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Class of 2023
Conservation Biology
German Studies
Julia is a student in the class of 2023 at SLU and is completing her studies as a Conservation Biology major and German Studies minor. She enjoys participating in the training and application of wildlife detector dogs as survey technique in the field. Her interest in working with dogs melded...
Summer 2023

The work conducted by detection canines and their handlers can be invaluable for locating targets that are otherwise difficult to find using human or mechanical practices. These canines must search effectively and efficiently and are trained to work through many environmental conditions that alter the way odor presents within an environment. A handler must watch the dog's body language to determine when a dog is in odor and by using knowledge of odor movement (scent theory) based on the search conditions, a handler can help to guide the dog through odor pools and challenging odor pictures.

This summer I had the opportunity to travel 1400 miles from home to spend 10 weeks at the K9Sensus Foundation, training and learning alongside talented instructors, students, and detection dogs. I participated in daily training sessions where my conservation detection canine, Obi-Wan, and I worked on engagement, play, detection, and obedience. Before daily training, I was required to develop progression plans considering canine learning theory and generated very small, yet progressive, transitions between reps to achieve desired behaviors. The goal of the progression plans was to achieve comprehension and eventually fluency from the dogs without making jumps between tasks that are too difficult for the dogs to understand.

Furthermore, K9Sensus hosts a variety of seminars throughout the summer that are designed to strengthen the bond and success between human/canine teams. The objective of seminars ranged from working through distracting environments and the importance of engagement, to scent theory and how important hide placement is when teaching detection dogs various odor pictures, to working weekends focused on search and rescue canines responsible for locating lost persons or human remains. During seminars, I aided the instructors by setting up exercises, hiding target odors (human remains, essential oils, explosive training aids, and narcotic training aids), and I attended lectures. 

I feel incredibly grateful for my mentor, Robin Greubel, and the many friends and trainers I met during my time at K9Sensus. I have gained a lot more confidence as a handler and I am excited to apply all the new skills I gained to my work with conservation detection dogs.