A Dunedin dog trainer is giving troubled dogs a “second chance”.
Rene Gloor trains dogs to sniff out the destructive bacterial disease American foulbrood (AFB), which kills bee larvae.
The first dog he trained for the job was Labrador-cross Jessie in 2011.
Jessie’s bad habits, which included barking and wandering, had forced her owners in Canterbury to consider rehoming her or sending her to “dog heaven”, Mr Gloor said.
He heard about Jessie’s plight and asked if he could test her suitability to be an AFB detector.
“Within five minutes I decided she was perfect – she was absolutely ball crazy.”
To pass the test, the dog had to want to repeatedly retrieve a ball.
He brought Jessie to Dunedin for three months’ training to recognise the scent of AFB.
For the training, a ball and a sample of AFB were put in a box shaped like a beehive.
The other boxes used in the training had balls inside, but no AFB samples.
When a dog chose the box with the AFB sample, they would be rewarded with a ball to fetch, a remote control launching the ball from the side of the box.
After training, Jessie returned to Canterbury to work in an apiary of 3000 hives.
The next troubled dog he trained was Staffordshire-bull terrier cross Georgie from Dog Rescue Dunedin in 2014.
Georgie would replace Jessie, who was set to retire, Mr Gloor said.
In February, he rescued two sibling Staffordshire-bull terrier cross dogs – Chief, from One By One Rescue in Dunedin and Milo, from SPCA Otago.
Milo was recently recruited to work among 6000 hives in Auckland.
Chief began training last week and would be working on the West Coast in about three months, Mr Gloor said.
He rescued “high-energy” Labrador-cross Pepsi from a family in Waikouaiti.
Once trained, Pepsi would work among 4000 hives in Hamilton.
He had recently rescued English springer spaniel Flynn from a home in Dunedin and was training him for a position in an aviary in Hamilton.
It was better to train rescued dogs than puppies, as they could be immediately tested for the necessary attributes, which puppies could not.
“The part I really like is giving dogs a second chance.”