Kenya and K9 Conservationists Update

In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla provides an update on what she has been doing in Kenya, announces the new K9 Conservationist course, and answers some questions from patrons.

Transcript (AI Generated)

Kayla Fratt (KF) 0:01
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Kayla Fratt (KF) 1:08
Hello, and welcome to the canine conservationists podcast where we’re positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs join us every week to discuss ecology, odor dynamics, dog behavior and everything in between. I’m your host, Kayla Fratt. And I run canine conservationists where we trained dogs to detect data for researchers, agencies and NGOs. I am recording today from just inside the Magi Conservancy in Kenya. So if you hear some bird calls, or potentially an airplane in the background, it’s because I am recording under a very thorny acacia tree. So this episode is going to be a little bit all over the place. We’ve got a bunch of announcements, I want to give you some updates on my work in Kenya, and then we’re going to round it out with some Patreon q&a at the end. So first things first, we are running a course canine conservationists, myself, Heather Nubar. And Rachel Hamer are teaching a online conservation detection dog handler course that will start in August of 2022. At the time that you hear this, our enrollment is already closed. But if you are interested in hopping on to the next course, go on over to Canine under the Learn tab, you will be able to get yourself onto the waitlist. This course is currently fully online. All training is going to be based in the human hierarchy. We’re a primarily positive reinforcement based team here. And we are not offering a certification because it is online. Um, there are big limitations to what you can learn online. But we really want to increase the accessibility of getting into this field and learning about this field. And improving yourself if you’re already in this field, because right now the continuing education is lacking. So again, the limitations in an online course but we’re going to cover all sorts of stuff, wind terrain, vegetation, GPS field safety risk assessments, working with ecologists grant writing, oh my gosh, it’s going to be huge. I’m a little worried that we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. And we may have to break the course in half or double the length or something for round two. So huge thank you to our brave guinea pigs for the first round. And again, if you’re interested in the second round, hop on over to get on the waitlist on our website, and we will be even better next time. You may have also noticed that I mentioned Rachel hammer and Heather Nuit bar. So cannon conservationists, I started canine conservationists in spring of 2021. But I have never really I never intended to run canine conservationists alone. My friend Rachel and I have been talking about her getting involved from day one. Actually, way back before I even started Kanan conservationist, she and I had already been talking about this. And Heather and I have also known each other for a couple years. And so long story short, we have joined forces and I brought them on as co founders. So while Catherine conservationist has been kind of a one woman show for the first year, we are now considering Rachel and Heather to be co founders. I’m hoping to get each of them onto the podcast sometime soon to talk more about what we’re up to how we all met and what they’re doing. But for now, I’m just going to go ahead and read their bios. So Rachel studied biology at the College of Idaho. She has been a dog trainer and heavily involved in training in rescue dogs since 2005. She has extensive experience in GIS and coordinating teams of field techs, and prior to working with conservation detection dogs, Rachel worked mapping wetlands sampling riparian areas, managing data interfacing with land managers and conducting vegetation sampling. Rachel worked with barley for a summer on the on a wind farm in Indiana before acquiring for her own dog Sookie. Sookie is our newest team on the dog side of things and is thriving and training Sookie is a border collie from a rescue in Montana, I believe the Bitterroot Valley humane society but I could be wrong there. And yeah, we’re really excited to have all of them on board. I’m Rachel and I actually this is a funny story. We actually met on Bumble BFF. At some point in 2020. So back when I was living in Missoula, full time, and when I worked at working dogs for conservation, Heather and I met, we went on a hike. She told me about her skull collection. And I was like, Oh my gosh, yeah, this girl’s gonna be great. And then it turns out she and I actually, way back when learned. We both took classes under Miguel Gonzalez, and Laura And gosh, what’s her last name at old breed rescue and training in Colorado Springs. So we actually have very similar dog training mentors from different time periods. So yeah, Rachel and I go, go quite a ways back at this point, and really, really happy to have her on the team. And then there’s Heather. So Heather has two passions in her life, dogs and the outdoors. In her college years, she

Kayla Fratt (KF) 5:51
