Working Dogs for Conservation is a Montana-based group that deploys teams of dogs and their handlers into the field to assist biologists and researchers. The dogs use their sensitive noses to sniff out scat, or sometimes invasive plants and animals.
Scat is an important tool in a researcher’s arsenal. The DNA that it contains can provide information to assess the health, range, and population of a species, and it can even be used to identify specific individuals. Collection of this data by humans is time-consuming, costly, and sometimes not even possible. Dogs, with their superior sense of smell, are perfect for this work. The search dogs at WDC travel around the world–often to exotic locales–for their job. It’s very probable that their passports have more stamps than yours!
The search dogs at Working Dogs for Conservation are all specially trained and ideally suited to the work. When I spoke with co-founder and dog handler Aimee Hurt at last weekend’s Wildlife Conservation Network Expo, I asked her how she found her dogs. (Many are rescues, from local shelters.) She said that the first thing they do is bounce a ball down the aisle between the kennels. They look for dogs that have a very high “play drive”. Coincidentally, these are the very characteristics that make them less likely to be adopted by a typical family. These intense, high energy and toy-obsessed dogs possess the motivation to work for their play. And that includes sniffing out snow leopards, cheetahs, moon bears and wolverines . . . or at least their scat.
For more information, head over to the Working Dogs for Conservation website, especially the “our dogs” page. They also have a Facebook Page, which should be up and running in the near future. Stop by and say “Hi”!
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This post is the second in my “Dogs with Jobs” series. If you know of any working or professional dogs, or would like to tell your own story about a dog with a job, please leave a comment or contact me via email or our Facebook Page. Thanks for reading!