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EcoDogs doesn't just exist for the benefit of project personnel. You too can 'rent' a trained detection dog and handler team to search for ecological samples.

What can detection dogs be trained to find? Anything that smells (to a dog, that's anything). For examples of items that detection dogs have already been used to search for, see the list at right or check out our library.

Detection dogs can greatly improve the efficiency of a search; decreasing manpower and search time while increasing detection success. However, limitations do exist. If a target is relatively abundant, then the expense of using detection dogs may not be warranted. For example, locating coyote scat can be done fairly easily by humans searching along roads. Thus, the use of detection dogs may not improve sample sizes enough to justify their cost. Conversely, targets that are extremely rare can also pose particular challenges for detection-dogs; dogs can get bored if they never find the object they are looking for. The use of detection dogs is often best to find those objects that humans could find on their own, but would take considerable effort.

The cost of renting dog and handler teams varies depending on what you want to find (i.e., training involved), whether we already have a dog trained to find the target, the duration or intensity of the search, distance from Auburn, and other services that may be provided. While the rental of dog and handler teams is not cheap, the increase in data collection rates means they they are often a good deal in terms of cost/unit data collected.

In addition to providing dog and handler teams, we can provide assistance with study design and/or data analysis, or just conduct the whole study for you.

What do you want to find? To discuss your needs, determine whether detection dogs would be useful to you, or to get an estimate of costs, send us an e-mail or contact Dr. Todd Steury at 334-844-9253.

As a part of Auburn University, EcoDogs is strictly a not-for-profit project. All proceeds generated from the rental of dog and handler teams are used to maintain and train dogs, pay the salaries of project personnel, and pay for expenses and research.


Targets our detection dogs have been trained to find:

  • Scat from spotted skunk, mountain lion, black bear, weasels, striped skunk, bobcat, gray fox, and coyote

  • Live invasive pythons

  • Root fungi that infect pine trees

  • White-tailed deer antlers

Targets detection dogs have been trained to locate by other organizations:

  • Scat from various animals - including the Pacific pocket mouse

  • Live desert tortoises

  • Termites

  • Invasive weeds like spotted knapweed

  • Antler sheds

  • Desert tortoise burrows

  • Seal dens (under 3 feet of snow)

  • Dead bats and birds under power lines and windmill farms

  • Whale scat (floating on surface of the water). Don't believe it? See here

© Todd Steury, 2010