In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla provides an update on what K9 Conservationists has been up to and answers some Patreon questions.
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You can support the K9 Conservationists Podcast by joining our Patreon at patreon.com/k9conservationists.
Kayla Fratt 00:09
Hello and welcome to the K9 Conservationists podcast, where we’re positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs. Join us every week to discuss detection, training or welfare, conservation, biology and everything in between. I’m Kayla Fratt, a co-founder of canine conservationists, where we train dogs to detect data for land managers, researchers, agencies, and NGOs. Today’s episode is going to be a bunch of questions from people over on Patreon. But we’re going to start out with our review, hit highlight and then of course, our science highlight. So today we have a review from a welder off which says I’m so grateful for Kayla and many other guests she has had on her podcast. This helped me with many different topics with two different dogs and it’s truly educational and fun to listen to keep up the good work, Caleb, if you would like to make my day and maybe hear your own review on the podcast, be sure to leave a review over on Apple podcasts, or wherever you find your podcasts and I’ll be featuring them here. I really appreciate it. So next up, we’ve got our science highlight this was prepared by our lovely volunteer highlight Benson, and it’s titled detection distance and environmental factors in conservation dog surveys. It was written by Sarah Reed, Allison beadlock, Amy hurt and Wayne gates and published in the Journal of wildlife management in January 2011. The study had two main objectives. First, the author sought to determine how six environmental factors affected detection dogs ability to locate wildlife target odor, in this case, carnivores Scott. Specifically, they looked at temperature wind speed variability of wind direction, relative humidity, cumulative precipitation and days since the last precipitation. Second in order to better quantify the total area search for the dogs. In a survey. The authors estimated the dogs probability of detecting target or based on the distance of the dog from the odor. So working dogs for conservation, recruited and trained to dogs from shelters at detection training took approximately 12 weeks 29 controlled trials were conducted at an outdoor research site across at Outdoor Research sites across northern California over a period of four months, using three scouts per trap. Dogs were walked off leash while their handlers led them down a transect and backhand. The distance of the handler on the transect was reordered. When a dog made a find environmental variables were measured from an automated weather station nearby. They also conducted 30 uncontrolled trials over six months to help determine how environmental factors affect real service. The author’s created several models and determined that that during controlled trials, Scott placement distance was the most important variable identified in the full model sets for dog one and dog two. At a placement distance of about 10 meters both dogs detected Scott over 75% of the time. Top ranked models also included air temperature and cumulative precipitation. And the full balance model set the most important variable for both dogs was cumulative precipitation, which was negatively related to Scott detection rate. So basically it the more rain there was the less successful the dogs were doing at detecting thanks for uncontrolled trials days since precipitation was the most important explanatory variable for both dogs with detection rate increasing as days since pre septation. Increased. wind conditions did not appear important in the models potentially due to mild winds during the surveys with winds ranging from point seven to 3.4 meters per second, temperature affected the detection rate of each dog differently with higher temperatures correlating to higher detection rates with dark one and higher temperatures correlating to lower detection rates for dog two. So of course, we’ve got to we’ve got to go through some of the limitations of the study, there was just two dogs used in the study, which is pretty typical, the scale at which the environmental variables were evaluated may not be the same skill that is meaningful to the dog. So for example, if that weather station was placed too high, or too low, it may be gathering information on when or even humidity that is irrelevant to where the dogs on the scouts actually were. The marks for the handler was on the transect when the dog located the scout, but the dog was off leash and allowed to wander freely. So when the dogs first caught odor wasn’t necessarily the actual wasn’t actually measured. So it wasn’t really detection distance quite precisely. And then finally, I think this study doesn’t necessarily consider topography or vegetation. And kind of similar to the the research highlight that we had back looking at the cheetahs got dogs in Kenya, it’s just hard to say if you’re not getting big enough temperature or wind swings, or just weather differences over the course of a trial, it’s that makes it a little bit harder to actually draw conclusions about which factor is most important, because you’re kind of looking at plus or minus, however many degrees. So definitely interesting. Very, very glad to have this one. And again, thank you to our volunteer Heidi Benson for putting this one together. So before we get into our Patreon questions for the day, I wanted to give all of you a little bit of a life and project update for myself in particular, and K9Conservationists in general. So as I record right now I’m currently sitting in the van on The side of a lake in El Salvador. So I’m taking about the next year or so, to drive the Pan American highway. And you might think, but Kayla, don’t you have conservation dog work to do. And aren’t you like trying to build a business and stuff. And I would say yes. However, at this point in my life, most of our work actually takes place online. Right now, and we’re actively working and writing grants and meeting with people and everything to get more robust field season set up for, for all three of us in the future, hopefully starting in 2024, and into 2025. But at this point, we’re really focused on doing whatever we can education wise, and taking projects where we can. And just knowing that, as you heard in the episode with Andrew, and we’ve talked about in other places on this podcast, sometimes it takes a couple of years to, to really get a client relationship or grant up and running. So I have dreamed of driving the Pan American highway for well over a decade now and figured that now that I finally have the window post, not post COVID. But now that COVID has led up enough and vaccinations have gotten to a point where I felt safe doing this trip. And I haven’t yet started grad school and canine conservationist