studied zoology concentrating on wildlife conservation at Ohio State University. While working on her degree, she performed battle mammal surveys and interned at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium caring for animals such as otter, cougar and brown bear. In her quest to find a career that best suited her passions, Heather explored a variety of animal related positions and she had the opportunity to aid conservation efforts abroad at the end VanDyke cheetahs Center in South Africa, where she was involved in the wildlife monitoring and care efforts of African painted dog and cheetah. She also works at a wolf dog sanctuary, where she trained and socialized wolves as well as headed educational outreach tours to raise awareness and donations. Heather also has spent time as an attendant at her local canine shelter Wildlife Rehab Center and veterinary clinic. But when she discovered the conservation dog work, a job that combined her two loves, she knew that it was it, Heather found her four legged partner Ellie into the 2019 and the pair have been working together ever since Heather and I actually met through my other business dirty dog training. Because Heather hired me to help her and Ellie get ready as a team for their first field season. I gosh, I was back in 2019. I was not ready to mentor them. Sorry, Heather. I was not the best mentor but ever back then. But we’ve stayed in touch ever since. And Heather and I in particular, we have really different brains and a really good. I think we’re very complementary. Heather has very big picture long term. She really likes kind of thinking about how everything fits together and making it work versus I am quite impulsive. I like I’m an ideas person and I move fast. So Heather, and I have some very complementary skill sets and tendencies. While you know, as you can hear from both of their resumes we’re, we’ve all got quite a bit behind us. So I’m really, really excited to have Heather and Ellie and Rachel and Sookie on the team as co founders. As we’ve hinted out in the past, Canon conservationist currently isn’t making enough money that any of us is paid. But hopefully we’re going to get there sometime soon. So after Rachel and Heather and I decided to join forces, we all met up for about a week in Missoula this March. So right before I came out here to Kenya, and we got to spend a week together doing a big dog training boot camp, we had a lot of fun. And we did a bunch of meetings on our strategic plan and trying to get our board straightened out, we would really like to have a more involved board, talking about volunteering and how we’re going to get continued getting volunteers involved. Outreach goals, work, all of those sorts of things. And we are really, really excited about the direction that the team is taking. It was a lot of fun to get to have all three of us together and take the dogs out for hikes and do group training and set blind heights for each other and brainstorm stuff. And I’m really hoping that in the coming years, we can take a take a page out of James Davis’s book and do some, some similar workshops and outreach opportunities with you know, not just the three of us, but also inviting all of you guys. So you can come and we’ll do we’ll do some weekend conservation, dog training, workshops and camps. If that’s something you’re interested in, definitely reach out and let us know Kanaan And definitely check us out on Instagram to see all the lovely photos of Heather and Ellie and Rachel and Sookie and some photos from those training, training camps that we did together in Montana. So let’s move on to an update here in Kenya. So I have been in Kenya now for just over a month. And Heather is going to be here in she actually will arrive the day that this podcast airs, and then she’ll spend about three weeks here. And then Rachel will come and spend about a month here. So as you heard in our episode with Mary, who’s the founder of action for cheetahs in Kenya, we are here helping rebuild the canine teams get them back up on their feet. So how has it been going? The first week and a half that I was here in Kenya. We were primarily in Nairobi, which is where the AC K headquarters are I got to get to know Edwin and Naomi who are the two intern handlers here. And Maddie and Percy the two dogs so Maddie is the border collie Rottweiler mix he’s about seven. Percy is a three year old Belgian melon While her sister already is the one that unfortunately passed away, in February of this year, I believe. So while we were in Nairobi, we were focusing a little bit it was a lot of me getting to know the team, the team getting to know me, me getting to know the routine of the team. The dogs were a little bit out of shape. So we were also we incorporated some runs. We built on some awaited walks that the team had been doing with a previous consultant and started working a lot on getting Naomi ready to handle the dogs. Naomi had primarily been helping with dog care at that point and hadn’t really handled the dogs at all during searches. So we started working on that and introducing the team to some blind searches.

Kayla Fratt (KF) 10:43
And then we had a little bit of a hiccup. So we were planning on heading up here to this is Samburu County, but they may by community Conservancy, is where we are. And we were planning on heading up there on a Saturday. If I remember right, I don’t remember dates at this point, because time is a contract construct. And we were going to get up here and then we found out a couple a day or two before we were due to leave that due to an ongoing drought up here in Samburu. And particularly in acute spell dry spell for the last couple months, the water tanks at our field site were very, very low to empty. So we weren’t really sure if we were going to have enough water to get up there. And then this was compounded by the fact that Kenya was experiencing a little bit of a fuel crisis. So this isn’t a little bit complicated. I’m not 100% sure if I’ve got all the details, right. But essentially, the government has been subsidizing fuel here in Kenya to ensure that people can afford it. And they wanted to stop paying their subsidies. So there was fuel in the country, but it wasn’t getting distributed appropriately, basically. So there was this whole, it’s still kind of ongoing, but it lasted a couple of weeks where there, there really was, it was very, very difficult to find fuel and acquire fuel. And when it was available, a lot of times it was limited. So you can maybe get 10 liters or 15 liters at a time. But generally what we do when we come up to the field site here is we not only obviously fill