In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla speaks with Emma Lustig about her first season as a conservation detection dog handler.
Science Highlight: Effect of odorant pre-exposure on domestic dogs’ sensitivity on an odorant detection task
Links Mentioned in the Episode:
Where to find Emma: Instagram
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Mon, Dec 26, 2022 7:25PM • 48:09
dog, odor, training, alert, canine, handlers, challenging, jasper, search, turbine, bats, detection, pretty, wind farm, field, season, year, find, patreon, bit
Emma Lustig, Kayla Fratt
Kayla Fratt 00:09
Hello and welcome to the K9 Conservationist podcast, where we’re positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs join us every week to discuss ecology, training, welfare, conservation, biology, and everything in between. I’m Kayla Fratt, one of the cofounders of K9Conservationists, where we trained dogs to detect data for land managers, researchers, agencies, and NGOs. Today I have the pleasure of talking to Emma Lustig, who recently completed her first season as a conservation detection dog handler. We are here to talk to her all about that. Emma grew up near Mount Hood in Oregon and has been a lifelong environmental enthusiast and animal lover. She attended Oregon State University and obtained her Bachelors of Science in Biology there. She began a career in biotechnology doing zebrafish, zebrafish genetic modification research, and acquired her first dog around that time. Now she’s doing a deep dive into conservation detection, dog work, animal behavior, and ethology. I’m super excited to get to this interview.
But before we get into it, we’ve got two housekeeping things take care of one is that we got a several new reviews and they make me so happy that I have to share them all with you. So this one is from Sodapop, forever, in mid September, and the review reads, so I’ve been intrigued by the idea of canine conservation for a few years, but struggled to find more info available to the general public, I could find professional canine conservation companies online who offered their scientific services for hire, but I didn’t, I did not know where to look to learn more. I had searched podcast several times, but must have been must not have been putting in the correct search terms. Luckily, I came across Kayla Fratt’s K9Conservationists podcast and have had a hard time turning it off. I’ve learned so much and I’m so grateful that she has taken the time and energy to share her love and knowledge of this intriguing topic. The episodes are quite informative, and Kayla always manages to keep them light enjoyable, I would highly recommend this podcast to anyone who’s interested in wildlife conservation, or anyone who’s interested in the fascinating world of working dogs.
So if you haven’t reviewed the podcast yet, these podcasts, these reviews really, really do make my day and they also help more people find the show which obviously again, makes me happy but also helps kind of spread the word of conservation detection dogs. One of the things that this field really struggles with is people just don’t know we exist, and just don’t know that we could help with their research.
Next, we do have a science highlight. First, this one was prepared by our volunteer Mattie Stephens, and it is titled training methods canine olfaction and was published in 2016 and applied animal behavior science by our beloved Nathaniel J. Hall, David W. Smith and Clive DL, Wim. So the question is, does Pavlovian pre exposure to a target odor increase a dog’s sensitivity to the odor in detection trials. So in the overview we read while most of us dogs understand the power of positive conditioning, a study performed by Dr. Nathaniel Hall demonstrate demonstrates its true power. In this study, it was explored how Pavlovian Pre Exposure exposure to a target odor affects outcomes in detection dog trials, upon completion of training. So before experimentation, dogs were trained to discriminate between positive and negative overdrew samples using a very fancy odor ometer, which precisely delivered the target odor of a positive or negative samples. The dogs were then tested on their sensitivity to the odor using that said odor ometer. So basically, they could do dilutions. Once the sensitivity for each dog was set, the dogs were randomly assigned to receive either noncontingent exposure to the odor, meaning they were just exposed to the odor with no additional conditioning, or Pavlovian conditioning, where they were exposed to the odor associated with positive reinforcement. The Pavlovian conditioning was controlled by a computer system which controlled the release of the utterance and administered food was our rewards at exactly 10 seconds into the 15 second intervals, with five minute breaks occurring between intervals. So basically, they kind of turned the odor on for 15 seconds and a second 10 They got food as I’m understanding correctly, the noncontingent group was exposed to the odor and in five minute intervals with no handler feedback or reinforcement occurring at any point. So they kind of just got the odor like introduced to their kennel or whatever, without anything extra. Let’s see, it was found that the Pavlovian pre exposure to the target odor increase the dog’s sensitivity to the odor, meaning that dogs were actually able to detect the odor at lower levels than the non conditionally non contingently. Conditioned dogs. This has implications in the detection world mainly due to how we choose to approach the imprinting process in the future. With this discovery, they can focus on using Pavlovian conditioning when we introduce dogs to odor to cut down training time and increase clarity to the dog from the beginning. A main limitation to this study is the use of the liquid dilution Olfactometer rather than an air dilution Olfactometer though the difference could be argued to be negligible due to the use of the liquid dilution Olfactometer only changes from baseline could be quantified rather than absolute stimulus level. Which I’m not 100% sure if I understand that limitation, and I will have to go back and reread this paper if I have To get that, and then another limitation may be the choice of dogs. Though each dog was randomized to a group, there may have been trends between the groups, for example, Maddie noticed that the average age for the noncontingent exposure group was a couple years older than the Pavlovian group. While this may or may not have had a major effect, it’s important to consider, I don’t know what their sample size was either. But I think this makes a lot of sense. Basically, if you give the dogs their target odor associated with a reward, they care more about the target odor and are better at identifying. And honestly, I’m a little Yeah, I need to go back and read this article. Because now that we’ve got volunteers doing it, I don’t necessarily read these, because so maybe I’m missing something here. But anyway, it’s still interesting. And maybe it’s one of those things where we all kind of knew it, but we just need to do the science. So now everyone can cite this and say, well, because of this article in 2016, now we know this, as opposed to just knowing it because we know it.
