Kiwis for kiwi is working hard to raise awareness that dogs are having a critical and devastating impact on our kiwi populations, which could be avoided with the help of dog owners. 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
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. The dog quickly 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.
As more is learnt about how to effectively teach dogs to avoid kiwi, it is likely that the training method will be improved.
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 immediately after the correction.
- All dogs remembered after one month, and 87% remembered after one year.
- Dogs trained annually consistently show avoidance, while those trained every three years did not.
- Dogs of different genders, ages and sizes showed no difference in avoidance training
- Some dog breeds showed more interest in props than others, especially terriers.
- Pet dogs showed more interest in the props if the owner was not present – reinforcing the fact that 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, especially if it is not regularly re-trained. The best option is simply to keep dogs away from places wild kiwi live. If it is unavoidable to take a dog into a kiwi area, it should always be under control. In many cases this means on a lead, regardless of whether it has been avoidance trained.