up the field vehicles, but we also fill up some jerrycans to ensure that we can get around. And these two problems kind of compounded with each other in that if we didn’t have enough fuel, and then we ran out of water, or we didn’t have enough fuel to necessarily make the hour and a half long round trip to go refill our water, we would be, you know, kind of high and dry. So I hope that makes sense. So anyway, we delayed our departure by a couple of days to make sure that we could acquire fuel. I think there were a couple of strings pulled to ensure that we were able to fill up some jerrycans in a couple different places. And we’re just being really, really careful with the water now. So when I, I went back to Nairobi last week, you know, I brought all my laundry with me and we’re taking short showers and all of that sort of stuff. And luckily the rains have come to a lot of the the surrounding areas now three weeks later. So while we still haven’t gotten much rain to refill our water here at camp, the river near Camp Thea Waso river is running again. So we’re able to refill kind of washing water and those sorts of things from that river. As long as you’re obviously careful about looking for hippos and crocodiles, and all that good stuff that tends to make Africa a little bit exciting. So we did get up to the field site now about three weeks ago. And since arriving here, we’ve been focusing really heavily Sasa. We’ve been focusing really heavily on getting the dogs and the teams acclimated to the heat, it is very, very, very hot up here, um, I would say in the high 80s to mid 90s most days. And that’s kind of compounded with it’s pretty much full sun. And there’s no our field site runs off of solar. So we obviously don’t have air conditioning or fans or anything. So while I’ve experienced a lot of heat similar to this in the past, I’ve always had more shade or more wind or a fan or something in the past to get some reprieve. So anyway, we we had to build the dogs up to being able to walk and work in this walk and work in these conditions. So we wrote out a big fitness plan to get the dogs up to the ability to hike for about three hours. And then we’re at the same time kind of ratcheting up the length of their searches. So right now the dogs are able to walk for two hours

Kayla Fratt (KF) 14:46
and search for about 45 minutes and we’re continuing to ratchet all of that up. As far as the dog’s fitness goes. We’re also working on some play skills. The two dogs have very different playstyles Percy is a typical Malinois. She’s very pushy. She likes to wrap her legs around you. She’s very ferocious and her tugging she really, really likes hugging. And Maddie doesn’t like a lot of conflict in his play, he’d much rather kind of have you throw the ball. And then he kind of wants to run around in circles and hold the ball. And he might bring it to you occasionally, but you really can’t push him too much. So we’ve been really working with the handlers on that I had noticed, Edwin was much better at playing with Percy and Naomi was much better at playing with Maddie. So we’re working on getting both of their skills up with the the respect of other dogs. Naomi in particular had gotten nailed by Percy a couple times because of how high energy precedes play as. And so we’re working on making sure that our handlers don’t get bitten. But we’ve also been having some working on a lot of the difference between lineups or discrimination tests and searching. So in the past the handlers, they’ve learned from a lot of people with security backgrounds. So they’ve had a lot a lot, a lot of work on stuff like directionals, and these really flashy alerts, and really kind of very directed searching, and doing a lot a lot a lot of lineups with direct it with intensive kind of alert training to get these flashy alerts. And not nearly as much time spent, actually going out and searching with the dogs and teaching the dogs how to seek odor and source the odor and then make that final alert. So their training was pretty imbalanced. Because we’ve been working a lot on kind of getting the dogs away from these really directed searches and into more of being able to seek and source odor on their own. So that’s been that’s been really good work to see. You know, and we’re also we saw, we’ve seen quite a bit of reduction. Maddie, for example, had been mouthing a lot of the samples and looking at the samples. And now that we are really relaxing a lot of the criteria on the alert, he’s still alerting beautifully, but we’re directing him less and kind of, yeah, we’re directing him a lot less. He’s now alerting much better and to the mouthing and licking has basically disappeared. So I think a lot of that was a combination of boredom with these lineups and some stress with his handlers being a little bit too over the top. So we’re still working on that. We’re also doing quite a bit of revamping of the current sample collection and storage methods. They had been acquiring a lot of the samples from orphanages they’ve got all the Kenya Wildlife Service permits, of course, kW s and but what they were doing is they were requiring the samples and then they were drying them and then they were storing them in these kind of plastic Tupperware sort of containers not Tupperware brand, but you know what I mean. And what I really noticed is that the the containers weren’t super clearly labeled. So it was entirely possible that you would wash a container that had carried cheetah in it and then the next sample put Caracal in it so then you’re obviously contaminating your samples. And also with something as odiferous. As cheetahs scat. When you dry a sample in one area, and are storing the other off target negative samples in that same area, everything kind of smells like cheetah. So we’re really working on revamping that. And getting to the point where they’re using best practice glass jars and good storage and potentially some Mylar bags.

