Conservation Dogs / Feed

Conservation dogs are making a difference in conservation through their noninvasive ability to detect elusive species in the wild, flag illegal wildlife trade products, and help poachers fight wildlife crime. Whether you work with conservation dogs, you're interested in incorporating them into your work, or you just want to learn about how dogs can support and enhance conservation technology's effectiveness, you're in the right place!


Master Project Collaboration/Ideas!

Hi everyone! My name is Zach Ng, and I am currently pursuing a Master's degree in Conservation and International Wildlife Trade - MSc at the University of Kent with the...

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Hi Zach,

Our organization (SEE Turtles) has a campaign working on the illegal tortoiseshell trade around the world called Too Rare To Wear. We are going to be updating our Global Tortoiseshell Report next year and one of the gaps we have in data is in China, where the illegal trade is now happening most frequently on platforms like WeChat.

We'd be interested in discussing with you if interested in how we might be able to gather some data on this trade in the country. I'm including a couple of links below about the program and the last report and will reach out by email.


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Thinking out loud

I am a scat dog handler and have been looking to add tech. into my odor training. I got a fresh idea of making a self-dispensing machine that automates when a small novice puppy...

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Hi Naomi,

Sounds like exciting work!  I'm not a dog trainer but we did publish 2 articles on automating dog training, here about modifying the Treat and Train, and here.

All the best,


Thank you for this exciting reply and links to the papers. I use an olfactometer that utilizes Arduino boards. It has been used linked to a treat and train, although my system provides sound feedback and I provide the reinforcements. I found these links very interesting! 

These are great materials to refer to. I just have to wrap my amateur brain around the technological words but I should be fine.  Thank you Harold. 

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Working with Detection Dog Teams

Jennifer Hartman and Heath Smith will share about working with scent detection dogs on wildlife conservation projects in their talk entitled, “Working with Detection Dog Teams: A Wildlife Conservation Methodology.”...

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Ceres Tag sends just in time alerts and GPS location to have the power to track and trace.

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Detection dogs in Conservation

In the Working Group COPE, species detection dogs are increasingly used as a detection method. They play a role in several projects and can detect different animal and plant...

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Thanks for sharing. We've funded research using a detection dog to succesfully find hibernating hedgehogs over winter. Wondering whether they're likely to be able to detect smaller hibernators - hazel dormice - on the forest floor?

I would bet that yes, they are capable of it-- the question is mostly detection distance and whether it's vauable in the field. We've had similar situations with turtle nests and other difficult targets.  

Do you have a few known hibernation sites that could be used to test dogs?  If so, that would be a big help.  Feel free to reach out to me or Alice Whitelaw ([email protected]) if you'd like to discuss in more detail.

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Conservation Canine Conference

Wildlife Detection Dogs Online Conference The Wildlife Detection Dogs Conference from Conservation K9 Consultancy will bring together students,...

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Online/in-person courses in detection dogs

Hi folks, I just got an email about two short courses in "Scent Detection Dogs in Conservation Research." It looks like there's an online component and an...

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Thanks any others online courses related to dogs utilization?

This class is being offered again, here's the information:



DATES: December 27, 2021 - January 21, 2022


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Longevity of Scented Gauze

Hi folks, I'm planning a new project where we'll be using residual scent on gauze to help imprint a dog on turtles, and I'm wondering how many times a gauze can be...

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There are a number of factors to consider here:

Firstly, gauze selection and preparation. 

Sample collection.

Collection of distractor/control scents

Storage to include immediate storage (mylar bags, Borosilicate glass, Mason jars etc.) and then freezer or fridge.

The best gauze is Dukal unsterilized. Rinse the gauze in Ethanol and then dry in an oven 150f for 15mins. Store all unused gauze together until ready to use. 

Ensure the person collecting uses disposable gloves (not powdered or chlorinated) and changes the gloves for each gauze. Rinse the turtle with clean unchlorinated water before scent collection to remove tank water and environmental odours. 

As soon as sample is collected place in Mylar bag or Borosilicate jar or whatever you are using and seal. (Do not touch the outside of container with contaminated (scented) gloves). Use stainless steel tweezers if needed.

Make sure the person prepares controls (handles gauze without collection scent) and distractors (collect various scents) in exactly the same way and store them the same.