is not at a point where I need to be in the field a lot, now is the perfect time to do it. That said, I am also currently enroute to Guatemala, for about the first half of February Barley and Niffler and I are going to be working in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve on a on a multispecies carnivore project in collaboration with Oregon State University. We’re super excited about it. We’ll tell you more about it when we can. But right now, just know that dogs have been learning all sorts of new target odors. We’ve been practicing in all sorts of new terrains, we’re going to be working in the jungle, we have anti venom in our field bags, it is a lot to deal with. And I’m very, very excited about it. And hopefully we’ll be able to get Ellen on the show to talk about her first time working with conservation dogs as a PhD student, all sorts of good stuff. So you’ll be hearing more about that soon. And as I continue driving the Pan American highway, I’m continuing to meet up with other ecologists, conservationist, dog trainers, and whoever else I can to either work with them, or just collaborate, hang out, grab a couple beers. And I’m continuing to work remotely. So I make some of my money right now through K9 Conservationists. I also make money as a freelance writer and as a remote dog trainer. So I wear a lot of hats right now. And I’m just really enjoying enjoying life. Right now the dogs are having a great time. In September of last year, we found a cat in a ditch. So now we have a cat and Van as well. So it’s a lot to it’s a lot to keep track of. And if you’re interested in kind of keeping up more on that side of stuff, then you might want to check out the Van Life Lab podcast, which I am launching with my friends Eric and Colby, who collectively are the engineers who van life. Or just follow me on social media colleagues without borders on Instagram and YouTube. That is much more like the fun social side of things. But now, let’s get back into the conservation dog stuff. So our first question comes from patron Evan, who asks what aside from animal training and biology ecocentric backgrounds? Have you seen folks come into conservation detection from? So first off, I’m going to recommend that you check out the roundtable episode titled How did you get into the world of conservation detection from August 16 2022? We’ve got several handlers on that episode that all talk about their backgrounds before this. And I will say yeah, definitely most people kind of come from a combination of those two groups, the training on the biology sides. But for example, Jennifer Hartman of rogue detection teams has a degree in English. Grant blackly, who’s been on the podcast previously, and is also a patriot was a farmer. And some others have had corporate backgrounds or just all sorts of other things. So next up from Lily, she asks, How would you take into consideration your dog team and their strengths, motivators and styles when deciding on projects that you want to pursue? And she continues? For example, if you had a team of dogs evaluate, how do you evaluate them for suitability if someone contacts you with a specific project, idea or species? And how do you make a decision on which dog is better suited, best suited and whether it may just not be the right project for you and the dogs to pursue? So wow, this is a great one, I have like almost a full page of notes on this one. So here we go. I’m gonna kind of start with like how we determine whether or not a project is good fit for us, as in canine conservationists. So we’ve got several criteria that we kind of start out with. First off, it’s got to be something we’re passionate about an interested in. That means so far that we haven’t chosen to apply to like agricultural projects working with agricultural pests, because they’re while they’re adjacent, and they would definitely help us build our skills and would also give us some money. They’re not really conservation. And at that point, at this point, we’re just not focusing on those. And then generally, we’re also preferring visible targets at this point. This is not to say that we would turn down a project if someone approached us but at this point, we’re not actively pursuing things that are invisible, like protests Though viruses, bacteria, Chronic Wasting Disease, we’re not really aiming for those things yet, insect small targets, even plant diseases that you can kind of see the symptoms of on a plant we’re absolutely interested in. But at this point with our level of experience, we’re not really going for kind of the most difficult possible projects. And this might seem kind of obvious, but we’re also pretty limited by timing and geography for what we’re taking on. For example, the reason that we went to Kenya when we did ie kind of March to May March to June of 2022. And we didn’t stay longer was mostly because of our limits in relation to the paid wind farm work and not actually what they wanted or needed. They had originally been hoping for someone to come for at least six months, and we just weren’t able to offer that. So and then we have four dogs and three people on staff. So that just means we don’t have a ton of choice, and a ton of flexibility, the way that a bigger organization like rogue, or working dogs for conservation that may have a dozen or more dogs in a kennel, they might be able to kind of pick and choose a little bit more or even kind of say, well, we’ll hire a handler to work with this novice dog or something or with this experienced dog, or something like that if a project comes up that someone can’t really fit into. But that said, each of our four dogs are relatively different, despite all being Border Collie mixes, and we do also have barley. For now he’s nine, so we don’t, we won’t have him forever. But he’s just pretty much rock solid with everything we’ve ever asked him to do. niffler is about to start his first non wind farm project. And he looks great so far, but we’ll see how he does with those much longer searches and a tough juggle environment. So far. I’m thrilled he actually, just two days ago now I’m recording on January 17. We were training and we were up in the mountains in near the Honduran border of El Salvador and I had placed out a couple scouts for him. And gosh darn it niffler found a wildcat. So pretty thrilled. niffler is doing great, but he you know, he just hasn’t proven himself the way that barley has. And we can say roughly the same for Ellie and Sookie, both of them have only worked on wind farm so far. So we’re not necessarily going to throw either of them in as like the only dog on a project where we’re working in a really, really challenging environment, we’re going to continue trying to make sure that we have two dogs. And ideally, for some of our most challenging projects, that dog is going to be barn one of those dogs is going to be barley, because we know that we can lean on him if there’s a lot of livestock or wildlife present, or conditions are just