A Dog’s Nose Knows: The Science is in on Wildlife Sniffer Dogs

Below is a press release about the Methods paper, ‘An assessment of the effects of habitat structure on the scat finding performance of a wildlife detection dog, taken from Science for Wildlife:

Badger the Wildlife Sniffer Dog

Scientists have for the first time tested wildlife detection dogs to see how they perform in different habitats, and the results are very impressive.

Wildlife sniffer dogs are trained to find the scats (poo) or scent of hard to find wildlife species. As threatened species continue to drop in numbers, they become much harder to find and conserve. Detection dogs are a potential solution to that problem.

Despite their amazing skills the use of sniffer dogs by wildlife management agencies is still limited, partly because there are many factors that might impact the dogs’ performance. One well-toted theory states that dogs might not perform well in thicker vegetation, compared to open areas. The lead author of the new study, Dr Kellie Leigh from Science for Wildlife, explains “Scent is heavier than air so it pools and gets caught up in vegetation and depressions, rather than dispersing from its source. That means the dogs might have more trouble finding the scent in some areas.”

Working together with professional dog trainer Martin Dominick from K9-Centre Australia, Dr Leigh ran an experiment with Badger, an Australian Shepherd trained to find the scat of spotted-tailed quolls. The quolls are the largest marsupial predator on mainland Australia and are becoming very hard to find in some areas. Over 120 searches, Badger scoured for quoll scats in three different Australian habitats, from open grassland to thick vegetation, under both winter and summer conditions. Continue reading