I do not typically freeze reptile samples as the scent can be delicate. I store in the fridge. Ensure all controls and distractors are stored the same or the dogs will learn to smell the storage and not the target (I have had that happen).  

Once open I typical do not use for more than 30mins (if that) then dispose. The problem is the scent cannot replicate as there is not source for the odour and it will burn off quickly depending on the climatic conditions. I have stored samples for 3 weeks without issue but once open the deteriate fast. 

Hope this helps. 

Please feel free to reach out if you have questions. 

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Dogs & technology

Hi all, this might be a funny question to ask considering the last thread about dogs trumping technology in most cases, but I would really appreciate your input on this: ...

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Dogs, in simple terms are a tool just like any other technology you use. There are advantages and limitations just like any other technologies. I like to tell people they need to survey in depth. This means you use as many technologies as needed to minimize any limitations in your survey. The dogs can cover most requirements but if there is a limitation that is deemed to exist in your particular situation then you bridge that limitation with technology if available. 

Some surveys only require a dog team to meet the goal and some need a layered approach. 

This is where a professional dog team’s advice is important. They can assist in the planning phase. You can matrix your limitations and then mitigate with the dog and if there are still gaps see if technology fits the requirements. 

It should never be seen as the dog team is the final solution unless they mitigate all your limitations. Which is often, but not always, the case. 

Also remembering that the human element in the dog team is just as important as the dog. 

So, a simple scenario is in areas of high target concentration needing individual and exact locations. The dog may be confused by the spread of scents all over the area but give you an approximation of a location. Then the humans need to take over with, for instance at night, heat sensing technology. In this case the dog team can reduce the potential target areas by telling you there is nothing present and then give you a priority area when they say something is present. This area reduction is a huge advantage to survey large areas and reduce resources required. 

Or passive cameras can be used to monitor an area for target traffic then once establish they are passing the camera the dog team can be brought in to follow up the trail or reduce the area of the potential target’s location. 

Remembering also that dogs can be a platform for technology such as GPS of tracklines and waypoints of target alerts. 

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Crop Protection Dogs: Advice Requested

Dear All, Just a hybrid subject between conservation dogs and human wildlife conflict.   I wanted to know if some of you experienced "crop protection dogs...

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Hi Antoine,

I have worked extensively with livestock guarding dogs (Anatolians) in the past. The effectiveness of this conflict mitigation method depends largely on how well the dog and the livestock bond to each other. It makes use of the pack instinct of the dogs, bonding to the livestock as his pack to defend from attackers (including other predators).

So the first question would be what typical dog behaviour do you want to exploit for your "crop protection dogs"? I would assume that you want to use territorial behaviour as the basis of the dogs protecting the croplands as "their" territory. So your training should focus on this (not sure how you would do it, though). The second issue could be that the dogs might not recognize elephants as intruders into their territory; i.e. they might be come used to the presence of crop-raiding elephants over time -- I really do not know dog-elephant interactions well enough to make a prediction on how this might play out.

A third  potential issue that you need to think about, is exactly how effective the barking dogs will be as deterrents. Even if they warn the local farmers, will the farmers be able to drive the elephants away without danger to themselves? And will the dogs be effective in deterring the elephants, or rather be an irritant that makes the elephants (more) aggressive? I don't know. Will the dogs actually attack the elephants, or be scared of them (and maybe run away towards the village while being chased by the elephants)?

I think if you can address all of these points effectively, there is a good chance that this approach will succeed.



Dear Chavoux,


thank you for your reply, you perfectly summarize the challenges of this project. I will add another one: dog care, community in Congo are not used to take care of their dog and guarding dogs will probably have to be feed.

As you said, all the point have to be addressed.

In order to partially answer, I will give a story from one of the village around Odzala:

An old man in the village was using his dogs to protect his crops, it seems that the dogs were going to the crops each night and deter the elephant from it. This solution seems to have work during several years and elephant would prefer to go to other crops (displacement of the problem). Unfortunately, one day, the dogs disappear one by one, I don't have all the information yet, but  this could be the results of elephant attack, neighbour's jealousy, limited dogs care?

So it seems possible to actively use dog to protect the crop from elephant.

Regarding farmers, for some of them, they are already guarding their crops, but it has a heavy impact on their live. Dogs could improve this situation by alerting the farmer sleeping in his house nearby. He could sleep properly and be awake only when there is a real threat.

All the best,



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