really, really tough. Although we’re really, we’re really really eager and excited to continue seeing Ali Sookie at niffler grow and become the sorts of dogs that can also do everything that we ask of them. And that we have the confidence to tell our partners that yes, this dog has already done this. Because while we have confidence in our training with confidence in the process, it’s really nice to be able to tell someone Yes, I’ve already seen this dog do something, rather than just saying yes, we’re pretty confident that we’re going to be able to get there. So on that note, any project where we’re looking for live animals, or in a really high risk environment is always going to be a conversation about which dogs and handlers are the best fit for that project. While all of our dogs are responsive and safe with wildlife, so for some of our dogs, it’s just harder for them to concentrate on jobs, if it’s like crawling with bunnies. So again, that’s where it’s nice to have these conversations with our project partners about even if hypothetically, a single dog can get the work done. It’s nice to have two so that we can trade off if one dog gets overwhelmed or tired for any number of reasons. And also if that tucked here’s a toenail, it’s just nice have two dogs for backup. And as I said, we don’t have a huge kennel of dogs. So this isn’t like a massively nuanced decision for us. Yeah, we don’t have a lot of choices. So we might be looking to hire another dog or two in the future to help out I know Heather is really thinking about getting a second dog. Quite soon actually, as we speak, we’re vetting a couple of potential candidates. And again, especially as barley moves towards retirement in a couple of years, I might be starting to think about getting another dog. Although I got that I’ve got to move out of the band before that happens. So basically, when we get a potential projects that comes across our plate, we’re going to look at who is available, then which dog is most likely to see succeed. And then which dog we’d like to offer extra experience. So for example, for my upcoming project in Guatemala, it was a given that I would be working by two dogs and then it would be me going because I am already in Central America. And I can just kind of drive over to Guatemala without it being too challenging versus getting Ellie or Sookie and Rachel or Heather over. So and originally because barley had tplo surgery I don’t think I’ve talked about this on the podcast but barley tour has cruciate cruciate ligament in October and edit it up. So that’s a CCL tear. It’s equivalent to the ACL in humans. He ended up needing to get a pretty huge surgery. We just started getting cleared, like literally this week for him to start playing fetch again and swimming and All of those other things, but it’s been a very long road of some very tough recovery, it’s gone very smoothly, it’s just hard because it’s a big surgery. And anyway, so originally due to barleys, tplo surgery, we were planning on niffler having to be the lead dog, which as I said, Did stress me out, I’ll get a bit given his age and his experience level, I felt confident that he could do it, but I wouldn’t I, I’m much happier now knowing that barley is going to be able to go go in for work. So barley will probably be taking lead on that project, because he knows, we, we, we really know that he knows what he’s doing. And he’s going to split that work really well with niffler. So that’s going to give niffler a lot more experience, give me a lot more confidence in niffler, that we’re always going to have barley up our sleeve to take care of whatever we need. And if anything happens with the dogs where they’re getting caught or tired, or bitten by ants or whatever, we’ll have a backup dog and those dogs are both dogs are going to be able to rest a lot more. So I hope that answered your question, Lindley, there’s a lot going into it, and happy to talk about it more. So definitely reach out to me on Patreon, or in our Facebook group, if you’re interested in me diving into this anymore. So next up from Chris, they asked when you travel, how do you keep your dog safe on airplanes. And so far, every time I’ve flown with barley, he’s been able to fly in the cabin. So that’s kind of a different experience. He’s tucked in between my knees under the seat in front of me. And before doing that we did a lot of practice on cars and buses and boats and trains before getting on a plane where you can’t get off at the next stop if things aren’t going well. He’s always tolerated it very well, he has not minded turbulence or landing or taking off. And he pretty much just crawls up and sleeps. So soon though, my dogs are going to be flying as cargo, because you have to ship your vehicle from Panama to Colombia and then take yourself on a plane because there are no roads through what is called the Darien Gap. And again, see the van Life Lab podcast if you want to hear a little bit more about that we’ll have an episode coming out shortly. So but we’ll be flying up as cargo for that. And I personally am going to be revisiting Sara streamings podcast from cog dog radio, on a flying with dogs for that, she really goes into quite a bit about how she, how she helps prepare the dogs, how she decides which dogs it’s even fair to ask them to fly. And all of that, kind of through the agility sport context. So next up, we’ve got a question from Sonia. She asks any suggestions for when your dog alerts nicely, but wants to get very close to the target sometimes even placing their nose directly on the target? How do you reinforce the alert while helping the dog keep his nose off the target? So I’ve got the short answer and the long answer. Short answer is if you’re using a marker of any sort, Mark earlier, so kind of mark the second that the dog gets there. And then reward rather than kind of waiting until they’ve actually had the opportunity to notice things. That’s kind of like in the moment, then you’ll also need to set up some situations where you’re revisiting your alert training with a target that is set up in a way where the dog can’t hit his nose onto it. So he can’t practice the behavior that you don’t like. So you might want to put that in a inside of a cinderblock kind of set aways back or inside of a training box, or all sorts of other things where they’re all just can’t actually get their nose onto the target and drool all over it. And then you’re going to be rebuilding the alert that you actually want to see from there, within our Patreon, or Yeah, within our Patreon group for the month of January, we have a theme of alerts. And we’re actually going to be revisiting kind of this Scandinavian working dog Institute’s style of training alerts through kind of a sit stare washer setup. So Sonia, I think I know you’re in that group, I know you’re very active, I think that’s probably going to be a really good exercise for you to practice with, with your boys. And yeah, again, in the moment when the dog has already