English Springer Spaniel Gets Gravy Gig Saving Great Crested Newts

It seems as if every time we turn around, there’s news that dogs are being trained for yet another task, which is always good to hear. Depending on the breed, most dogs enjoy being given something to do, especially if there’s a reward involved.

From sniffing out illness, bombs, insects decimating crops, or tracking pests responsible for causing significant damage to priceless works of art, dogs are on the job all across the globe.

English Springer Spaniel
Photo: Pixabay/braden91

Wildlife Conservation

Now, dogs are being trained to seek out the great crested newt, a species protected under rules overseen by Natural England, a public body in the U.K. sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs. Like gopher turtles in Florida, construction can be held up due to the existence of certain species, and developers have to spend time searching for and relocating them before construction projects can begin.

When it comes to the newts, experts say it’s difficult to find these small amphibians when they’re on land because they spend so much of their time below the surface, making them difficult to detect before projects begin in earnest. Because of this, an English springer spaniel named Freya has been trained to locate the protected species in advance.

English Springer Spaniel
Photo: Pixabay/Amorhunter

Sniffer Dogs

Nicola Jayne Glover, a Ph.D. student studying ecology at the University of Salford in the U.K., and her colleagues worked with Freya to train her to recognize the smell of live newts. Per the Guardian, they were able to accomplish this by directing the newts’ scent through open pipes of varying lengths, which helped Freya learn and distinguish their unique odor.
In more than 16 trial runs, Freya was able to detect great crested newts up to 2 meters away, with an 87 percent success rate.

great crested newt
Photo: Pixabay/u_3heuehh9

Endangered Species

Seen exclusively in Europe, the amphibians have experienced dramatic declines in population over the last 60 years despite receiving protection under both U.K. and EU law. Their difficulty to detect has likely contributed to their loss of habitat and lives. According to The Conversation, these newts perform important functions which inadvertently benefit humankind.

One way is through the cycling of nutrients from water to land and back again, which contributes to soil fertility. They also eat small biting insects like midges that are responsible for transmitting diseases such as bluetongue to livestock.

English Springer Spaniel
Photo: Pixabay/D_Theodora

English Springer Spaniels

The American Kennel Club points out that these sweet dogs were developed to work closely with humans, and that they’re highly trainable people-pleasers. Originally bred as hunting dogs, they were used to flush out or “spring” game and retrieve it.

They crave company and are miserable when ignored. Considered polite dogs, Springers are good with kids and their fellow mammals. They are also eager to join in any family activity, including long walks, games of chase or playing fetch, and swimming are among their favorite pastimes.

People, Pets & Planet

Help where it’s needed most at GreaterGood for free!