So okay, Emma. Oh my gosh, thank you for listening to six minutes of an introduction. That was a long one. Welcome to the podcast.
Emma Lustig 06:08
Hey, thank you. I’m super excited. Yeah,
Kayla Fratt 06:11
so why don’t you start out telling us? But maybe, maybe let’s go back to when was the first time you heard about conservation detection dogs? Where were you in the world? Where were you in life? What were you up to?
Emma Lustig 06:24
Yeah, yeah. It was probably only about maybe a year ago now. I was listening to Sarah streamings cogged dog radio, and Kayla, you were the the guest podcasts are there. And that’s when I heard about conservation detection dogs first. I didn’t know about it at all. Before then, and I was kind of like, I’m hooked. I love wildlife. I love conservation. I love dogs and dog training. Like it just was perfect.
Kayla Fratt 06:58
Yeah. Oh, that’s cool. I’m gonna have to we’ll have to let Sarah know. Yeah. So you got you had gotten your first dog. Jasper. Already at this point. Were you still in school? Were you working in biotech with the zebrafish? What were you up to?
Emma Lustig 07:16
Yeah, I was working in biotech at that time. He was just over a year old. So he hadn’t had any like specific nose work or scent work foundation experience at all. We had done a lot of other training and agility and relationship stuff together. So yeah, we didn’t really have any foundation work for scent work, but I was really excited to get into it. Yeah,
Kayla Fratt 07:42
so tell us a little bit about Jasper. How old is he? What’s his breed? Um, you said you did some agility? But yeah, tell us all about his background.
Emma Lustig 07:51
Yeah, so he is now a little bit over two years old. He is an English Shepherd. He is yeah, we’ve done a lot of training. Together, we do tons of hiking and outdoor activities. And I, I really focused pretty solely on agility for a while when he was younger. But the scent detection work was also intriguing to me, because I knew that was something that was like, very natural for him. And I wanted to see kind of how we could progress with that. And so we had actually started I wanted to train him on truffles because it was Oregon. There’s a lot of truffles out there. And so I wanted to train him on truffle hunting but once I heard of the conservation detection dog work It was around that same exact time and so I kind of was like Well, let’s let’s just kind of started diving into this and so I really I started looking at your YouTube videos and your podcasts Yeah, Kayla. And really did like a deep dive into understanding all of that and then working with him on the training
Kayla Fratt 09:11
Yeah, so what did what didn’t kind of that look like and so you you worked for West to this summer so kind of what was your your you know, at your starting point you didn’t really know much about set work yet. He didn’t know much about set work yet. When was this? And then how, what were some of the big steps and what and then how long did it take to get to the point where you were able to do your first season?
Emma Lustig 09:36
Yeah, yeah. So in I think we probably started in January just doing basics and work foundations and so we were searching for treats in the house in like those little plastic cups and things and then gradually making it more challenging. And then we worked up to toys, searching for toys and he He was pretty good at it. But he was definitely more intrigued by the food. So I was really unsure how he was actually going to do with with West. Because, you know, like the the food is an automatic and immediate reward. And when we’re searching for the bats out there, I didn’t know how he would take to it. So when we started West training, and that was in the summer, so it was about six months after we had started some very basic scent work. And during those six months, we really had only done like the bare bare minimum of training. But we once we started with West’s, like, training protocol, it took us about a month to, to, to train him up to be field ready.