nose to the target. I don’t correct them. I don’t scold them, I basically just go ahead and reward them. Because technically they got enough of it right. But then the next rep and every rep until you start feeling really confident in your training. I’m setting it up to avoid having that problem in the future. So you’re not continuing to reinforce it. But in that actual moment, yes, I do reinforce even though it wasn’t 100% What I wanted because they gave me enough of what I wanted, and they did all the hard parts. So Sony continues with a couple more questions. She asks, I’m also curious about training different disciplines or activities at the same time for newer dog. For example, would it be confusing to train your dog to track while also in the process of training off leash scent work? Or could I train my dog on antler sheds while also trying to track? I imagined doing obedience or agility or another sport, which is very different wouldn’t be much of an issue. But is it an unwise practice when the activity is similar in nature? Should the dog be solid in one discipline before adding variation? This is a great question. And I know it’s one that a lot of people have. So it’s probably a good idea to get into a certain place with a given discipline before adding another and that’s particularly true with a variety of scenting things so I wouldn’t necessary Maybe starting from Day Zero with both tracking and scent work, you know air scenting. At the same time. However, Sonia, I know that your dogs are far enough along with air ascending that you probably could start layering and tracking if you wanted, I would just recommend getting them a different harness or something that they put on for one sport versus the other or one activity versus the other. I think your dogs are probably far enough along that you could start adding in tracking and do both without much of a problem. I would just add though, that you need to know that you’re reinforcing given behaviors in different given sports. For example, agility might increase your dog’s overall responsiveness to body cues, which could be good or bad. So I know Sony’s got some pretty hard charging labs, they’re both pretty crazy boys, we love them very much over on Patreon. Something like agility might actually really help as far as helping them cue into her and learn to respond more to her body movements, those sorts of things. However, like, for me, I when I was doing more agility with barley and I have not yet done it with niffler. But I may at some point, I actually found that it was kind of causing me to need to push the dogs back into a bit more independence because they were there Border Collies are so tuned in to movement that reinforcing that a ton of through agility. We just made it, we were tipping a little bit further in that direction that I like to see for a really good independent Search Dog. So just something to keep in mind there. And then personally, I would recommend avoiding things like lower chorusing or hurting because those aren’t skills or behaviors that I want my detection dogs to perfect and practice. I don’t want my dogs learning that seeing groups of animals mean that they go means that they go and collect them, especially for dogs that find that really intrinsically reinforcing. That just becomes a really hard battle to fight. And Laura coursing with dogs are actually pursuing something at top speed and trying to grab it. Also not something not a behavior. I want my detection dogs, my conservation dogs to be practicing. And personally, I don’t train in other sports primarily because my dogs and I are pretty full up. As far as our time and energy and money bank accounts on stuff. I just don’t have time and energy to do any more sports, but I love doing agility. And absolutely, we’ll go back to it. We’ll go back to it hopefully one day when I’m not living in a band and changing locations every four days. So Sony’s last question continues that this is her first time with two dogs. So she’s asking for any suggestions on training two dogs who both get very excited for training. And the waiting on gets disruptive barking and whining? And she asks, is it better to let them out? knowing you’re outside working with the other dog? Should you alternate them every 15 minutes? Should you leave them in the area completely and just focus on the dog for an extended period. She says that she’s finding it to be a bit stressful and she gets distracted by the demanding non participant dog. And she says there’s sure she shared that there’s a better way than what she currently does. So yeah, gosh, I definitely deal with this niffler likes to Hell, if you can watch barley work and barley just barks if you can see niffler work. They got a lot better about this over the season at the wind farm because each of them was getting more and more tired throughout the day. And just over the course of this season, they got kind of used to watching each other work, but it took a while. So what I currently do is I work with niffler first because he cries more, he struggles more with waiting so that he’s a little bit more satisfied and a little bit more tired by the time that I take barley out. I then when niffler is done with his search, I take him back I give him water I give him a snack, I ensure that the work area that I’m going to take barley to is out of sight. So right now in the van, that means I’m putting niffler in the crate and I’m closing the van doors, I’m putting a fan on him, he’s cozy, and he’s good to go but he does not get to see. So that helps quite a bit. But generally I just try to block the vision and sound and generally put the non working dog further away from the working dog. You also can certainly train this as a specific behavior as well either with a second trainer or something like a treat and train which is like an automatic treat dispenser. So you take the participant dog out and you do some basic training like sit down shake, rollover, whatever. And every time that you interact with the participant dog, the non participant dog gets fed food if they’re quiet. If they are fussing and carrying on then then maybe to kind of reassess and I would really also look at some support dog people for this because while some of them don’t mind and let their dogs carry on a lot of them are also very good at teaching dogs to quietly wait I know about Hannah Brannigan and Sarah storming have talked about this quite a bit as far as getting dogs to quietly and patiently station while another dogs is working. Personally, I’m lazy, I just put the dogs in a crate, block their view and take the Working Dog further away. And there’s just no crying. But you know you do you if you want to get into this, I would recommend kind of checking out I know I’ve seen video of both Sarah and Hannah. Check doing this in the past. So next up Amanda asks, what are some of your favorite resources for novice handlers in terms of handling samples, reducing contamination, et cetera? Is this an animal? Is