how to play your dog properly because we’ve ran it was so big trying to get her to play with like a human who she did you know, she don’t like humans. So getting her to play and engage with me was great. And so I I love going on any sort of sort of play workshop, so we went on that one and that was really nice. Something a bit different. Yeah, also completed your course keen on conservation and the course online. Again, brilliant information all in one place, expanding my knowledge further especially in the aerodynamics side of things. I’m actually gonna

Kayla Fratt  39:12

ask I’d like genuinely not trying to do an ad here or anything but given all of the or other education was there anything that yeah, stuck, it stood out to you. You could tell us the stuff you hated maybe offline but

Natasha Underwood  39:25

yeah, definitely the the odor dynamic side of things because I feel like the previous course that I had done, didn’t really cover much older dynamic side of things. So when you guys were covering all of that, I was like, this is mind blowing. Oh my god. I can. I can like plan my searches so much better now because I know what the scent might be doing in those sort of environmental conditions. And I’m also now reading a book detector, dogs and scent movement you’re listening and understanding again and how it will move affected by the environment explaining why like revert when she’s doing a trailing or when you’re doing the area search white, how it affects them differs, they, they might have unusual behavior like I did search ran in high winds and it took her ages just to try and you know, find and get to the odor issues all over the shop, well there’s high wind, it’s not always like, you know, textbook bang, bang Pramila find it, you know, indicate done. Sometimes it takes so much longer to find if you’ve got all these other factors involved, and it’s just having that appreciation and not getting frustrated with your dog that it’s not, you know, finding instantly but allowing them to work the odor properly and source it properly. Yeah, so having appreciation on odor dynamics was a nice one to have on that course. It really stuck. Yeah, and then again, yeah, yeah. And then November I think was my last recent course. I completed the launcher conservation detection dog handler course. And again, very comprehensive course full of theory and practical. They had dogs there that we can handle that were a mixture of operational and semi like nearly ready to be operational and then some green dogs that were literally at the beginning of the training. And then you’re formally assessed at the end by the external instructor.

Kayla Fratt  41:29

That’s such a cool opportunity. Who did you find those through?

Natasha Underwood  41:33

So launcher sets Coronavirus canine Uh huh. They Yeah, they they’re based in Formby so yeah, north in the UK? No.

Kayla Fratt  41:46

I’ve never been okay I know where nothing is.

Natasha Underwood  41:50

Yeah, NORTH Yeah, I’m here in Cornwall. So real low self and yeah, everything is north from me. So it’s always the track. Always attract to find these great courses but like say you get to have a baby. When I was there, you got to handle and have a mixture of different dogs, different levels, different breeds. So they had you know a mixture of spring as Cockers Labradors spring adores you know, you name it. They had a cool oh, and shepherds as well. So

Kayla Fratt  42:25

you’ve got to have point is,

Natasha Underwood  42:28

oh, they do have pointers yet? Yeah, I did handle a handle a pointer as well. So.

Kayla Fratt  42:34

Yeah, well, and we sometimes in the US, we’ll call them pointy versus floppy dogs. So you’ve got like the, the pointers on the Spaniels and the labs. And then the point is, are the German Shepherds kind of it kind of tracks with some some breed tendencies that differ between and then you’ve got your Border Collies? Well, it’s like, I’ve got one point, you had one floppy Border Collie. And I don’t think they actually don’t you know, the IRS hat doesn’t actually mean anything about their personalities. But yeah, okay. But they did also have pointers. Cool.

Natasha Underwood  43:07

Yeah. Yeah. That reminded me when you said that was oh, yeah, they did have pointers. Yeah, they, it was nice to have that course because I could then connect with other conservation deduction, Dundalk handlers whilst I was there. And it’s opening, hopefully opening new doors and opportunities to work with others in the field, because now I’ve got a few more connections of people who have already done the course you know, and getting your name out there that you’re competent handler. If they need an extra pair of hands, they know that, oh, you’ve done the course. Or if they recommend you that, you know, you’re going to be getting someone who’s competent. So yeah, it was really good course. And it was brilliant to be able to handle all the different breeds and even be able to handle brand during some of the searches as well. involve her as well and do a bit of training with her.

Kayla Fratt  44:01

Yeah, and it just seems so important. And there’s it’s so hard to find these hands on in person opportunities, you know, like we I almost all of my learning is online at this point. And I learned a ton you know, I’m this weekend I’m gonna be working my way through the canine census foundation search strategy course. And that’s going to be all online but gosh, it would be really cool to actually get to go out with Robin Greubel and do us you know, watch her plan of an area search or have watched have her watch me do it and then give me feedback on all the you know, crazy bad ideas I’ve coming up with or maybe maybe there’s some good ones but

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Natasha Underwood  44:47

yeah, just on your shoulder say, do this, you’re doing this but you need to do it slightly different and it makes

Kayla Fratt  44:56

you can learn so much online. Beyond there are just some things that kind of need to be done in person, particularly with the dog side of things. I think it’s really hard to learn this stuff online.