Kayla Fratt 10:59
Yeah. Okay. Yeah. And that’s, that’s not dissimilar to my timeline with niffler. I think he started. His very first training session may have technically been in December, but I got him on December 20. So I didn’t have much time to get much training in before it was January. Yeah. But yeah, I want to say we got about send the mail. I might have been a little bit earlier than that, because I was looking at maybe doing one of the spring sessions. And but I didn’t I didn’t start nefler on bats for a while I started barley first, because originally, I wasn’t planning on working with niffler. Well, that how that turned out. So yeah, what were some of the areas that you you did struggle with? And whether it was you or Jasper is, you know, was it kind of getting him to expand search areas to stay focused to ignore wildlife? To get on to that target odor to get the alert, you know, dialed in? What were some of the areas that went smoothly or less smoothly for you? Yeah,
Emma Lustig 12:05
when we were going through the training protocol, like things were actually going like really well, and I was stoked. He was doing really well, like we were really well connected. He was excited about it. We were doing, like three or four sessions a day, it was a lot. And once we got out into the field, we hadn’t actually yeah, we hadn’t really prepared for working out in the field that much just because of our short timeline. So I had, I hadn’t really expanded the search area that much before we actually started working in the field. So that was challenging just to have him understand that searching out on these wind farms, or is the same thing as searching in our yard or the like, Park. And so I just had to be patient with him there. And I did kind of help him along a little bit more than I probably would have liked to, if we had had the if we had a little bit longer to do that training. Because I didn’t want him to rely on me to find them. But he did, he did want to search for critters, for sure. And that was one of our bigger challenges in the beginning, the first couple of weeks in the field, he kind of would just go off smelling looking for I think, probably mostly deer and rabbits. And so it was a little bit hard to keep him on task. Yeah. Because there’s a lot of other exciting things out there. So basically, what we did to kind of to solve that problem was, I would use more more of our training that’s out there, so that he had more chances to get rewards. And I would reset him if I thought that I saw him going off of off of his search pattern. So and that was challenging, too, because dog his behavior would change. I felt like and so it was really hard to figure out when he was actually on odor or if he was on something fun. So, yeah,
Kayla Fratt 14:37
yeah, definitely. I remember seeing that those questions kind of popping up in and Patreon and kind of and that was a good one too, for me to kind of sit down. And it’s one of those like, I know when I see it sort of things or at least with a dog I’d know well, but trying to tell the difference between a dog that is cratering and a dog that is in odor is not as straightforward as we would like, I think in general. Yeah, yeah. Was there anything that you you know, so you said you had to help him out more than you would like was that just placing more training bats out? When you had those known bats? Were you kind of taking some extra passes to help him? Ensure he got the odor? What did that actually look like?
Emma Lustig 15:22
Yeah, it was, it was placing more training, that’s, and when we were out there, I would, I would give him a little like physical guidance like to, I would kind of position myself in a way where I was pretty confident he should be catching older. And so and then when he would get to it, I would not request him to do his alert right away, because it was just, that was just too too hard, too many layers of challenge for him at that time. And so I just marked and rewarded as soon as he got to the bat before, you know, before he had a chance to even show me an alert. And if he if he really was unsure about it, because in the field, the the the bats are different than our training gods. Yeah. We, I would kind of show him and I would point to it and be like, Yeah, this is this is what you want. And then and then I could reward him there really heavily. And so I had to be really cognizant of that, and how frequently I did that, so that he wouldn’t start relying on me. As well as I had to taper that off pretty quickly. So to prevent that reliance.
Kayla Fratt 16:49
Yeah. No, and I’m glad you mentioned that. And I think it’s one of the things that, you know, we’ve talked about before on this show. And it’s a big reality in this field, especially with a novice dog. And especially when you kind of have subpar training samples that you’re starting the dog on. And honestly, West actually gives good training samples, they give multiple species, they send them out in these little Mylar bags. But it’s still I mean, I know, by the time that we had our first field season, it was like, gosh, these three bats that I got sent a couple of months ago just been beat to hell and my dog know those three bats really well. But there is a little bit of a transition over to, you know, a really, really fresh bat or a really, really old bat or, or a new species that, you know, I think I think I got three training bats that were all three different species, but we would rotate five or six kind of main species on the wind farm I was on so there was inevitably going to be some new stuff. So yeah,
Emma Lustig 17:49
definitely. And I could tell when he was when he noticed it. And he was trying to figure out if it was the right sample or not, if it was the right odor, and so I would try to let him Let him investigate as long as he wanted to, which sometimes was like 30 seconds or a minute of him smelling this.
