The detector dogs that are wildlife's best friend

Max is one of a handful of dogs trained to locate and save rare wildlife. The English springer spaniel is one of four used by Paws for Conservation to find endangered species prior to building work.

Spaniel

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Training includes river work as Max can now sniff out — and help protect — great crested newts [GCN] and water voles, after starting off his career by tracing birds and bats.

It pays to be a lap dog. Three dogs (from First Class cabins!) survived the sinking of the Titanic – two Pomeranians and one Pekingese.

Rachael Flavell, owner of the firm, said that eight-year-old Max wears goggles to ease hayfever but they do not put him off the scent.

"They work really well and don't bother him at all. It's as if he's not wearing them."

Rachael's detector dogs also include Stig, Nala and Willow.

She explained why their skills are sought after: "Before planning permission can be given for building work or for wind farms, presence and absence surveys need to be carried out to check for endangered species. It's usually ecologists who determine the presence of endangered species such as GCN. This can often be very time-consuming.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Dogs can be trained to to detect cancer and other diseases in humans. Cancerous cells release different metabolic waste products than healthy cells in the human body. Dogs may even be able to sniff out cancer cells simply through smelling someone’s breath.

"But using our dogs in combination with our Level 1 class licence from Natural England we can now quickly establish whether or not this protected species of newt is there.

"If GCNs are found, they need to be relocated before building work can start.

"Our dogs help to speed up this process, ultimately saving construction companies time and money.

"Similarly our dogs assess the impact windfarms have on wildlife. They help to identify and find bat and rare bird populations after installation.

"Our findings can influence the turbines being switched off overnight or at certain times of year to protect bats.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Seeing eye dogs are trained to do their “business” on command. This way their owner can clean it up a bit easier. Some of the popular commands are “get busy” and “go time”.

"Dogs have proven to be efficient tools in helping to conserve British wildlife. We've just started training for water voles."Based near Wrexham, North Wales and operating across the UK, Rachael, 33, has worked for green utility company Natural Power and engineering firm Atkins plus a number of ecologists and environmental consultants such as BSG Ecology and Atmos Consulting.

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She added: "It's unbelievable how busy we are. I might have to buy Max a snorkel to go with his mask if we get swamped with much more work.

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"I bought a new Toyota Land Cruiser three weeks ago – it's already done 2,400 miles.

"It lost its new car smell quickly... the inside already smells of wet dog and damp towels."