From serving as sheepherders to working as part of K-9 police units, dogs have been employed in a wide variety of occupations. UW researchers, however, found it takes a special kind of dog to help monitor threatened and endangered species.
The Center for Conservation Biology’s Conservation Canines program trains dogs to locate scat samples that can tell researchers everything from the animal’s diet and stress levels to their reproductive health and exposure to toxins. Not just any dog can become a conservation canine.
Dr. Samuel Wasser, director of the Center for Conservation Biology, said the dogs the center uses are “ball crazy,” which means they’re extremely focused on the reward that comes with finding a sample — playing with their ball, rather than the sample itself. Wasser said when you combine the dogs’ playfulness and their ability to sniff out a sample, you have a dog that can search all day long.