Kayla Fratt (KF) 18:20
So we’re doing some grant writing to try to get all of that equipment and gear here and ensure that the handlers understand why and how the sample storage needs to be done. Because we’re also experiencing some problems with some negative indications both dogs are making quite a few the handlers he’ll call it a negative indication, I would normally call this an off target alert, where the dogs are alerting to care a call and leopard in particular not cheetah or they’re they’re doing both. But in training, a lot of times the dogs are showing quite a bit of interest, or and or alerting to these negative samples. And I think part of this is due to sample storage. And the fact that we’re just getting a lot of contamination. The other thing that I think is potentially at play is just a saliency issue. So because they acquire all of these samples from these orphanage rehab centers, they’re all getting fed similar food medications and supplements. So normally, a care call in the wild would have a lot more bird, small mammal sort of stuff in its feces and a leopard would have much more. You know Impala and those sorts of things. And a cheetah would probably, I suppose, also have Impala. But there would be a little bit more of a difference between a cheetah and those other two species in as far as their Scout goes. So there’s potentially a saliency issue going on here. Where because all of the samples that we’re acquiring are getting these artificial diets. It’s just really difficult for the dogs to tell the difference. The other thing that is potentially at play is always handler bias. I’ve noticed that the dogs seem to perform better when I hide the positives and negatives and therefore the handlers are searching blind. So I think there is some amount of the handlers kind slowing down and hesitating and checking to see if the dogs are going to make a mistake. And the dogs read that, and then the dogs make a mistake. So there’s also just the potential that this is a big learned problem. We are still working through it. We have not solved this yet. But I’ve got a bunch of different ideas clearly on what’s going wrong and how we’re going to deal with it. We also are doing a lot of GPS and search strategy discussion. We’re working through some books together and just you know, really trying to get these handlers up to snuff on all of the really, really difficult and complicated stuff that is involved in being a conservation dog handler. Both Edwin and Naomi are super keen, I’m going to do a podcast episode with each of them, or potentially both of them at the same time, having decided that I really really liked both of them, they’re really good finds. However, they are very inexperienced, I’m neither one of them has worked as a trainer in the past, or really even had what we would consider a kind of pet dogs are working dogs in the past, they’ve kind of had, you know, village backyards, dogs sorts of things. And they both have backgrounds in biology, but it’s it’s a big, big gap from where they are currently to where they need to be as far as conservation dog handlers. So I’m really excited for where they’re getting to be and where they’re going. But there’s a long way to go. They are both going to be taking our online conservation dog handler course for free. So really, really, really excited about that. And that’s going to hopefully continue moving them in the right direction so that they can stick around and teach the next round of interns and all of that sort of stuff. So yeah, we spent about two weeks up here in Samburu. And then I took a week off, my mom flew all the way here from Kenya after she finished her got her fourth Boston Marathon. My mom is amazing. So before she got here, Mary and Tim and I headed out to collect some cheetahs, cat samples from the Samburu concert Conservancy, which is here, nearby here.

Kayla Fratt (KF) 21:59
And that was a really interesting experience. So these community conservancies are not nationally owned, they’re owned by the and run by the community. So they all kind of have different rules. And what we saw here was a really interesting and kind of sad example of human wildlife conflict driven by climate. So obviously, this is a desert area, droughts are normal, but the drought here has been pretty long and pretty severe. And so what what’s happened is basically, the powerful people who own the big herds of cattle and goats have managed to pressure their way into getting the grazing rights in what should be a wildlife Conservancy, what should be the Conservancy for, you know, for the wildlife. And it’s hard, it’s a really, really hard thing to see. The wildlife so stressed out by the presence of these cattle and donkeys and camels and goats and sheep and the herders and some of the herders have dogs. And again, they’re in what is, you know, purportedly a park, but also under management of the community, and these cattle are starving and in a lot of cases starving to death. So, you know, we saw a lot of carcasses and it’s just, it’s, it’s really, really hard. I don’t know enough about the situation to even pretend to have a solution. But it you know, this is the reality of what we’re dealing with here. Even the areas that are kind of set aside to try to keep the ecosystems healthy. You know, when people are starving or are desperate, and they’re their cattle, which is their livelihood are starving. You know, that takes priority. And I can’t say that that’s wrong, necessarily. We had a really intense example where we were watching a herd of several 100 cattle, you know, big enough that you could see the dust cloud rising from behind these cattle and they’re all starving. And then we see this young male lion running across the plains away from the cattle and the wildlife know that the cattle and the people that come with them are trouble. And then shortly after that, we got word. We’re out with a raider as we’re collecting the Scott. And we get word that some Turkana, which is one tribe here had stolen some goats from some Samburu, which is the other tribe. One of the other tribes here. Obviously, there’s a lot of tribes and how there were shots being fired as the Samburu were trying to reclaim their goats all inside of the buffalo springs Conservancy. So we got out of the field and headed out over to a safer area to go continue collecting our samples. But yeah, it’s it’s a lot. I wish I knew more about the conflicts here. And potentially, I’ll be able to find someone who can talk to us about that and some of the solutions because I’m only able to report on what I’m seeing, and I am far, far far from an expert. So anyway, spent a couple days in those conservancies with Mary and Tim collecting the samples that was really eye opening and interesting. And I learned a ton from the Rangers. They were very generous with their time and it was great to get to spend time with Marian Tim Tim is one of the research scientists here. And then we got to Nairobi and I picked my mom up and we headed out to the Maasai Mara to work on It’s not to work to go on safari, which is something I’ve always wanted to do for my entire life. And I’m really, really grateful. We were able to fit it in. You may know Brooke from reweld ology she was on. She’s been on the podcast before. And she hooked us up with her company or the company. She works for the wild source. And we ended up with this absolutely amazing legendary guide named ping at Anna Dora camp, which is in the Masai Mara, and I cannot recommend him enough Ping was so knowledgeable about all of the wildlife, he was so observant, he knew everyone. He has personally been sponsored through university by some of his clients in the past, he and then he has been able to pass that on to the community. He’s sponsored kids to go through college and high school, he’s pioneering and experimenting with zero grazing, which is a big deal in the Maasai community. And it was just, it was incredible. The Safari was was just incredible. We saw some really, really amazing wildlife. But even more so than that was getting to hang out with the Maasai, and the guides and really learning from the locals, we did get to see some cheetah, I got to see the three remaining boys from the famous Masai Mara Fast Five, which was a five male coalition. Two of them, unfortunately had passed away recently, they’re seven, now seven years old. So that’s relatively old for a cheetah. And we got to see those three boys take down a zebra calf, which is very, very rare. It was very special. Kind of intense, but very cool. So anyway, I spent a week with my mom. And then she flew out a couple days ago as I’m recording this and I am now back up in Samburu may by to continue the rest of our fieldwork. And I am really excited. I’m here for about two more weeks. And then I’m heading back to the US to be reunited with niffler and barley.

