How We Train
For our dogs, the job is always a grand game of seek-and-fetch. For our handlers, the job is about learning how to listen to their four-legged partners.
Scat detection is essentially a game for our dogs. Find a sample, play some fetch. Repeat. Our approach is to find dogs already extremely motivated to play this kind of game, and then simply provide them with a set of rules regarding which specific scents earn them ball time.
Because of this approach, the dogs make the connection between scat and ball fairly quickly. We then use repetition and consistency within short training sessions to teach them the goal of performing this task.
We work up from the initial ball reward, to searching complex environments for hidden scats, to eventually locating wild samples. The process takes place over a couple of months. However, once a dog has learned the "detection dog" game, we can teach them a new species in as little as a day.
We often tell people that being a dog handler isn’t a job, but a lifestyle. It takes a great deal of commitment and sacrifice to become a handler in this program. We seek out handlers who first and foremost have a blend of poise, tenacity, and experience working in remote wilderness conditions required for this unique position.
Through rigorous training sessions, new handlers learn how to work a dog into an odor, how to read the terrain and research your target species, learn to read the
subtle signs that the dog you are working dog may be tired, discern amongst
a variety of animal scats and much, much more. It is less about working a dog and more about working with a dog.
New handlers are also trained in a variety of skills beyond dog handling, including backcountry comfortability and skills, problem solving, and computer proficiency in ODK, GIS, and excel.
Our Training Facility
Our unique training facility is situated on 4,300 acres of forested land in UW's Pack Forest, perfect for training the dogs in a wide variety of real-life field conditions.
Each dog has access to an indoor/outdoor run measuring 4x16 feet. The indoor portion of the runs have radiant heat. A large, secure area surrounding the building provides space for daily, supervised social playtime for the dogs.
Pack Forest also provides permanent housing for our dog handlers, as well as an on-site conference center where we can accommodate dog handler trainees and hold workshops.
A program of the University of Washington's Center For Conservation Biology
Content © 2018 by Conservation Canines
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