Wildfires continue to ravage Australia. Over 20 people have died. Over 1,300 houses have been destroyed. An estimated 500,000,000 animals have perished.
There are many breeds that excel at scent detection, the English Springer Spaniel being one. The English Springer has been bred for centuries for their sense of smell, hunting ability, and response to training.
The English Springer’s job is to detect game birds in high grass or bramble, flush or “spring” the birds from their cover, then point and retrieve the downed bird. Breed literature tells us that Springers will work relentlessly all day in the field and then, in the words of one historian, “retire to the easy companionship of family, hearth, and home after a good day’s hunt.”
These traits have been selectively bred into the English Springer Spaniel for centuries, bringing us the well rounded versatile breed that we know and love today. A breed which has been a favourite of Royals, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Celebrities and families the world over.
The English Springer Spaniel’s instincts, trainability and strong desire to work alongside man have seen the breeds role evolve from a hunting dog & family companion to include search and rescue, bomb detection, drug detection and a plethora of other jobs.
Meet Ryan Tate and his Koala searching English Springer Spaniel, Taylor, of TATE Animal Training Enterprises.
Ryan has been training four year old Taylor since she was just 8 weeks. Taylor has been trained to sniff out koalas, quolls, foxes, cats, rats and rabbits.
“But if she smells koala poo or a live koala that’s the icing on the cake.”
In an interview with ABC Ryan states, “Every time she smelt koala poo or koala fur, she’d get her favourite reward which, as a puppy, was a tennis ball and treats…What we essentially train the dog to do is enjoy that love for sniffing the environment but to discriminate a particular smell so every day out in the field for her is the best day of her life.”
“She just loves smelling things”
“But if she smells koala poo or a live koala that’s the icing on the cake.
“She knows when she smells that she gets told by a million people she’s fantastic and she gets a tennis ball.
“Her breed has been bred for hundreds of years to use their nose, to find small animals traditionally for hunters, but we sort of reverse that role now and use them for conservation purposes.
“Sometimes she’ll just sit right beneath the live animal if there’s not too much wind.
“Other times she’ll help us find the koala by identifying the freshest scats and then we call in the brilliant volunteers at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital who are expert koala spotters.”
Tate and Taylor volunteered their koala locating services as the fires spread.
“If ANY animal runs in front of her she automatically sits, this is what we call a “stop on flush” which by no coincidence is what Springer Spaniels have been bred to do for hundreds of years, find animals and sit when they run.”TATE Animal Training Enterprises Facebook
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital President Sue Ashton said “We never imagined that we would be using her in these fires, but it’s just working so well,”.
The litter Taylor is from have all gone on to be scent detection dogs, just like their sire.
Ten Taylor – Koala Detection Dog Facts
- She’s a 4 year old working line English Springer Spaniel.
- Her entire litter (and her Dad) all work professionally finding animals (such as: Turtles, Antechinus, Cane toads, Bilbies, Rats, Birds, Stick insects, Lizards and Snakes).
- We’ve had her since she was 8 weeks of age and trained her to find Koalas, Quolls, Foxes, Cats, Rabbits and Rats. She will also alert to any predator scats.
- How does she find Koalas? She is trained to prioritise the scent of the live animal and sit as close to it as she can (she smells the odour dropping down from the tree). If she is unable to locate the live animal she will lie down with her nose in front of their scat.
- How can we be sure she won’t chase or harm any animals? Taylor, like all our dogs, has been raised around every single species possible. If ANY animal runs in front of her she automatically sits, this is what we call a “stop on flush” which by no coincidence is what Springer Spaniels have been bred to do for hundreds of years, find animals and sit when they run.
- In optimum conditions we have seen her recognise and hone in on a koala from 125 metres away.
- What’s her reward? A “chuck it” tennis ball, followed by treats and pats.
- How long did it take to train her? She learned the concept of finding Koalas within a few weeks but it wasn’t till she was about 11 months of age that she was obedient enough to be in the field amongst wildlife.
- She always works off lead, and covers between 10 and 35km every day she is in the field.
- Is she a good pet? Yes, but only after those 35kms of running per day.
Check out the video below to see Taylor in action.
Another cracking Koala find post bush fires from Taylor. This was number 12!
Posted by TATE Animal Training Enterprises on Sunday, 15 December 2019
Want to help? There are several fundraising initiatives currently taking place. Below are just a few of the verified ones:
- Fundraiser for The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund by Celeste Barber
- Australia’s Red Cross Disaster relief and recovery fund helps support evacuation centers and recovery programs for the affected communities
- The NSW Rural Fire Service has a donation page to support the firefighting efforts in New South Wales
- The Country Fire Authority is the state of Victoria’s rural firefighting service and you can donate directly here.
- The Country Fire Service in South Australia also takes direct donations.
- To help support firefighters in the state of Queensland, you can donate to the Rural Fire Brigades Association via their webpage.