Kayla Fratt 18:12
Wow. Yeah, yeah, no, exactly. I think that’s a, that’s a good point. And, you know, letting them and I love that you also mentioned like, not necessarily holding him to the alert, if you could. Because that’s I was actually just going back and watching training videos of niffler when he was like seven or eight months old. And gosh, I was pushing that alert too hard with him. He was doing such a good job with the really hard part. And then I was like, insisting on not rewarding him until he alerted and like, that’s something I tell people not to do all the time. And I still watching these videos is like, well, I did it.
Emma Lustig 18:48
Yeah, yeah. You know, and I, when I started to make it, like, have those higher expectations, it started to make it more challenging for me because I would get frustrated. And then he started to not want to do it as much and so I was like, okay, you know what, I can tell when you find it like he’s he likes to stay around it. He might not do his fancy sit alert, but he’s gonna stay there. And so I just kind of like gave up on it for for a while and let him do his thing.
Kayla Fratt 19:21
Yeah, yeah, exactly. I think you know, as long as they’re staying within the vicinity, and yeah, in a lot of cases, that works just fine. And you were in you’re in pretty heavy so I Right.
Emma Lustig 19:34
Yeah, that was challenging, too, because it was hard to tell like when he was on over there. Like, if when he stopped was he just stopping for fun or to because he found rabbit poop or was he on odor? It was hard to tell because he was basically covered in the soil so I couldn’t actually see him. i
Kayla Fratt 19:57
Yeah, well, I was asking that because I actually so I have not yet worked in soy, I have been mostly working in agricultural areas like cattle. So it can be anything from like bare dirt in some places to like shoulder high grass. So what was your What was your visibility like with the bats? Not with seeing him? But like if he was within like a meter of a bat? Could you even see it? Or did you really need his help to, to find those bats in the saliva?
Emma Lustig 20:30
I definitely needed his help. I like if if he was to stop, you could kind of like dig down and park the soy. Underneath the top of the foliage. It is a little bit easier to sit to see. But But still, there’s there was usually like a lot of leaf litter and things on the ground. And so, you know, like if it was covered at all. Right? He’s really hard to find. So yeah, he was a huge help in the soy.
Kayla Fratt 21:00
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Did you end up needing to? I mean, this is one of those things that again, where it’s like, okay, so his alert wasn’t like, necessarily 1000 pips, not where we wanted it to be. And we were able to work through it. But then, if he was just staying in the vicinity, and wasn’t pinpointing what were kind of some of your solutions for that.
Emma Lustig 21:22
Yes, that was that was definitely really, that was one of our biggest challenges. So I had to focus a lot on his behavior before he was actually at odor. So when he was searching and kind of zigzagging around in the, in the soy, that told me that when he was actually like on odor, and then as soon as he started to slow down, I got right, really close to him. So I could watch where like exactly where he was smelling. And, and yeah, then I would just have to kind of either kind of prompt him to be like, Okay, show me show me where is it? Or sometimes he would he would pinpoint. And he would be he would stay right there right on it. So,
Kayla Fratt 22:08
okay, yeah, well, okay. And, um, that’s helping me kind of visualize this a little bit better. So he is actually he’s really kind of getting his nose right onto it and detailing right up to it. And then he may not be holding an alert. But if you can see that, then you can see okay, the moment where he kind of stops?
Emma Lustig 22:25
Yes, exactly. Yeah. He would, he would pretty much stay within like a you know, like a couple of feet radius of IT. And especially if it was something like really smelly and good, he would stay right there.
Kayla Fratt 22:39
Yeah, I think, because I was imagining, like niffler his problem. And I’ve talked about this before on the show his problem, our first season was like he was sometimes alerting like, four meters downwind, you know, because he was just, he was just like throwing an alert as soon as he got older. So I’m like, God, if if he, if I couldn’t get him to do anything from there, I would have had a lot of targets that I would have just totally missed. You know, and I think, but I think it’s really important to like talk about this. Because when we have our marketing videos that we put up on Instagram, or Facebook or whatever, and when we’re talking to people about like, the power of the stocks, it’s all true, but there’s also, especially with first time dogs, especially with first time handlers like and still kind of always there’s, you’re working through stuff. These dogs are not like camera traps that you could just like set it and forget it and come collect an SD card once a week like
Emma Lustig 23:35
yeah, and with Jasper like he’s also very in tune with me and pretty sensitive. So if we, if I was having a rough day, he was gonna have a rough day. Yeah. And so yeah, just remembering that they are they are also living beings. They’re not robots. They can’t they can’t do this 100% perfectly all the time, as much as we would really, really like them to.