Kayla Fratt (KF) 26:48
And it’s been interesting I am I got a lot of questions about whether or not I really missed them. And I do. But it hasn’t been nearly as hard as you would think to be away from them for what’s been now a month. And I think it’s because I’m staying so busy. And I really love this work. And just I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here. And I’m really eager to see how we’re able to move forward together. And one of the things I wanted to add here is that if you’re listening and you’re a researcher or a biologist or a conservation dog person, and you were interested in having the canine conservationists team, do research for you or with you, or mentor you or work with you or do seminars or workshops with you reach out to me i I’m we’re loving, loving loving this experience and loving what we’re doing here. And we are really eager to continue offering more of these kinds of non traditional conservation dogs support options, we are actively looking for fieldwork to complete in 2023 and 2024. So if you’re interested in working with us for actual conservation dog stuff, we’re certainly looking for those sorts of gigs. But again, also if you’re looking for more of kind of the mentorship seminar workshop side of things, reach out, Kanan, we’ve got all sorts of really interesting ideas about how to work together with people, and figure out how to make it something that everyone can afford. Obviously, we do need to be paid. But we can figure out some interesting ways to make that happen. So without further ado, let’s talk about some of our Patreon questions. If you aren’t on Patreon yet, what are you doing? It’s three bucks to 25 bucks a month, you can join over at conservationists with book clubs, we have coaching calls, all sorts of great stuff. If you’re interested in learning more from us. It’s absolutely the way to go. And we gave our patrons a pretty big discount on that online course. So all good stuff. Anyway, so our patrons send us some questions. So some of these we have cut hinted on in the podcast before but we’re gonna go through anyway. So one that I’ve gotten a bunch of different permutations on is, you know, dogs are predators. How do we keep wildlife safe? So we’ve talked about this again in the past, we’re going to use things like long lines and muzzles, and careful training of the dog to ensure that we keep the dog under control and away from sensitive wildlife. This also comes down to dog selection, I pretty firmly believe that prey drive is one of the biggest reasons I would wash the dog out of the conservation dog program. Depending on your job, you know, if you’re going to primarily be working with Zebra Mussel detection dogs, a dog may be able to have higher prey drive and still be totally functional. But assuming we want a dog to be off leash in sensitive areas with wildlife, and especially if you’re really trying to get permits for places that dogs aren’t normally allowed. So, you know, for example, here in Kenya, trying to get a permit to bring the dogs into any of these conservancies or parks is a big deal. So even if the dog isn’t going to hurt the wildlife, it is absolutely not an option up dog chasing wildlife. And that comes down to dog selection as much if not more so than dog training. So we’re going to be keeping the wildlife safe by selecting the right dog training that dog to recall and ignore or wildlife, we’re going to be recording another episode all on this topic. So you can use farm animals and cats, and all sorts of things to teach the dogs a default disengage from wildlife, you can do impulse control, and those sorts of things to help the dog maintain its head and recall to you when they when they do see interesting wildlife. And then use tools like long lines and muscles. I do not personally use any color with my dogs at all. However, as I said, we’re human humane hierarchy based team least intrusive minimally aversive training, all that good stuff. However, there are some specific situations in which I would consider an E collar for a conservation detection dog. But certainly not as my first or only resort. There were just there there. There are so many specifics, high level situations where it may be a tool I would put on the table. But it is not something that I’ve currently I currently use or plan to use anytime soon. And then the other thing we need to consider is that simply having the dogs in the environment and moving through the environment can also increase stress for animals. So just the odor of the dog, the sight of the dog, all of that sort of stuff, even if the dog is not interacting with wildlife at all, can still be stressful for wildlife. And that is something to consider both with yourself with the land manager with your researchers. Because again, some wildlife are just really, really sensitive, and that may still end up being a unacceptable thing for you. Because it still may be a lot less stressful and invasive to those wildlife than say, live trapping them would be or darting them would be. But it is something to consider dogs are as a tool conservation dogs should be

