Home Labrador News Labrador and Other Rescued Dogs Protect Endangered Wildlife By Sniffing Scat

Labrador and Other Rescued Dogs Protect Endangered Wildlife By Sniffing Scat

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Dog noses are powerful! The Conservation Canines program at the University of Washington puts it to awesome use by training rescue dogs to protect endangered wildlife by sniffing scat.

For a trained scat-detection dog, all it takes is one sniff to find the scat of a target species.

Conservation Canines turn rescue dogs and other misfit dogs into super-sniffers. The qualities they look for in a dog are often the very ones that make the dog unadoptable in the first place, for example hyper, over-excitable dogs that don’t fit into most households, are ideal.

The dogs are trained on the center’s 4,300 acres to pick up the scent of the scat from different species. Each dog learns to identify up to 12 species and there are currently more than 40 eager trainees.  Targeted wildlife ranges from wolverines, tapirs, iguanas, and even orcas.

Training is similar to that of narcotic-detection dogs. A dog’s ball-obsession and energy are refocused to track scent! There’s a lot of treats and reward involved too.

Tucker, a black Labrador Retriever mix is one the their greatest successes. He arrived in 2006 as an antsy pup. He was even to antsy for the Arlington, Washington shelter staff to handle, and therefore a perfect candidate as a future poop-sniffer.

“The dogs are selected for their boundless energy and strong desire to play ball,” says Heath Smith, the center’s lead trainer. “Training them is the easy part.”

The Labrador’s training started on land where he was made familiar with the smell of orca scat. Then things moved to the water. Dog and trainer worked in a canoe, with Tucker at the bow and Smith gently maneuvering toward orca scat on a Styrofoam lid. The Lab’s reward for getting it right? He got to play with his ball.

After additional training on a fishing boat, the Labrador moved onto bigger and better things – a Boston Whaler in the San Juan Islands in search of real whales. When the Lab picks up the scent, he leans over the front of boat and tugs on the leash in direction of the scat. Signals of a successful find are tense legs, twitching ears and a wagging tail. It’s all a big game for the Lab!

The Labrador has located entire pod of orcas. “By going to the source, we’re able to use an alternative method of getting DNA, tracking movement or determining male to female ratios without any possibility of interfering with or endangering an already endangered species,” says Smith.

Tucker and only three other of the center’s dogs are orca-trained, making his skills highly valuable on the water. The Lab is also trained to find nine other species.

Once a dog learns the basics, adding additional species isn’t hard.

Tucker has even been on safari – “hunting” tiger scat in Cambodia! What a step up from scavenging in the streets as a stray.

Isn’t this a wonderful win-win situation! Ball-crazy, hyper strays get saved, while saving other endangered species! It certainly works for us! Thank you Conservation Canines!

Here are some great pics of these awesome poop-sniffing, wonder dogs.

Labrador and Other Rescued Dogs Protect Endangered Wildlife By Sniffing Scat (1)

An 11-year-old Labrador and Golden Retriever mix, Chester spent last summer in Alberta, Canada looking for bear, wolf, cougar and coyote poo. CANYON MILLER/CONSERVATION CANINESLabrador and Other Rescued Dogs Protect Endangered Wildlife By Sniffing Scat (4)Scooby has learned more species than any other dog: 21. The black Labrador just got back from Africa where he was looking for lion, cheetah, wild dog, hyena and a host of other carnivores. JENNIFER HARTMAN/CONSERVATION CANINES

Labrador and Other Rescued Dogs Protect Endangered Wildlife By Sniffing Scat (5)

Sadie may be the most ball-driven dog at the center. A few years ago, she tried returning to her owners, but even at 12 years old, she was still too much for them to handle. AMANDA PHILLIPS/CONSERVATION CANINES

Moose tracks!

Max traveled to Cambodia a few years back to sniff out tiger scat. Back at home, he focuses on moose and woodland caribou. JENNIFER HARTMAN/CONSERVATION CANINES

Labrador and Other Rescued Dogs Protect Endangered Wildlife By Sniffing Scat (2)

A rescue group outside Sacramento sent Hiccup to Conservation Canines after realizing his ball drive. He’s one of the five newest additions waiting to get field tested. CONSERVATION CANINES

Labrador and Other Rescued Dogs Protect Endangered Wildlife By Sniffing Scat (6)

Captain hails from the state of Ohio, but today he travels as far as Turkey to look for nine different species, including lynxes, wild boar, European badgers, and pine martens. KLARA HANINCOVA/CONSERVATION CANINES

Article and image source: WIRED