Kayla Fratt 24:03
Yeah, exactly. You know, and I’m glad you mentioned that as well. So what were some of the things that maybe surprised you during your first season? We’ve talked a lot about some of the things that were maybe challenging, but was there anything that like, surprised you that you felt unprepared for?
Emma Lustig 24:19
Well, I wasn’t expecting the wind turbines to actually make as much noise as they did. So when you’re working like right under them, sometimes they would make some really creepy scary noises. Luckily, Jasper is not noise sensitive, so he really couldn’t care less but for me walking under them. I was like, That thing’s gonna fall down. But no, everything was totally fine. Nothing, nothing drastic happened. But I think that was one of the more surprising things and I do know, one of the people that I’m I was working with she her dog was super noise sensitive. So for them, that was a big hurdle for them to get through in their first season and sometimes even even after that, if it if it randomly started making some crazy noises, her dog would have some challenges there.
Kayla Fratt 25:19
Yeah, yeah, that’s that’s a good point. I know. I think Rachel said that her dog CPE
had some challenges. And I want to say that she even said it was just like, one out of every like five turbines 10 turbines or whatever. So you would have a think about it. Yeah, I know. We had one turbine this year. One manufacturer that whenever the wind was shifting, so the turbine was rotating. Like I don’t know if you didn’t freeze or move or whatever. Horrible screeching sounds you hear like, I’ve survived the first time I did that. I was like, I’m gonna die
Yeah, get out of here. That was, what was everything that like you? Obviously we can’t go in. You have any fines? We have any big days that you’re like, absolutely thrilled with Jasper, did
Kayla Fratt 26:21
you have any big wins that you want to share with us?
Emma Lustig 26:24
Yeah, yeah. So once we once we started getting a hang of it. He he really like he really started to shine and he would find some really awesome things out there. He also would find non target odors, which were pretty cool. That could be pretty cool. We found a a, like a snapping turtle nest in the ground that had been dug up. Sadly, so all the all the babies snapping turtles were dead, unfortunately. But he was very excited to find that and that was pretty cool. That was one of the coolest things that we found out there.
Kayla Fratt 27:10
Listen, you and your dog are already canine conservationists by listening to the show. So go ahead and show it off. Join the club, check out our brand new merch store, which is located at k9conservationists.org/shop. It’s stocked with stickers and magnets and bags and shirts, we’re adding new designs all the time. If you’re an artist wanting to collaborate, we split profits and are eager to hear from us reach out at [email protected] We also offer all of our webinars on demand through our store. So you can check out our puppy raising webinar alerts and changes of behavior, introducing a target odor, as well as seeking sourcing and alerting. We’re also planning to add new webinars to this all the time. So if you’ve got a request for a webinar, or you’re a practitioner, hoping to contribute a webinar, again, we’re going to split our profits with you and you can reach out to us at [email protected] Let’s keep the learning going!
Yeah, that’s really me. Yeah, we had we had what we think were probably both snake eggs that we found that and it was funny. We actually found them on our last day at work.
Emma Lustig 28:21
Nice. That’s really fun. Yeah, I love finding all sorts of like random stuff out there.
Kayla Fratt 28:27
Yeah, yeah, we have some. And then there’s always the odd one. We had a funny one where this happened last year as well, but dead cow at one of the turbines. And both of the dogs are like, Ah, this is a lot of dead. Malmo. Like, do you like the first one that niffler found last year was like probably close to a quarter mile off plot and he went all the way up to it. And then like, Wouldn’t alert to it wouldn’t touch it, but also wouldn’t leave it they did I walk all the way over and collect him and like bring him back to the plot and be like, no.
Emma Lustig 29:00
That’s crazy. Yeah,
Kayla Fratt 29:02
yeah. Yeah. And then we’d have to like call the wind facility and then they get in touch with the landowners and you know, try to try to get that taken care of, or at least let them know that one of their their cows didn’t make it. Yeah, was there anything like safety wise that you weren’t quite expecting or that you you know, kind of learned about throughout the season as a way to keep you in Jasper happier and healthier out there?
