Selecting a Conservation Detection Dog

In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla Fratt talks about considerations when choosing a conservation detection dog, sourcing a dog, and screening a dog.

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Discussed in this Podcast:

  • Considerations:
    • Make a list of your must haves from a lifestyle perspective to help which type of dog works best for you. This can be anything from breed type, grooming requirements, size, etc.
    • You should also make a list of “nice to have” and “bonus points”. These are types of things that aren’t a must have, but are still of some importance to you. These are usually aesthetic type desires.
    • You also need to consider your work lifestyle, whether your dog can handle being off leash around wildlife, water, other dogs, people, etc. 
    • Consider if you’d want to do outreach work at events with your dog. Would a social dog be more ideal, etc. 
    • Travel is something to consider. A dog that thrives on routine may not be best for conservation work. 
    • Most trainers in this field prefer dogs that have a high drive for toys
    • Consider what kind of dog you like to work with; high drive, low drive, preference for food reinforcement, preference for toy reinforcement, low energy or high energy personality, etc.
    • Consider the detail level of the work you want to do
    • It’s very important to consider your skill set and experience with dog handling
  • Sourcing:
    • Rescue
      • This can be challenging and rewarding. There are a lot of pros and cons with rescue!
      • It’s hard to know whether they fit the work or not, as there are so many elements to consider from the dog’s previous experiences
      • It’s also hard to find “the perfect fit” 
      • Some rescues have strict rules regarding adoptions as well
      • Age is something to consider, and a lot of rescues are older
      • Health screening is very important
      • There are amazing benefits such as; saving a life, offering an excellent home, adoption fees often cheaper than a puppy purchase, etc.
    • Career change dog
      • Organizations such as guide, service, and detection often career changed the washed dogs, so this is a great option to get a little ahead on training
      • Most of these dogs are washed from the programs due to minor issues such as; allergies, not reliable for work such as search and rescue, just not suitable for that specific line of work
      • Many of these dogs are high energy, high drive, which is generally great for detection work
    • Purpose bred puppy
      • Generally the “simplest” sourcing option, though training isn’t always easy or fast
      • Lineage is easy to find
      • Some breeders breed specifically for detection work
      • Some people like to start with a blank slate
      • Choose a reputable breeder
    • Started dog from a handler/school
      • Very expensive, but reliable dog
  • Screening
    • Read details carefully, ask questions and raise concerns
    • Talk to other conservation handlers for advice
    • Test the dogs ability and drive
    • Interest in reinforcers and interest in working for those reinforcers
    • Puppy testing and adult dog testing might differ slightly
    • For an older dog, see their movement, see them act in public, and how they search

Links Mentioned in the Episode:

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