this an area where competitive knows where classes help bridge the gap in education. So I’ll answer the second question first. Yeah, I think knows where contamination education is a really good place to start. Because essential oils are so volatile that if you can keep them from contaminating other things, you almost certainly are going to be okay with things like dried scat, frozen dead bats, whatever. I know canines talking sense and the canine detection collaborative, which are both podcasts have also had entire episodes dedicated to this topic, and I would really recommend checking them out. Finally, if you really want something that’s conservation specific, we here at Canine conservationists are very excited to be launching our canine conservationist handler course, as a self study option starting in early February, and we have an entire section on acquiring storing and handling samples to reduce contamination and keep everything safe and your training solid. Within that course, it’s just one section of many, many, many sections within that course. But if you’re really serious about it, that might be a good thing to check out. Aside from those other free resources that I’ve mentioned. Canine conservationists offers several on demand webinars to help you and your dog go along in your journey as a conservation dog team. Our current on demand webinars are all roughly one hour long and priced at $25. They include puppy set work all about raising and training a conservation puppy found it alerts and changes of behavior, and what you’re looking for teaching your dog a target odor, find these free webinars, along with jackets, treat pouches, mugs, bento boxes, and more over at our website, canine conservationists.org/shop. Next up, Ali asks, In a scenario where you see that detection dogs could be a huge asset to a study or project, but the leads have never considered their use before. How would you pitch it as a possibility? As a science minded person, I’d love to have some short and sweet stats in my back pocket as well. But I’ve not figured them out yet. So we also cover this approach. In our course, Paul bunker talks about exactly literally step by step, how he goes and finds grants and approaches people. But the short answer is, okay, there’s a couple different ways to go about this. If I just hear about a cool project, but they’re not using detection dogs. I generally I’m just not going to approach them. I don’t necessarily go trying to hunt people down who aren’t already interested in dogs. If there’s someone I know, and we’re hanging out, or and maybe it’s someone that I kind of vaguely know, but they’re not familiar with dogs. I start generally by asking questions, you know, what are the methods that are working well for you? What’s What are you struggling with? What’s working? Well, you know, those sorts of things, and see if I can find an angle where the dogs are going to be really helpful, by really first understanding their needs, and what specifically is important to them and their project. Because in some cases, I might think that dogs are a great fit until I learn a little bit more about the project and about their goals and about their struggles. Generally, we’re not pitching projects, unless we’ve already kind of found a grant that we’re interested in. So say that we find a grant where, for whatever reason, there’s money available to figure out the difference in parasite load and genetic connectivity between a moose on mainland Canada, USA versus Isle Royale. And that’s what they’re interested in. We think, Gosh, darn, dogs are real good at finding poop. Let’s, let’s see if we can get some dogs in on this project. And the call for proposals that grant that’s actually been put out is not specifically about dogs. So okay, great. Now the next step that we’re probably going to do is go ahead and reach out to a researcher. And if you’re kind of reaching out to someone and saying, Hey, I’ve read that you’re really into the the moose on aisle, right now, we think that this could be a good fit. Here are all the reasons that we think dogs can be involved in, hey, we found this grant Do you want to call apply, we’ll write x components of it, if you’re interested, you know, obviously, I’m shortening the pitch quite a bit, then that might work really, really well for you. And that’s kind of a very short version of what Paul bunker taught in, in our course. So similarly, if we’re responding to calls for proposal, it’s more of a discussion of why dogs may fit well in combination with other methods or what they offer besides the other methods. And then I also pulled up a few quick stats for you, just so you can have them in your back pocket, and we’ll put these in the show notes as well. So, in a paper from 2015, they found that dogs are 19 times more efficient, and 153% more accurate, and a study on their efficacy in finding koala Scott. Then in a study by Claire at all in 2014. That found that detection dog teams took only two days to detect Bobcat in an area compared to needing to leave a camera trap out for seven to eight weeks to find the same singular bobcat. Then there’s this whole paper titled detection dogs in nature conservation a database on their worldwide deployment with review on breeds used and their performance compared to other methods which is written by Annegret grim Seyfarth webcam harms and Anna burger, you can find that that link again over on our page. And I know Annegret was also interviewed on James Davis’s conservation canine podcast. So definitely check that out. As well. I think that entire paper is a really good place to start. Then Eve asks, I’m eager to pursue conservation detection or kindling. But I do not yet have a dog of my own. Is it better to start with a dog so that I can train it as I learn? Or should I build more foundational knowledge before starting with my own dog? I found some other opportunities for classes and potential internships, but those will be several months off. Yeah. So gosh, this is this is a really, this is a good one. It’s interesting because I as I started writing my response, I kind of started changing my mind. Because initially, I thought, get as far as you can, without a dog first, many jobs even pursued refer that you don’t have your own dog yet, because you’re actually going to be handling a trained dog. So for example, I’ve seen jobs for coconut rhinoceros beetle in Hawaii for various agricultural pests in the southeastern US or mid eastern US. Chronic Wasting Disease projects in Indiana, all of those job postings actually had dogs that you wouldn’t be handling. So it would actually be better if you didn’t have your own dog. Then I know like robot detection, often kind of adopts and an out adopts dogs, trains, dogs and trains handlers kind of all at the same time. So again, you’re not necessarily bringing your own dog if you’re going to be doing a season or longer with rogue. That said, it is pretty hard to get good handling experience, let alone training