Monday, 23 April 2012

Dormouse Nest Detection Dog Training

We have had a few enquiries over the last couple of years related to detection of Dormouse nests and whether it is possible. so we wanted to put the idea to the test.
Working along side Cheshire wildlife Trust, whom kindly provided some captive Dormouse nests/bedding.
We were also invited to a Dormouse box cleaning and monitoring event. This was ideal to attend as we were able to acquire some potential fresh dormouse nest to train our Pilot study dog on.

The dog in Question is Kim, a German Shepherd, she is actually one of our staff members personal dog. Emma Parker has 4 dogs and Kim has been chosen to assist in this project. Kim has a great nose on her as well as an eagerness to work for her owner/handler.
She isn't the breed we would normally choose, nor does she have the exact characteristics we would like for a conservation dog but for this pilot study we wanted to be able to PROVE that dogs could detect dormouse nests accurately and safely.

"Emma Parker's- Four dogs. Kim, Mickey, Lucy and Topaz."

Kim has been in training for quite a few months now, on a combination of Captive Dormouse nests/bedding scent, as well as potential fresh Dormouse nest scent. We have had some obstacles to overcome, such as when we have be provided with the Captive Dormouse nest/bedding the composition of the bedding was paper towels and more man made fabrics. To ensure we are only harnessing the Dormouse scent we had to detrain Kim on the blank Paper Towel scent.Therefore proving  it wasn't this paper towel scent she had learnt to indicate on.
All of Kim's training and handling has been done by Emma Parker- a dog trainer and animal enthusiast that works for us here at Wagtail UK and Conservation dogs. Her own domestic dog training that she conducts can be found here:-

We had two obstacles to overcome during this pilot study training, firstly the handler hasn't trained detection dogs before and is an untrained detection dog handler, secondly the dog is not a breed we would use for this work and she hasn't done scent work to this capacity before. But Kim has done obedience work and other training that could work against us with our particular training. we will discuss these difficulties in the next Dormouse update.

Kim pictured above indicates passively on a dormouse nests, which isn't even visible to the camera or the handler. This proves how efficient and accurate a dogs search technique is in comparison to human search teams. We have been surprised on various occasions in training now, when a nest has been placed out by myself and then Emma and Kim have commenced searching- and even when the dog shows an accurate and marked change in behaviour such as a sit indication, the handler- as well as myself can not see the nest or even work out where it is...Even though I had placed it out!!!
 The nests just disappear so amazingly into the foliage and hedge line so unbelievably well. The possibility of dogs being used to help increase detection of dormouse nests in UK and Wales could help gain a better more accurate reading of Dormouse population, territory size and reintroduction success monitoring.

We are continuing to train Kim but access to new Dormouse nests now is very unlikely so we may have to wait for more old nests and captive dormouse bedding to be acquired before we can take the project to the next level. But it is very promising already with the success and accurate indications that Kim has given to us in the training scenarios in difficult terrain.

Contact us if you are interested to hear more about Kim and other Projects we have......

1 comment:

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