Emma Lustig 29:33
Yeah, yeah. Um, so being from the from Oregon, the Pacific Northwest. I had never been out to the Midwest at all. So I did not know did not know really what to expect. And I was pretty shocked by the amount of thunder and lightning storms. And so whenever there was lightning, we can’t work. We couldn’t work out in the day. In in the wind farm, so because it’s unsafe. And so anytime we would get like lightning alerts, we’d have to go back to the like main office building. And kind of hunker down there for a while. And I haven’t pretty frequently, which was ultimately ultimately ended up being kind of annoying. But, but it was really good that they were so so safety conscious and made sure that we were going to be totally fine. Other things we ticks out here have Lyme disease, some ticks do. And so when when we went through the training and stuff they explained, like which ticks species carry Lyme disease and other diseases, and how to protect ourselves from them. So everything ended up being totally fine. And we didn’t really work in areas where it was super heavily tick infested. But it was definitely something that I wasn’t used to being so concerned about. Yeah.
Kayla Fratt 31:09
Yeah, the Pacific Northwest is a is very nice for Yeah, lack of thunderstorms, lack of lack of Lyme disease generally.
Emma Lustig 31:18
Yeah. Not where at least where I was from, like, didn’t really have to worry about venomous snakes or, you know, dangerous things like that.
Kayla Fratt 31:30
Yeah, that’s great to hear. Yeah. Was there anything else that you kind of wanted to bring up about your first season like lessons learned? Are you going to go back? Yeah, what else? What else? Do you want to tell people about your first season as like a novice handler? I’ve been wanting to do this episode. And we’re just finished for a long time. So
Emma Lustig 31:49
yeah, yeah. So, um, so many things. Let’s see where to start. Um, so Jasper. Even though we’ve done a whole bunch of training, different kinds of training together, I wouldn’t consider him like, one of these crazy high drive dogs. And so while that’s nice to live with, like, as a pet, meaning he doesn’t, you know, he’s not going to destroy my house, because I didn’t get them out for two days. But he that was that was sometimes pretty challenging out in the field. He, you know, like, when things got a little bit more challenging, if the weather got hotter, he kind of would peter out, and he would want to opt out. And so that was challenging for me, because I didn’t really know how to handle that. I didn’t want to force him to continue working if he was like, not like I’m done. But I also was like, well, now we’re doing this as a job. So you kind of have to. So it was really, it was really interesting trying to navigate that and ultimately, what we would do is we would just take a little bit longer breaks, make sure he was getting really cooled off. When when that was just too challenging for him. And making sure that I was saying enthusiastic and positive. Like that was really important for for him. But But yeah, I you know, like maybe not everybody working going into this field has like a super, super high drive dog. And I think going through West is a really good way to dip your toes in. Because it is relatively easy, like the search areas are fairly small. Like it’s pretty consistent. You’re Not You don’t have to really go hiking in the woods for like miles and miles and so it can be you know that that makes it a little bit easier. So I think it’s a good way for for green handlers and new dogs to just test it out to see if it’s something that they could be successful with.
Kayla Fratt 34:10
Yeah, totally. And yeah, I definitely agree. And I think I talked about this in like the episode about working with a teenage dog when I did the first season with niffler. Like, I don’t think there are really many if any other projects that I would have felt that comfortable taking a dog that young out and working with. And you know, we were just talking about this in in the handler course that we’re running right now. You know, one of the things that is really nice if you do end up getting into this field and staying in this field is definitely having multiple dogs it was I was really surprised how nice it was this year. Because I have two dogs who physically absolutely can do everything that Wes needs them to do consistently. But there’s always the risk for injury, which was kind of the first thing I was worried about, you know, if a dog even something minor, like tearing a toenail, and they can’t go out for a day or two, then you’re behind on your search schedule. And the studies get all screwy. And you know that. But we also definitely need to be advocate for our dogs, we can’t just force them. And one of the things that we also were talking about in class last night was, you can’t force a dog to do this job. Even if you want to even if like, ethically, you’re like, I don’t care, I’m gonna make him do it, which we do not advocate here on this show at all. Even if you were going to try, it’s not like trying to get a dog to set or trying to, you can force the dog to heel, or at least kind of be in heel position. But you can’t force a dog to sniff out stuff for you. But then the other thing that I wasn’t expecting