Kayla Fratt (KF) 31:48
quite non invasive. They shouldn’t be stressing out to the animals that much. But just like you know, the flash of a camera trap. Even though camera trap is considered non invasive, it can still be stressful, it can still have impacts the odor of people coming and going to checking church to check a camera trap, same thing. So anyway, this is a huge, huge, huge topic. It was a bit of a rambling reply, but it is something we are constantly thinking about. So next up is from Megan B. And she asked how we find the balance between coping with life and other dogs and being calm and et cetera. So basically having a sane, well managed companion dog, and also staying crazy and driving. So great question. I don’t think these things are really in conflict. In my experience, you can have a dog that is extremely high drive, and still a perfectly civil companion because drive is the desire to work for a reinforcer or the ability to work for a reinforcer. It is not the same thing as energy. And it is not the same thing as arousal. They can correlate. You know, if you think of your stereotypical teenage lab, they’re probably high arousal, high energy and potentially high drive. But I think sometimes people mistake really high arousal and high energy dogs for being highly driven. So these dogs that are bouncing and spinning and barking and they’re frantic, and they’re doing all sorts of crazy stuff. And people say wow, that’s a dog with a lot of drive. And then you take the dog out. And you make something hard, not unfairly hard, because of course we want to train well. But you know, you you take that ball and you throw it behind a couple picnic tables, and the dog has to push through some stuff and climb over himself and work to go get that ball. And the dog gives up and just continue to sprinting in circles. A dogs kind of frantic high arousal high energy, I know I’m using a lot of labels here, forgive me, forgive me. A toxin is not necessarily driving, you can’t if you’re teaching the dog manners and self control around toys that should not decrease their drive for toys. So I don’t think that there is much to the belief that teaching manners will undo drive and undo work ethic. I do want to be careful to ensure that you’re teaching things with positive reinforcement, giving the dogs plenty of times to be dogs and maintaining, you know, their behavioral wellness. Because I do think if you’re teaching a lot of life skills that I don’t think that Megan is saying that she does or that she plans on it or anything like this. But if you’re teaching these life skills and forcing the dog to remain calm and quiet in the car by using a bark collar, or through a lot of punishment, I think you could get a really subdued suppressed dog because punishment suppresses behavior, and that could cause some problems for your drive and for your work ethic. But if you’re using really motivational reward based training and stuff like smart times 50 which is seamark and reward training, which is my favorite way to teach house manners. That should not decrease the dog’s ability to work while also still being a good companion. This Maybe another thing that we should just do a full episode on, let me know in the comment section wherever you find this episode, which of these topics you want to see as full episodes. Okay, next up, Natalie C asks, sample collection and storage, depending on the matrix you’re using for collection and the end target, you’re hoping to find the composition of your targets may vary, if stored in particular ways. She knows someone has touched on this in the past in the Slack channel, and would like to hear us talk about this more. Oh, boy, this is something we’re going to cover this in our course as well, because it’s massive. So you know, for example, here, we are just working with cheetah, Scott. And we still we are constantly talking about how to source and collect and store these samples so that they maintain the odor profile that we want. We don’t want to work with really, really old samples, because if we’re training the dogs to find really, really old stuff, that stuff is too old for us to get the genetic information we want. So we’re not using that. In an ideal world, you’re getting samples that are as closely similar or the same as what you want the dogs to find as possible. So in our case, ideally here in Kenya, we would be working with wild fresh samples as much as possible because we don’t necessarily need the dogs to find cheetah that have been eating goats and getting supplements. Because those are captive cheetahs. We and we don’t need them to be finding ancient samples, we certainly don’t need them to find urine. So that’s on the sourcing side. Generally speaking, as far as storage, generally speaking, you want stuff to either be dried or frozen, a mix is kind of ideal. And you want to be storing an airtight stainless steel glass or Mylar bags. And you want to be very, very careful between contamination, both between samples and getting residual stuff elsewhere.