experience if you don’t have your own dog. I think the big important thing here though, is to avoid getting like a super high drive crazy, crazy dog right off the bat when you’re not really in the field yet, and you’re not really 100% Sure if you’d like this lifestyle, if you’re good at it, if if the benefits work for you. So you might be better off kind of getting a medium ish starter dog, a dog that wants to do the job and has enough interest in food or toys to work. You know, definitely a dog that’s gonna be a little bit of work and it’s gonna put you through your paces. But I wouldn’t necessarily go from starting to listen to this podcast to going and you know, reaching out to Department of Defense Malinois breeders and trying to get yourself a dog from them. You can always kind of then get a wind farm job with this, this medium kind of started dog. And then you can consider upgrading getting a second dog later on. I just really wouldn’t recommend going out and getting that like, Ferrari level dog on right away if you’re if you’re new to this because it is Oh, that’s also just going to make it harder to learn. They’re often less forgiving. I started dogs. So next up, manavi asks, I know, I know, you’ve talked about demonstration dogs on recent episodes, somewhat related to that. I wonder what your thoughts are on collabs between educators and detection dog teams? Is this something that detection dog handlers are generally interested in or find value. So I can’t speak for the whole field. But it does seem like many of us absolutely love doing outreach and working with educators. I love going to elementary schools and middle schools and high schools with my dogs. I just think it’s the most fun to talk to kids about my job. Because I love talking about my job. I’m so proud of my dogs. I’m so proud of the work we do. And it’s just fun. So yeah, we can we many of us really enjoyed demonstrating for school groups and volleyball and volunteer clubs on a project or any number of other ways to kind of engage with the youth. That said, it can be a little bit challenging for us to fit them in around fieldwork, particularly because there is, aside from the good feels, and the the practice with giving talks and that sort of thing. There’s not necessarily a huge direct benefit to me or to the canine conservationist program. By doing a lot of programs like Skype, a scientist, it’s not like we get donations, we’re not likely to get clients. So sometimes it can be a little bit harder to organize just because unfortunately, we live in a capitalist society, which means that sometimes we have to focus on other parts of our bottom line before or instead of going and talking to a classroom of students. But often, we just need to find the right time. And the right way to organize it. And many of us are very happy to do so. Aaron asks, I’d love to hear some insights on the economics of conservation dog work, like how do you work out what to charge for the dog and handler services? So generally, yeah, the economics of conservation network, it’s hard, because it’s generally kind of temporary seasonal work, you’re often kind of having to, as you heard me say up top cobbled together other roles to fill the gaps in between, and then like other benefits, or even worse. So, you know, I’m on open enrollment for my health care because we don’t get it through our jobs because we’re kind of subcontractor and worker in contract to contract and canine conservationists cannot yet provide provide those sorts of benefits. So like all of those things are hard. But then as far as like actually what to charge we, with Kanan conservationist have a spreadsheet with a ton of line items on it from everything from like materials and supplies to travel costs to the cost of renting a place to do an odor recognition trial to you know how much it costs for X number of days of field work or half days of field work. And then we have a specific amount set for different training or deployment tasks. So it costs a little bit more depending on the difficulty or the duration of a given task. And then includes reimbursements for just about everything else like mileage, hotels, those sorts of things. And then once we got that spreadsheet kind of going, calculating has been pretty easy, because it’s just kind of plug and chug with everything. As we go through and work on estimating for clients. And Aaron, and anyone else in Patreon, if you ask, I can kind of make an anonymized general version of this, this budget spreadsheet, I’m more than happy to share it within Patreon. Anyone who’s not on Patreon? Sorry, you’re gonna have to join if you want to get access to that. And then from an anonymous question asker, they want to learn a little bit more about polishing an experienced team. So here, basically, I don’t think about polishing in general, I think about what are my specific goals based on upcoming project, weaknesses within the team. So that could be myself or the dog, or just kind of interests. So if, for example, I’m just seeing a really cool Scandinavian working dog Institute video, and I just want to sit down and work on that skill just because I’m inspired. Okay, cool. We’ll work on that. But generally, we’re a little bit more directed than that. So for example, do we need to work with thick underbrush in an upcoming project? Do we have to dial in our field safety skills, because we’re going to be around moose on our next project? Do we have to work on handler first aid skills, you know, all sorts of different things does a dog need to work on sourcing, and it’s all just based on what we’re seeing and where we need to go. It’s like a constant adjustment. So for example, with this upcoming Guatemala project, obviously, priority number one is getting the dogs imprinted on their new target orders. So once I picked up a giant bag full of labeled scat samples from a, from an office in Guatemala, got to work storing sorting all of those getting my order contamination is all squared away, prevented, and then getting the dogs imprinted. Once the dogs were imprinted, then now what we’re really focusing on is for niffler, we’re really working on building his stamina. So he is an experienced dog, he and I would consider to be an experienced team, we’ve got, you know, well over 500 finds collectively under under his collar at this point. But he has generally worked kind of 15 to 30 minutes searches, that’s what the wind farm is, it’s kind of 15 to 20 minutes most of the time, sometimes up to 30, or even 40 minutes per search. And then he gets to go to the car, and he needs to rest and drink water. And then we go out again, for this upcoming project, we’re going to be covering quite a bit more ground per day. And with less, less kind of big breaks, we’re obviously going to be sitting down and drinking water and resting intermittently throughout and whenever the dog needs it, but it’s just not the same, he’s not going to get to go sit in the car with the AC on. And then both of my dogs were