as much was how nice it was to kind of be able to tell niffler Hey, you’re distracted by those cattle on the horizon, or, Hey, it’s really hot, and you just had a crap ton of fines like, I’m actually going to pull you in and put you back in the car now, even though this probably only happened four or five times over the summer. But I even a couple times had NetFlow do the first half of a plot and barley do the second half if we had a single turbine that had maybe a flock of that had flown past or something. Yeah, yeah, it’s really nice. But it’s there’s total to catch 22. Whereas a novice handler, it’s unlikely that you’re going to have two dogs that really want this job. And I would not recommend someone who has not done a couple of seasons, get additional dogs for this sort of work, you know, or you know that and like Sarah struggling talks about this in her show, like these upgrades, dogs, where you get into agility with your first dog, you know, whatever you’ve got in your house, some little, you know, lab, Beagle cross, whatever that you picked up at the shelter, and they do good and you enjoy it, you get some cues, and it’s good. And then you’re like, Okay, so now I’m gonna go and I’m gonna get some like sporty Border Collie from lions that like, you know, the agility, World Champions, or whatever. And you just end up like, way over correcting or really ending up over your head. And like, I think a lot of us can rise to that occasion. And that’s great. But you know, if you decide that you want to leave this field, or your even Honestly, even if you’re you do it every year for the rest of forever, it’s only three months a year. So you still have nine months a year that you have to live with those live with these dogs? And if you’ve got three of them. Yeah, I mean, yeah, it gets really, really challenging to maintain. If you want to have multiple dogs in particular, and multiple dogs at this really, really high level. It’s it’s challenging to figure out what to do with that and the rest of the year.
Emma Lustig 37:46
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I already was considering I was like, Okay, what’s next? I’m gonna be but also thinking, Yes, about the podcast. Like, I don’t want to get myself too far in over my head. And have have a dog that I yeah, that I can’t, can’t live with can’t deal with the rest of the year. But But yeah, so I think I definitely want to go back to do this more. And I’m a just starting training with him on some some plants. I’m trying to see if he can actually, yeah, if he can, if he can pick that up. Because I imagine that’s going to be a lot more challenging. And then kind of just see where it takes us because it’s pretty fun.
Kayla Fratt 38:39
Yeah, yeah. Well, so you’ve relocated to Wisconsin now, right? Yeah. Yep. I’m
Emma Lustig 38:44
in Wisconsin. Yeah. I
Kayla Fratt 38:46
mean, I think aside from the wind, farm work, invasive plant work is one of the areas where, like, I’ve said this before, like novice handlers can really make such a big impact. And it’s, and it’s a good spot for novice handlers, you know, like acquiring the samples and training on plants can be a little bit more challenging. But otherwise, it’s very much so if your dog has like mediocre sensitivity or mediocre sense, specificity because you’re learning. It’s okay. You know, it’s not, it’s not as high stakes as some of these. Some of the other projects that are out there.
Emma Lustig 39:22
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And, you know, like, Yeah, I think it’s just a good a good way to kind of keep expanding our skills and see yeah, see if he can do it. And see if it’s something that I want to keep pursuing too. Yeah,
Kayla Fratt 39:40
yeah, exactly. Well, that’s really exciting. Yeah. Did you have anything else you wanted to bring up or any questions for me? Advice for people who maybe are in the position that you were in a year ago?
Emma Lustig 39:52
Yeah. Let’s see. So yeah, if you’re, if you’re considering doing this kind of work, I would definitely suggest just starting with either doing the treat searching for treats or toys or something, I felt like that was a pretty low stakes way of starting the training so that if I, if I messed anything up there, then like it didn’t really matter, like we weren’t working with our target odor. And then I forgot to mention this earlier, but we had also done an intermediate, where we were I trained him on or imprinted him on, just like vanilla extract. And, and I worked with him on that, to make sure that he could actually search for something that was like a neutral odor. And, and it worked. So that was pretty cool. But yeah, other than that, for anybody that’s starting their first season, you know, like it might be kind of challenging. During your season, you might find some find that you’re running into some challenges where you might be doubting, like your, your skills or your dog’s skills and see, like if he’s, if they’re still searching or not. And I would suggest just trusting your training and the training that you’ve put into it, and that they they really know ultimately what they’re going to be looking for. Because you’ve put in the work for it. And instead of like getting frustrated with the dog, just just trust that you’re you’re going down the right path.
