Inspiring Tail Super Cop

Our canines never fail to amaze us; when we think we know them enough, they suddenly come up with a skill unheard before. Meet AKA, the fire ant tracker.

AKA, the sniffer dog is just one of the weapons unleashed by the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) in its mission to eradicate fire ants. A first for Australia, this Labrador sniffer dog has been trained to detect the pheromone odour emitted by fire ant, when he was just two years old.

Training: It takes approximately six months of intensive training, which includes structure and control training, imprinting to Red Imported Fire Ant odour and field transition. The validation process includes:

  • Field search outdoors using dollies, live ants in tubes and/or live nests.
  • Line searches indoors or outdoors.
  • Must successfully pass 25 tests with 85 percent success rate.

All detections dogs are:

  • Trained to work using their sense of smell to detect fire ants up to 30 meters away in the right weather conditions.
  • Control and focus in a range of environments.
  • Focus on the handler and respond to voice command.
  • Ability to undertake broad acre surveillance of between 1 – 6 hectares per day.

011Credibility: Biosecurity Queensland’s Neil O’Brien said, “AKA had passed independent validation and been awarded a 100 percent success rate in sniffing out fire ants. Scientific testing shows us that finding some of the last nests is similar to finding a needle in a haystack, which is where AKA the sniffer dog plays a very important role. AKA’s skills are honed to sniff out fire ant nests completely hidden to the naked eye, including nests that are underground or inside containers.”

How AKA works: Apart from pinpointing specific nests and ants, AKA can cover up to 3.5 hectares a day and identify whole areas where fire ant nests are located, which helps field staff to narrow the search, set lures and know where to conduct extra surveillance. The global positioning system attached to AKA’s dog collar tracks his movements with results being fed back into the ongoing surveillance and treatment work underpinning the National Fire Ant Eradication Program.

AKA, the Fire Ant Tracker programme: ‘AKA the Fire Ant Tracker’ is a 45 minutes interactive and inquiry based educational show that addresses the effects and hazards of fire ants. Here, AKA demonstrates to students how he’s been trained to find fire ants in the field.

In order to demonstrate AKA’s ability to detect fire ants, a simple line search technique is used. Six pots are aligned in row and a student is selected to hide a cloth imprinted with fire ant odour under one of the pots. AKA is then given a command to commence the search, once he hits the pot containing the fire ant odour he is trained to indicate by dropping directly in front. He is then rewarded with ‘play’. His favourite toy is brought out for a short and vigorous play session.

Benefits of the programme: The presentation is aimed to teach students how to identify fire ants from other native Australian ants, how to behave safely around fire ants (because they are aggressive and have a nasty sting), and how to work with family, parents or an adult to report their findings.

AKA’s presence and involvement throughout the presentation captivates students and engages them to actively participate and pass along information to their families and encourage parents to conduct passive surveillance. Last year nearly 70 percent of infested sites nests found were reported by the public, demonstrating the effectiveness of the community engagement programmes.

Message to readers: Appreciate and celebrate working dogs for the outstanding services they provide on a day to day basis.

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Grooming your lil’ tail wagger

Your pup looks cute and adorable and you will go to any extent to keep him that way. Regular grooming will not only keep them neat and tidy but will also keep them healthy.

Bringing home a puppy means different things to different people. Along with all the laughter and joy that a new puppy’s arrival brings, there are details like toilet training to take care of, vaccinations to get done, food & chewies to shop for, his bedding to be decided and so on and so forth. Among all these tonnes of things, a lot of times an important issue takes a backseat – grooming, which plays an important role in their pet’s well being.

Benefits of grooming:

Other than keeping your pup clean, comfortable and looking good, hands-on grooming also gives you a chance to inspect him regularly and make sure his skin, eyes, ears and nails are healthy. Grooming also helps stimulate the sebaceous glands that provide the oil that keeps the skin in good condition.

Brushing his coat:

Because grooming is so important, it is vital that you teach your puppy to tolerate it as soon as you bring him home. Even if he is only a fur ball right now, spend time brushing his coat. Practice lifting those puppy paws up and manipulating them. If he learns now that grooming is a part of everyday life, he will be more cooperative when he is an adult. If you wish to send your dog to a professional salon for grooming, that too should be done at an early age. Start with brushing your pup thoroughly twice a day. Short coated breeds are obviously much easier to groom than long-coated breeds. Make sure you brush the undercoat as well as the outer coat. Matts tend to form the most behind the ears and the underbelly and these areas need to be paid special attention to. It is always important to keep a long-haired dog thoroughly brushed. Different kinds of brushes and combs are available at all pet stores, so make sure you get the right kind of brush best suited for your dog’s coat.

Bathing your pup:

Consult the vet about how often to bathe your pup. Puppies need baths less regularly than full-grown adult dogs. Be prepared to be soaked to the skin yourself while you are bathing your puppy. Make sure you have everything you need close at hand before you put your puppy in the bath. You will need a water proof apron for yourself, specially formulated tearless puppy shampoo (available at pet stores), a towel and a hair dryer (especially for the long-haired ones). Pour a jug full of luke-warm water over him, taking care to see that no water goes into his eyes and ears. When you have soaked him completely, rub the shampoo thoroughly into his coat. Use your hands to work up a good lather all over the body, gently talking to your puppy as you do. After this, rinse him out completely making sure that no trace of shampoo is left on him. Let him shake off the excess water and towel dry him as much as you can. If you have a long-coated breed, it would be a good idea to get him used to the sound and feel of a dryer.

Cleaning ears and teeth:

Check your pup’s ears and teeth once a week. Gently clean his ears with cotton wool but never poke or prod into the ear canal. To keep his teeth sparkling and clean and to help him during teething, give him chew sticks, which are also a yummy treat. Get his nails clipped by his veterinarian or a professional regularly. Run your fingers through your pup’s coat everyday to check for ticks and fleas. If an infestation does occur, check with his vet about the kind of tick and flea shampoos best suited for pups. We hope all these tips will help you to groom your pup better. And remember the quality time you spend grooming him will help you establish a closer bond with him.

(Gauri and Urmila at Tail Waggers Pet Salon have been providing pets with the latest and best grooming facilities for the past 4 years. You can contact them at 9820127572 or 022-56067271.)