really working on getting everyone comfortable navigating the jungle. So for me, that’s a lot of practice. As I mentioned, I just bought a bunch of antivenin from a veterinarian in Costa Rica, which is awesome. I’ve been working on learning how to use it. Hopefully we don’t have to, but we do have to be very aware of for Lance Bushmaster coral snakes, where we’re going to be. And unfortunately, my antivenin also doesn’t work for coral snakes. So you know, my field safety skills, they’re getting our fields tech trained up on everything that she needs to know. And then also working on just making sure that the dogs feel comfortable sourcing and doing everything they need to do in kind of thick jungle environments. So next up, they asked how to talk to the press when they interview you about dog work. So I’ve never struggled with this. I love talking about our work. And so far, I have not really encountered any unfriendly reporters where I’ve needed to be super duper careful about how I’m interacting anything. I haven’t had an unfriendly interview yet. But generally, I kind of lead with passion and care for the dogs and the job. I really want it to come across how seriously we take the welfare of our dogs and the science of the work that we do. And also for our handlers, then I just answered their questions. So far. As I said, I’ve loved working with the press, I just really try to make sure that my joy and passion and care for the welfare and the science really come through that’s what’s most important to me and so far have not had a problem with it. So then how do you deal with the public who thinks that maybe your dog shouldn’t should not have a job shouldn’t be in the car shouldn’t be on an E collar, Martin Gail prong collars, that dog shouldn’t be flesh, that dog should always be off leash, whatever it is, um, okay, so if it’s just the public, you know, my first question is, is this person’s opinion actually important to me? Or my job? And in a lot of cases, no, I just politely extricate myself and then kind of generally I love Dogs Joy show, but I don’t really work hard to convince people who who think that dogs shouldn’t have jobs. Honestly, I haven’t run into that very much. I haven’t had many problems with people pushing me on this. But it’s just, you know, I’m just not that worried about trying to convince someone who thinks that all dogs should just, you know, sit around and not have a job and giving them a job is cruel. I’ve just, I’m just not worried about trying to convince them. And then the leash in question also really is a problem. In my experience, even people who thinks that dogs should never be off leash, or should always be off leash, either way, they generally understand based on the environment that we’re in, and the job that our dogs have, why our dogs may be exceptional to whatever they consider to be a general rule. We also always kind of emphasize that we’re following local laws and have permits and whatever if we’re doing something different from the general public. And then as far as the tools, the E collar, the Martindale, the prongs, I don’t use those tools. I’m broadly a positive reinforcement, humane, hierarchy based trainer and I just don’t use those tools. So I don’t have to deal with that question. When I was at working dogs for conservation, that was a question that I dealt with, and you know, had to help navigate as part of being their communications and outreach coordinator. So they’re kind of our basic response was, hey these, you know, these dogs are working in really, really intense environments, with potentially enormous risks to both the dogs and the wildlife. And we’re using these tools as a way to maintain wildlife public and canine safety. And these dogs are experts, trained by experts handled by experts, we very rarely use the tools, but they are a safety belt. That’s pretty much how it went. And yeah, sure, sometimes people still got really upset on social media or whatever. But you know what, people get upset on social media. And generally, it works pretty well. So as I said, I don’t use those tools. So I don’t have to run into that anymore. But when I was at working dogs for conservation, I did have to answer that question quite a bit. And that was what I said, and it was good enough for many, many positive reinforcement trainers. And even some people that I would kind of consider positive reinforcement warriors generally got it I, I am very deeply embedded in the positive reinforcement dog training community and have not had a lot of trouble with that, because of I think people’s ability to understand the difference between using those tools with a high level working dog in a very intense environment, versus kind of Joe down the block slapping an E collar on his dog to get the dog to stop jumping on his knees. You know, I think most people see that those are different, even people who disagree with that to us. And then if someone is worried, because I don’t use any color, which does also happen, of course, people think, Oh, my God, how could you have off leash reliability or reliability of around wildlife without any color? I just asked if they want a demo for my dogs, and I let their training shine. And yeah, again, I personally, just don’t worry myself a lot with people who are like out to disagree with me, just, you know, why, why why bother? So next up, then we’ve got what to record in our training logs, and whether or not conservation dogs handlers ever get called into court. So into the second half first, I have not heard of anyone being hauled into court, but it’s not impossible. And if anyone does know of a case where conservation on person had to testify in court, let me know, I could imagine that happening, obviously, in trafficking cases, wildlife trafficking, or potentially in like environmental contaminants cases, potentially. So then, as far as what we’re recording in our training logs, depends on the goals and what we’re working on. At a minimum, I always keep track of which dog I’m using the area that we’re in the basic weather, terrain, topography conditions that were working within the goal of the session, which samples are used and the actual outcome and general notes on the session. I do all of this within Google Forms, which I just have saved on my phone. I also include any alerts false alerts or misses committed by each dog. In the case where those are known, obviously, I can’t record the misses if I’m in the field and don’t know how many scouts we could have walked past. And then I might add more lines of working on a specific goals such as working on like imprinting or getting the dog to use to a buried hide, I’m, you know, that I would probably be including the rough surface area of the hide and how deep it was, and what the substrate was, you know, those sorts of things. So it kind of depends on the goal. And then within the field, it depends on, you know, the needs of the client. So, for example, with the wind farm, they always want you know, I