Natasha Underwood  45:11

Yeah, it’s quite special, though as well to be able to, you know, have that, that experience behind you, and have those dogs there that have been fully trained and be able to handle them and not need to worry, oh, it’s my dog. It No, it’s their dog, but you’re just, they’re just focusing on you, rather than trying to focus on your dog. But you can just, you know, focus on yourself a little bit, I found that quite quite nice to be able to sort of focus on myself rather than be always focused on, you know, read, making sure she was being trained, it’s quite nice to have a change of focus.

Kayla Fratt  45:46

Definitely, I used to do a lot of dressage riding. And yeah, like, you don’t put someone who doesn’t know how to do dressage. On an untrained horse, they put me at first on a horse that was basically going to do the pattern, no matter what my feet, and seat, reins were doing. And then they moved to be up to a horse where I was going to have to actually be careful about my weight, and shifting and all those sorts of things. And I am still years and years and years and years away from ever being able to think about trading my own dressage horse. But you know, that model is, I think, really common in the horse world and a little bit harder to find in the dog world, because again, you then you need someone who’s got a facility that you can come to, and they need to have enough dogs, and they need to have dogs that can be handed around to different people, which aren’t all dogs. Yeah, that’s

Natasha Underwood  46:44

such a cool opportunity. Having dogs that can be just given to any hand during their work, you know, for them, it takes quite a lot for the dogs to do as well. But yeah, it’s brilliant, brilliant training.

Kayla Fratt  47:02

Ah, well, yeah. Did you have any anything else that you wanted to bring up? Or any, you know, have you had any kind of big wow moments through any of these classes lately, that you’d be willing to share with us?

Natasha Underwood  47:14

I’m, like, wow, I mean, this whole year for Ren has been a big wow, just the, the way he’s come on. And I, you know, you know, you’ve got that bond, and you know, that she’s, she’s that work, and she’s there to do. And it’s it’s so special. So she’s been a big while this year. More of a little while, as River and Oman trailing. That’s, that’s quite nice. And just the fact that, you know, with an area search, you kind of direct your dog and you can go, oh, we miss this bit, and you have a bit more control over everything. With the mind training, you literally cannot do anything to help your dog really, the dog has to do pretty much the whole thing, the only thing that you can sort of do is help them sweep and find where the track might be. And keep an eye on their body, you know, body language and where they’re tracking and trailing and making sure that they’re working. And if they stop working, making a no, where you feel like they’ve stopped working in and if you lose a trail coming back to that and that area and searching for the trail again, you know, during those handler bits, but other than that, it’s all down to the dog, which is absolutely amazing. It’s so mind blowing to me, because I felt at the end of the line, I felt so helpless because I could not help her. Yeah, so that’s neat. Yeah, that was quite crazy. Yeah, so I’m a bit blown away about the main training side of thing. Yeah. Has

Kayla Fratt  48:48

there been anything that maybe you find yourself repeating to yourself or reminding yourself or coming back to a lot from any of these courses? I know, the one that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, actually, Crystal wings said it in one of the recent canine detection collaborative podcasts where she was talking about this framework of AI like, I wish, I wonder, which I think she uses with her art students. So there’s something that you like about a training session, something that you wish could have gone differently, and then something you wonder, you know, I wonder if I had done this, what would have happened or I wonder if we go and train this and then come back to a similar puzzle what that will look like. And I’ve been really trying to use that framework as I’m doing video review, or even if I didn’t video a session, but thinking back on it and trying to find stuff that I like about what I’m doing and also finding areas where I can actually name some areas of improvement particularly for barley, I think I tend to get in these ruts where I think that barley is just good. And he is and he’s brilliant, but I think I can and Should I continue to push him in that I like, I wish I wonder is helpful for reminding myself to do that with him while also being a little kinder to myself as a handler sometimes? Oh, yeah, I don’t know if you’ve got anything like that. That was a very long, poorly worded question.

Natasha Underwood  50:17

I think the one thing that has stuck with me recently with the course that I’ve done with the conservation section, of course, was, don’t be so rigid in your search plan. So I used to handle when and have a search plan, and I would get stuck somewhere, because she hasn’t covered this one area properly. So I’d stop. And she would be doing her business and doing her searching somewhere else. And leave me in the dust because I’ve gotten you haven’t searched this area. So I constantly remind myself to be more fluid with her be more flexible with my search plans. And if she decides she wants to go and search over there, let go search over a go with her. And just remember where you need to go back to. And it’s fine. It’s it, you can go back to it. So I think that’s the one thing that I’ve taken from from that course is yeah, definitely just be a bit more X be a bit more fluid with the search plan and let Ren do her job rather than trying to take to her all the time where to go. So yeah, stop being so controlling.

Kayla Fratt  51:23

No, I love that. And yeah, I know, when I was shadowing Amy hurt in the field back when I worked out working dogs for conservation, she had a really great tactic of she had a bright bandana that was kind of attached to her backpack. And we were out doing kind of prairie searches. So it was really, really hard if you left your transect was really hard to like see where to go back to because there was no landmarks. So she would pull out that bend down and kind of lay it on the vegetation if we had to follow the dog off track. And then we could really easily kind of see that and come back to this obviously, you know, you’ve got your GPS, but it’s just it’s really nice to have that visual marker. And I’ve really liked that system and being able to watch again, going back to this like, I don’t know if Amy was teaching a class if that’s something she would even think to include in the curriculum, but watching her do it in the field. I was like, Oh my God, that’s brilliant.