Kayla Fratt (KF) 36:48
Plants can be tricky. Some, in some cases, it may be best to dry the plants and then freeze them because if you freeze plants without drying them, you’re getting some weird rots. Insects, cannabis, it’ll be interesting because they decay if you’re trying to find live samples, there’s a whole other topic there. So it’s a big old It depends. And one of the things I will say is that once your dog is really well trained, and you’re doing a really good job with a particular target odor, you can kind of get away with some of your maintenance samples being a little bit less perfect. So for example, when I’m initially training a dog to find bats, for example, I really want to be very careful to ensure that we’re using bats that don’t have any human odor, any odor of gloves, any anything confusing, that could get the dogs off. But over time, if we’re just doing maintenance training, and I just want to see the dogs working on a particular type of odor puzzle, I just want to check up on their endurance, check up on their enthusiasm. It’s okay, if those samples may be a little bit contaminated. As long as again, we go back to the drawing board before we deploy them. It’s all about kind of the goal of your session. And I do think there are times where if you’ve got a slightly older or more contaminated sample, you probably can get by with that, obviously not ideal. And there, there are just so so many factors to consider. Okay, Jana T writes, funding is definitely the number one bottleneck and we need to be smarter about where we are now to reach the growing interest in sustainability. I would love to hear advice from people who are on the funding side of the world research funding other kinds of project fundings, like government agencies, elf programs, etc, and donations and crowdfunding. So this is another great full episode idea. I think one of the things that I’m really learning about grant writing is that it seems you know, obviously to first thing is that the number of grants you get is directly proportional to number of grants you write. Grants are hard. And you’re going to get a lot of rejections. The other thing is that generally speaking grants like to fund and grow existing programs, not start new initiatives. So what we have been doing with our grants overall, is trying to figure out how to get started with some other amount of funding through partners, or, or crowdfunding or donations, and then once we’re up and running, trying to bring in the grants to supplement so far, I’m gonna be honest, we haven’t been super successful with it. So this is not something that I am an expert in. But I do think it is a great idea to try to get someone from one of these government agencies or researchers to or not researchers, or, you know, grant giving organizations to talk to us about, you know, where do we get this funding and how do we problem solve this because there are so many projects that really could use conservation dogs but can’t afford them. And, you know, we’d love to see that problem fixed. And, you know, this bottleneck is real and it’s it’s a big problem. So great question, Jana. I don’t have a good answer for you. Kyoko Johnson is not a patron but she is the she runs conservation dogs in Hawaii. And she asked how the weather is here in Kenya and how it’s affecting the dogs. So as I said, it’s very hot here and quite like it’s drier, but humid. I think our humidity is about 70% Most days, but it feels really dry, it’s very windy. Um, so what we’re seeing is that it took the dogs two or three weeks to really get back up to being able to go for long walks in the heat, we’re still taking a lot of care. So on searches, the dogs take a break every 20 minutes to get water to get water splashed on their femoral arteries in their ears and cool them off. They have cool coats that they can work in. And we’re just very carefully monitoring the dogs, both with rectal temperature and with keeping an eye on their physical displays of comfort with the heat and then talking a lot to the handlers about the body. The physical signs of heat stress and heat exhaustion to make sure that we never get to the point of full on heat stroke with the dogs. The wind is nice, honestly, the wind is pretty consistent out of the east, which is the direction of the ocean here. It’s quite far away, but it is where the where it comes from. So we don’t get a lot of swirling, we don’t get a lot of weird wind patterns right before rain. Sometimes we get some turbulence. But the weather here is quite consistent. And the biggest struggle has been getting the dogs use to the heat. And then so far, their detection distances have been great in training. We’ve had multiple training sessions where the dogs are routinely finding scouts quite easily at like 50 plus meter detection distance where you know, cheetahs got a stinky and this wind is really ideal for these long detection distances.

Kayla Fratt (KF) 41:51
And it’s really open terrain, so it’s kind of scrubland, there’s a lot of let’s see, what do we think it’s, it’s kind of open dirt. Very, very, very little grass, and then kind of scrubby thorny bushes, and rocks scattered. And then there’s probably a tree every 20 meters. But these trees are only like, less than five meters tall. So pretty short. And so there’s just not and it’s not superduper, hilly a lot of gullies here again, at least specifically here. So there’s just not a lot of like crazy typography or crazy vegetation to change our odor around too much. So Jane Komori, asked about moving from basic nose work to real detection dog stuff. Another whole topic, we could do a full episode on. Basically what I view, as the biggest thing when you’re thinking about nosework to detection dog stuff, is thinking about your handling style. So what I see when I watch a lot of handlers in canine nosework, is that they tend to really direct the dogs, they’re really helping the dogs out. And they’re really they’re doing a lot of in some cases really beautiful training. And in some cases, they’re doing a lot of cueing of the dog and a lot of helping the dog in a way that I don’t really like. So I think getting you and the dog used to being more hands off more individual searching or independent searching from the dog. And then expanding those search areas is the biggest thing. And then there’s also some interesting stuff that they will do in nosework. That may not be as relevant for conservation dog stuff in particular. So for example, as you’re getting into higher levels of nosework, and you’re doing stuff with a lot of suspended or elevated hides, or some of these really interesting hides, we don’t tend to get stuff like that, obviously, it depends on your target odor. But for example, Scott, we’re very rarely going to get a suspended scat. And one of the things that we also see is that our, our samples tend to be out for longer. And our odor cones are quite large, and we’re dealing with a lot of whims. So getting the dogs used to spending a lot more time