Kayla Fratt 41:36
No, I think that’s that’s great advice. And, yeah, trusting the training. And, you know, especially if you have if you’ve done the work, and you know, and this is something I was talking to one of the other novice handlers on the wind farm about this year was, you know, she was a little bit stressed out that my dogs were finding more than her dogs. And it was like, hey, barleys been doing this for five years. That’s not quite true. He’s been doing it for three. He’s been doing set work for five years, and the professional detection stuff for three, like, I would be shocked if, in week one or even week for your dogs were at the same level as him. And I think that’s something that again, is like challenging to talk about from, you know, a scientific validity standpoint, from a marketing standpoint. But you know, when you when you hire a new person for a role, even if you’re hiring them to be your CEO, you expect there to be some onboarding time. And I think, yeah, and like honestly, that imposter syndrome and like questioning of your dog’s does, so far does not go away. I this year had to literally start keeping track of how many false alerts how many fines how many turbines searched per dog, because I was just so sure that niffler was not doing as well as barley. And I really had to, like prove it to myself that like no turbine by turbine, he’s finding just as many but or maybe like 5%, fewer. And like that, to me falls into an acceptable level. But I had to literally, like, sit down and like start taking numbers in order to convince myself that like, you know, I’m not a hack and a fraud.
Emma Lustig 43:24
Yeah, we like to set high expectations for ourselves. I mean,
Kayla Fratt 43:29
yeah, I don’t think there’s nothing to the joke that dog trainers have like, as a category we have some control and perfectionism issues. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, there’s not nothing there. Yeah, well, cool. Emma, did you I guess maybe the last thing is, are there any resources that you found particularly helpful? Did you read any books? Were you in any, like ftsa courses? Did you find anything really useful?
Emma Lustig 44:02
Um, honestly, I pretty much solely just watched your videos and and tried the Patreon and got information and help on on the Patreon. But no, I wish I would have like I definitely if I thought that I was going to be like really going down this route. I would have definitely taken some time to do some other other Yeah. ftsa courses or just like in person knows work sent workout classes.
Kayla Fratt 44:33
There’s always time for more. I’m still always taking classes and hopefully well forever. Because I mean the thing to like, even if I’m at a point, which I don’t think I’ll ever reach, but even if I were to get to a point where it’s like, okay, I’m kind of done with taking nosework classes or separate classes or detection classes or whatever would you get? I don’t necessarily see that ever happening. And it’s like, okay, well, what about certified canine fitness trainer? What about sports medicine? What about you? no odor dynamics. What about airflow? Like God, you could start taking like, online physics classes. Yeah. Like there’s
Emma Lustig 45:13
many education. It’s very important for us.
Kayla Fratt 45:15
Yeah, yeah. Well, and it keeps us busy in the offseason I feel like every year I’m like, this is the year I’m going to be able to do this certified canine fitness trainer class. And then every year, I get to about this time, so we’re talking on Halloween. And it’s like, oh, my offset is it is not gonna be cool.
I always envisioned it’s gonna be nice. Yes, yeah.
Kayla Fratt 45:39
Okay, well, I think I’ve asked you this twice now, but we’ll ask one more time just in case there is another one. Anything else you wanted to bring up? Any other advice? questions that you want to drop in before we wrap up here?
Emma Lustig 45:51
I don’t think so. Yeah, yeah. Thank you for having me.
Kayla Fratt 45:55
Yeah, thank you for agreeing to come on. I think I messaged you like what three days ago was like hey because you’re I think you there’s at least one other person but you’re part of our first crop of Patreon students who have now made it into getting paid for celebrate that and you know, it’s really exciting to to watch you guys get out there and like, obviously can’t take credit for it. But it’s cool to see. cool to see.
Emma Lustig 46:28
It’s awesome, ya know, honestly, but your your resources that you’ve provided for us are for Jasper and I have been super helpful. So
Kayla Fratt 46:37
yeah, well, and he’s also you know, he’s totally our type. To Jasper. Oh, very, very handsome. Well, Emma, Is there anywhere that you would like to be found online? If people are interested in seeing some photos of Jasper or just getting to know you a little bit more?
Emma Lustig 46:58
I’m sure yeah, not super active on like social media. But if you want to see him, you can check out our Instagram page, critter dot cabin. And yeah, you can see him and all of my other other pets too.
Kayla Fratt 47:16
That’s awesome. All right. Well, I’m for everyone at home. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you learned a lot and you’re feeling inspired to get outside and be a canine conservationist in whatever way suits your passions and skill set. Maybe that’s by joining Patreon and getting yourself hired on a wind farm next year. We don’t know we could we could do anything. You can find show notes where we’ll have all the links from this episode. We also have transcripts that go up almost on time now consistently. For the episodes, you can obviously donate to us and join that Patreon all over at k9conservationists.org. Until next time!