Natasha Underwood  52:14

Yeah. Host or something that you can stick in the ground on flag or something

Kayla Fratt  52:20

that yeah, I use flying tape a lot of the time, something like that.

Natasha Underwood  52:24

And just being a bit flexible with the search because yeah, I’m quite a bit of a perfectionist, or I just want perfect transcends. But it doesn’t work like that. Sometimes. You got to be likable. Yeah,

Kayla Fratt  52:38

well, me. Well, yeah. Is there anything that you wanted to bring back or, and explore a bit more or something I didn’t ask you about anything like that. I

Natasha Underwood  52:48

think that’s most of what I got on my reminder sheet to talk about, because

Kayla Fratt  52:57

you are a perfectionist, you are so prepared. Yeah. Well, okay, well, then I guess if that’s it, then you know, I really appreciate it good to talk to you. It’s so fun to actually finally get to meet you and hear more about all of these dogs that I’ve been admiring online for years now, it’s been so fun to watch your journey. And I’m so excited to see where you get to go once you’re finally done with school, you know, good luck with that. I just I am really in awe of the fact that you are doing all of this on top of school because I feel like I’m I know I’m in my first year. But I feel like I’m struggling a lot to figure out how to fit it in, even though my dogs are part of my thesis, figuring out how to fit in the training and the continuing education that you know, like Oregon State University doesn’t have a detection dog handler class that I can take for credit that counts towards my PhD at all has to be paid for separately, and it all has to come out of other quote unquote spare time as if that really exists. So I’m really, really impressed by you and the fact that you’ve been able to do so much of that throughout. Throughout your PhD. It’s very cool.

Natasha Underwood  54:10

Yeah, and it’s, it’s been a bit of a journey, but so close. Yeah, hope

Kayla Fratt  54:19

you get to take a very long nap. Once you hit submit. For three years, I

Natasha Underwood  54:26

found that my excuse is with dogs where it’s more of a Oh, it’s meant for mental health. I’m allowed to take breaks because then I can go for a nice long walk with the dogs. And it was quite nice to be able to break up the day in front of the laptop. It really has helped having a separate focus. So when I do come back to the thesis and the the PhD stuff, I’ve got a fresh mind. That makes sense. Yeah,

Kayla Fratt  54:49

yeah, absolutely. I just reset up my brick wall in the backyard and it’s been really nice to be able to be like okay, I don’t have to set aside two hours to go drive somewhere set out A huge area search, get the dogs run them both through it, you know, get them all cleaned up afterwards because it’s Oregon so it’s super muddy here is so wet every single time I take the dogs outside, it’s an ordeal to get them back inside now I’m just whining, but but having a brick wall is so nice because ya know, if I’ve been staring at my laptop for three hours, I can go and take them out and do. I trained both dogs and felt like I did a really good job of it yesterday. And I went back and watched the video and I did both dogs in seven minutes. And they were hired. Yeah. So

Natasha Underwood  55:34

yeah, even even just going out into the garden doing a bit of indication stuff. I’ve done that. Yeah. And I’m quite lucky though, because I have fields and things quite close by that I can literally walk to and just run run through a quick search and she’s done. Yeah, she’s quite happy with that for the rest of the day. So yeah,

Kayla Fratt  55:56

I’m just whiny. So Well, cool. So yeah, remind us where everyone can find you online. I know. I’ve been talking up your Instagram and stuff throughout this episode. But um, where can people find you online? And then we’ll wrap it.

Natasha Underwood  56:12

Yeah, so we’ve got Facebook, Instagram, got a website. It’s all under an HU ecology and detection dogs.

Natasha Underwood  56:23

I’m YouTube. What does it stand for?

Natasha Underwood  56:28

My name. Tasha, yeah. Natasha, Hazel. Linda with that’s all. That’s all it is.

Kayla Fratt  56:35

That’s all it is. Okay. Yeah, it wasn’t I think in my head. I was like, is this? Well, before I realized you were in the UK for the longest time I was reading it as New Hampshire University. Or like, and then I was like, oh, no, it must be in the UK. So it can’t be New Hampshire. That’s here. Yeah, just place or university? Because all the all the universities have like the three letter acronyms that end in you like there’s Oh, yeah, like, yeah. So anyway, all right.

Well, we’ll link all of that in the show notes. And if you can send over links to some of the courses that you’ve taken, or at least the folks that you took them through, then we’ll be sure to give them a shout out in the show notes. If anyone wants to figure out how to take, take it. Take those classes as well. We’ll make sure to include those. So thank you again and for everyone at home. I hope that you learn a lot and are feeling inspired to get outside and be a canine conservationist and whatever way suits your passions and skill sets. Maybe you will also we’re going to get an accidental Cocker Spaniel, who knows. And I will be back in two weeks with another great episode and another great guest. Until then, bye!