Training Missy to detect underground orchids

Watch how quickly Missy the detector dog learns to detect underground orchids.

Missy the orchid sniffing detection dog

Missy is a professional field detection dog. She usually seaches for koalas, quolls and an introduced plant, the hawkweed. Saving our Species and the National Parks and Wildlife Service engaged trainers OWAD Environment to add a new target scent for her, the underground orchid, Rhizanthella sp.

Training involved working over a number of 1000 square metre plots, timing how long it would take Missy to find a sample, or deciding when to call off a search if there was no sample in a plot.

Dogs like Missy can detect half a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic sized pool but the training makes sure she can distinguish between what humans are interested in and what she can smell underneath the ground. The dogs are trained to apply a specific search pattern to confirm the target location.

Training is all about positive reinforcement. The detection dogs love their job, considering it all fun and games.