Kiwis for kiwi is working hard to raise awareness that dogs are an avoidable problem. The Trust’s support for developing the kiwi avoidance training is part of that campaign.
Demand for avoidance training is growing as more people hear about it. As well, more and more landowners are only providing access to hunters with trained dogs and, in some areas, DOC will only provide hunting permits to people whose dogs have been certified as showing avoidance behaviour at the training courses.
How it works
As more is learnt about how to effectively teach dogs to avoid kiwi it is likely that the training method will be improved. As well, other methods may also be developed. In the meantime, this is how it works:
Before a dog can be trained to avoid kiwi, it must have been taught basic obedience so that it does what its owner asks.
As part of the training, dogs are walked, usually not on a lead, past a few different props – things such as a stuffed kiwi or kiwi nesting material. If the dog shows an interest in these objects, it gets a short sharp shock from the trainer, via a special collar. That makes it yelp, and the dog learns that these objects are something to stay away from.
The dog is then walked past similar props and, if it avoids them, is certified as having shown consistent avoidance behaviour. Refreshers are held, usually after 12 months or less, to make sure the dog remembers what it has learnt.
You can see a video of the training in action here.
Does it work?
In 2006, staff at DOC’s Hauraki Area initiated research on dogs they had put through avoidance training to see how well it was working. This research has not yet been published, but its results suggest that avoidance training is a useful tool to help kiwi.
Among other things, the research found:
- Every dog showed avoidance to a prop it had been corrected on.
- All dogs remembered after one month, and 87% remembered after one year.
- If there is a three-year delay before a dog is retrained or tested, it showed less avoidance.
- Pet dogs showed more interest in the props if the owner was not present – suggesting dogs should never be allowed to roam uncontrolled.
- Dogs in packs behaved differently to dogs on their own.
Not a silver bullet
Avoidance training is not a silver bullet. Even after it has been trained, an uncontrolled or roaming dog may still attack kiwi, so the best thing is simply to keep them away from places wild kiwi live whenever possible.