mean, they give us all of our data sheets, and we just fill out the data sheets they give us, but they are really interested in the distance that the bats were from and the turbine, and the orientation, so kind of degrees east, east, south Northwest, so that they can kind of determine if there’s specific directions or distances where the bots are getting hit most I imagine. So, obviously, if you’re doing like a Scout project, I’m not trying to figure out how far a scout is from the nearest wind turbine But I might look at okay, does it seem like, you know, all of these these Wolverines are pooping under gigantic Hemlock trees? I don’t know. There may be something like that where we’re going to look at vegetation cover altitude and a number of other things kind of depending again on the needs of the client and the goals of the project. Next up, they ask are Canberra thermometer subscriptions any good or are they unreliable? I haven’t used on can’t say. Yeah, that’s that’s really kind of it there. Then they asked common signs of working dog interest in injuries. And what should I watch for besides CCL tears, I really want to get a vet on this episode on for an episode very soon, I’m going to ask barleys rehab that which is Dr. Leslie Eid from the total canine, I’m going to try to get her on the show. And we might try to get a couple others on because we’ve got a lot of veterinary related stuff that we need to go over on this show at some point. But basically, if the dog is limping, stiff or slow, we’re going to rest and treat them like royalty for a little bit. And then kind of see after a couple days of rest, if they can go back to work. And this is kind of if we can’t find an injury, if they’ve got an obvious torn toenail or you know, a nick in their paw or something, then we’re going to just treat that wait till it heals enough and then send them back to work whenever they’re ready. But if we can’t find anything, then it’s just kind of rest and probably see if it looks better. Maybe give them some NSAIDs, you know, like Ramadan or something, stretch, massage, hot, cold, all that sort of stuff, treat them like royalty until they’re looking better. But then if we do see any swelling or significant limping or prolonged limping, like more than a day or two, we’re off to the vet, I’m super cautious and end up spending a lot of time and money at the vet for very minor things that turn out to be nothing. I’m constantly taking my dogs into the vet for like various very minor things. Because they’re my job and my best friends and my co workers and I never want to leave them in a situation where they’re uncomfortable or I don’t notice something that’s gone wrong. So I’ll come take you through the example when barly tore his cruciate ligament, he was playing fetch with a seven year old and he smashed into a table because the ball bounced weird. It’s not the seven year olds fault. It’s not barleys fault. There were adults around the situation was supervised, it just happens. He came up lame right away. And then over the course of the next four or five days, he was kind of limping on and off. He’s doing this like very characteristic skipping gait. I took a sports medicine for Yeah, sports medicine for canine handlers chorus through the fenzi dog Sports Academy, I believe is what it was called. So I also got barley on his side and started testing him for drawer. So if a dog has a complete rupture of their cruciate ligament tear of their cruciate ligament, you actually can kind of like pop their knee in a way because that cruciate ligament isn’t there to stop the knee from moving, I’m not explaining as well. Obviously, take the class and learn how to do this properly. I’m not explaining it in a way that is replicable. And he wasn’t displaying that. So I took them into the vet. And he got x rayed. And the vet said she didn’t really see anything. But then he continued not really getting better for another week or so. So I took him into an orthopedic specialist for another set of x rays, and they did find a partial cruciate ligament tear. Luckily, I called around to I believe it was 12 veterinarians before I was able to find someone who could get barley in for surgery quickly enough, because at this point, we were like two days. No, we were like a week ahead of when I was planning on leaving for the Pan American highway. So we ended up getting him in for surgery. That same week. Luckily, power’s emergency Veterinary Clinic did a great job, they took lovely care of him. And, you know, long story short, we delayed the trip by like, three, four weeks, and then we got out. But that goes to show just kind of how cautious I am. And really, even though he was limping on and off, and it looked okay at times, and like the first vet said she didn’t see anything. I just, I just don’t, I don’t take risks with that sort of thing. And it did turn out to be a ACL tear. So it’s just not normal for my dog to limp for more than a day or two at a time, unless there’s something significantly wrong. And especially now that barleys nine, it’s not worth the risk to to his body and the remainder of his career to put anything off. So it’s definitely worth getting that second Extra. I’m really glad I did. And then next up, we’ve got what data do clients like about the search itself? Do they want GPS path or duration? It’s gonna depend on the client, it’s going to be outlined in the project agreement as you go forward. But yeah, usually, you’re gonna want the GPS path from usually both the handler and the dog. So that’s where the good Garmin Astro collar can be really helpful. Any points of interest or alerts where you see like a big change of behavior or an actual alert, and then you might need some other info on where the sample was found. So there might be as we kind of said, they might need an info related to other things like the distance from a wind turbine, they might want microhabitat info distance from a road distance from water, substrate, you know, all sorts of things. Again, it just really depends on what they’re looking at. So that’s it for today. As I said, I am about to head into the Guatemalan jungle and I’m really trying to get another app on have episodes recorded for y’all. But if we miss a couple episodes in February or March, you know why I am out in the middle of nowhere in Guatemala, hopefully not being eaten alive by too many bugs or you know fighting for Lance’s or anything. Hopefully finding a lot of good poop, and just having a great time out there. And, again, thank you all so much for listening. I hope you had a good time and you learned a lot. You’re feeling inspired to get outside and be a canine conservationist in whatever way suits your passions and skill set. You might really want to consider joining Patreon so that you can learn more about all these things. You can ask your own questions. And as I’ve said, you can find show notes with all those links over at k9conservationists.org as well as joining our Patreon over there. Until next time!