In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla talks with Kyoko Johnson from Conservation Dog Hawaii and Jennifer Hartman from Rogue Detection Teams about things to know before hiring a conservation detection dog team.
What are some things scientists should consider before hiring a conservation detection dog team?
- Lower density finds are easier for dogs
- Dogs are often used near the end of a project vs the beginning or brought in to target a more specific area
- It is important they have their question ready and prepared in order to figure out if dogs will be useful to the project or not
- Conservation detection teams are understaffed, so sometimes it’s best to consider other options that are more feasible
Pros of detection dogs?
- They can be used in tandem with other methods, which can be very successful
- Detection dogs are non-invasive
- They are not biased
- Dogs can narrow down species easier
How do you know if the dog will be able to successfully collect data?
- It’s not possible to guarantee that it will work
- Known target types in which dogs have been successfully used in other projects
- Go with an experienced team to ensure best accuracy if it is something new
What is the importance of training samples beforehand?
- Reliable training samples is important for the dog to be able to detect for your project
- It is important to have a sample from the location you are working in
- Variety in samples is important (sexes, different individuals, etc.)
- The fresher the sample the better, but sometimes it’s not possible
- It is important to note samples will always differ from live odors when on the job
Why is it important to let teams know about past difficulties with projects?
- Some previous difficulties may not be relevant to a dog’s work, but it is good to know to ensure that the teams are able to help with the project
Why are realistic timelines so important for researchers to understand?
- It takes time to train a dog on a new odor
- Projects may have various limitations
- There are travel considerations – vaccines, etc.
Why do some scientists think detection dogs don’t work?
- Study design may limit teams
- Expecting the method to perform the same way other methods do
- Patience is needed as it takes time to get the dogs ready on a scent
- Limited funding for teams
What are the risks of the dogs being invasive?
- The standards the dogs have when working are high
- Dogs could not do their job if they were a risk for chasing wildlife
What are some preventative measures to take for both the dogs’ health and the wildlife’s health?
- Ensuring your dogs have everything they need – fresh water, proper food, etc.
- Daily checks to ensure they are healthy
- Be prepared to stop work if they are sick or injured
Links Mentioned in the Episode:
- Who’s a Good Handler? Important Skills and Personality Profiles of Wildlife Detection Dog Handlers
- Signal Detection Theory with Dr. Simon Gadbois
- Riverine Rabbit Research with Esther Matthews
- The generalization paper that I mentioned was NOT about Anoles – it was about stoneflies. It’s called “Buzzing with possibilities: Training and olfactory generalization in conservation detection dogs for an endangered stonefly species“
You can support the K9 Conservationists Podcast by joining our Patreon at patreon.com/k9conservationists.