Great dogs. Skilled Handlers.

Our strength as a team allows us to solve some of the most pressing ecological problems around the globe.



Every one of our dogs has a story. They come to us from a shelter, rescue organization or exhausted owner who can no longer keep up with the physical and mental demands of an ultra athlete, genius dog.  Every one of our handlers is carefully selected and trained.  We cultivate a team's ability to communicate, building confidence in and mutual trust between team mates, necessary for solving the inevitable challenges they will encounter in the field. 

This is the foundation of our success.

Our teams excel in the location of a wide range of carnivore and herbivore scats, live amphibians, feathers, eggs, plants, toxins, pellets, bones, and carcasses. We have worked in sub-zero temperatures in deep snow, the blazing heat of Africa, the rain forest of Mexico, the steep mountain terrain of the Pyrenees, and even from the bow of a boat on the ocean. We have trained our dogs to find elusive predators, endangered mice, caterpillar frass that is virtually undetectable by the human eye, and eggs buried four feet below the sand.

We do all this by fostering a culture of learning, furthering the strength of our teams and the applications of the keen canine nose to work in service to science

We Build Teams

After 20 years, selecting dogs from shelters and rescues and fielding them on projects, we have become skilled in the art of identifying the best traits needed in a conservation detection dog, teaching them necessary skills to prepare them for the field.  What we've learned through experience on a multitude of studies is that the success of the team is equally dependent on the skills of both dog and handler.

Since our dogs need to practice creative problem solving on-the-job, this requires a degree of independence, so rather than training our dogs to take certain actions only when given a command, we select the dog with a specific suite of traits that makes them eager to work in partnership with us, but has the confidence to strike out on their own as well. These traits are not breed-specific, but found in individual dogs.

As a result, the dogs selected for our program are incredibly diverse, vary in strengths, interests, drives, work style and temperament. Our handlers become skillfully adept in reading a wide range of canine behaviors and know when to adjust their communication style, both how much and in which areas, to fit the individual dog they are working with.

The success of our teams in the field requires a handler fluent in a diverse range of canine behaviors.

We want our handlers to know dogs inside and out, how to understand the dog's body language as well as their own and how the dog interprets it. When a handler joins our team, they learn how to work with 20 different individual dogs. This is designed to teach them not just how to go through the steps of working with a dog, but how to understand an individual dog and begin working together as a team. Because our program’s focus is not on a specific breed, our dogs are incredibly diverse and, therefore, our handlers become skillfully adept in canine behavior and communication.




On Selecting Dogs:

We find the dog that’s out of options. That dog with endless energy and drive to go-go-go and do-do-do all day, all the time. The kind that makes living with them unbearable. We show them the joy of working in partnership with us, in the hot, the cold, the steep, the thick, the muck and the wet, day in and day out, to help protect those places and species that are running out of options. Here, they find purpose, adventure and become celebrated heroes.

Who are these up-cycled, green super heroes?

Faster than a speeding bullet (racing after a ball). More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall kitchen appliances in a single bound!  Side effects of living with one of these crazy dogs may include:

  • Hair loss from exasperated pulling over the dog's incessant query: "Ball? Play ball now? How about now?"
  • Shortness of breath from trying to keep up;
  • Joint and muscle pain;
  • Dizziness;
  • Large dental bill and a wonky smile;
  • Clothing adapted with well-ventilated armpits.

It’s not for everyone, but that obsessive, unyielding drive to play, play, play is one of our favorite things! We channel this drive and use it to strengthen the planet.


A program of the University of Washington's Center For Conservation Biology

Content © 2018 by Conservation Canines

Photos © Jaymi Heimbuch Photography, LLC. Contact directly for image licensing and permissions.