seeking odor, and then getting them used to having to source odor over longer distances, but not necessarily as much complexity I had that’s not quite right, either. There’s a lot going on. But it’s a great place to start. It’s certainly better than just about anything else. You know, obviously canine nosework is going to get you further in understanding how to do conservation dog stuff than agility what? I also had another question. And I don’t have it written down who this is from, on whether it’s better to have a wildlife dog that does detection or tracking. And this is going to be a big old it depends on your goals. In most cases, you want a dog to detect you want the dog to be air scenting so they’re wandering through the environment sniffing, sniffing, sniffing until they hit odor, and then they find that odor and they take you to a scout sample. However, there may be cases in which it’s useful to have a dog that can do tracking or trailing so a lot of anti poaching dogs do this where the dogs are actually tracked. Getting down either a wounded animal to help it if that say it’s an elephant with a snare around its foot, or they’re tracking down the poachers to make an arrest. In some cases, you may want a dog who can actually track down an individual animal for something. But in the vast, vast, vast majority of cases, you’re doing detection work, not tracking. And then Ursa asked, How do you deal with mission creep when deciding on your main goals as an organization? So this conversation came up after she and I were talking about rescue dogs in the conservation dog field. And this is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. And Rachel and Heather and I talked about quite a bit when we were all together, is, you know, what’s most important to you? Do you want to be getting the work done and getting the conservation dog stuff done? Or do you want to be rescuing dogs? It’s not that you can’t do both. But at some point, kind of prioritizing those goals and thinking really hard about what’s most important to you. So for example, with us, three of our four conservation dogs that canine conservationists, are rescues. We did adopt them, but we do not intentionally look for the toughest cases or the sob stories. Because we want dogs who can do the work. And dogs who are civil members of society, and who can come and do demos with us and can cohabitate easily with other dogs can live in hotels, all of those sorts of things, we consider that part of the job for us. So again, not that you can’t find that in a rescue dog. Obviously, we’ve got three that can. But you know, Sookie and Ellie both can be a little bit nervous of strangers. barly dealt with some of that when I first got him. And then the other reality is the the population of shelter dogs in the US is changing. As we get better and better at

Kayla Fratt (KF) 46:50
Community Based sheltering, and getting dogs to stay in their homes, and educating adopters, and all of this sort of stuff, we’re getting fewer and fewer dogs in some parts of the country that come into shelters just because they’re too high energy. So we’re getting more and more dogs. And this is something that is anecdotally really, really true. In the sheltering world, we’re getting more and more dogs coming into the shelter with more issues. We’re getting fewer dogs overall, which is great, you know, the US has gone from euthanizing something like 19 million dogs a year to 4 million dogs a year in the last 20 years. That’s amazing. But that means that we have 15 million fewer dogs a year that are being euthanized that you can comb through and find those gems to be conservation dogs. Again, it’s a good thing. But it means that you know, for us, when we were when we were thinking about getting a fifth dog for canine conservationists, which probably won’t happen anytime soon, we are certainly going to look at rescues, we’re going to put out some feelers and try to find a dog through a rescue or a shelter that needs the job and wants the job. But if we can’t, we will go through a breeder again. That’s what I did with nefler. And, you know, so it’s it’s making sure you’ve got your priorities, we do want to support these rescue dogs, we do want to to help out. But for us, ultimately, the whole job is is more important than rescuing a dog. And similarly, you know, I’ve been having some thoughts about this, as far as this job here in Kenya. And you know, I don’t have an answer here. I’m not the director of action for cheetahs. But you know, we’ve had some discussions about the fact that they really want to be hiring Kenyans for these jobs. They really, really want Kenyans in these positions. And I think that is absolutely the right call for an organization based here in Kenya. Definitely the right goal. However, what they’re struggling with is finding people with enough experience in dog training, let alone detection, training, let alone conservation detection, dog training. So is the problem that there’s nobody here in Kenya to do this job unlikely. However, we’re having a really hard time finding, attracting and hiring those people here. As I said, Edward and Naomi are extremely inexperienced, and they’re great. They’re so so so good, but they really need someone above them with more experience, which is why I’m here, but I’m not here permanently. And you know, so what Mary and I have been talking about, and I’ve been thinking about a lot is, maybe it would make sense to say, hey, our priority right now is building the conservation dog program. And that may mean bringing in non Kenyans to help with the goal of eventually turning over the program to complete Kenyan rule doing that Kenyan rule comes with the goal of eventually turning the program over to Kenyans completely. And again, I don’t know. You know, that’s not my decision to make with this organization. But it is something they’re talking about and thinking about, obviously, they’ve decided to bring me in, and Heather and Rachel so they’ve decided that at least in the short term, it makes sense to you know, focus on getting the conservation T dog team up and running. And then focus on having an all Kenyan team again after that rather than again, this kind of mission creep question. And this is something again, I would kind of like to have a whole episode on but I need to prioritize ties these two let me know in the QA month’s wherever you find us on social media, which of these topics you are most excited to hear about in full episodes, please don’t say all of them because I can’t. So I think that’s all for now. This has been canine conservationists. If you’re interested in learning more about us, hiring us working with us, we do seminars, workshops, mentoring, we are also actively looking for fieldwork for the next few years. So if you’re a researcher looking to hire conservation dog teams, reach out you can find all that at Canine Also, definitely check out our Patreon at conservationists until next time,

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