Young dog makes quick exit on kiwi aversion course

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 31/03/2014
Jessica Jones
CHARLOTTE CURD

TRAINING TIME: Jessica Jones, 5, and her dog Rosie learn how to stay away from kiwi in the bush.

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She's only five years old but Jessica Jones is already trying to stop her young dog Rosie from chasing kiwi birds.

Jessica was so successful in teaching Rosie to stay away from the flightless bird, that when the 8-month-old pooch caught a whiff of her second kiwi scent, she darted off in the opposite direction knocking Jessica over in her haste.

"I'm OK now," Jessica said between sobs.

"Rosie is learning that if you go to chase the kiwis you get an electric shock. If you don't, then you are fine."

The scent of a kiwi came as an unwelcome shock to many more Taranaki dogs over the weekend.

About 30 dogs were taken through kiwi aversion training at Ratapihipihi Reserve to lower the chances of them chasing or killing kiwi when they were out in the bush.

The training, led by Jessica's father Nathan Jones from the Department of Conservation, started with the dog's owner taking their pooch on a short course with two kiwi birds set up on the track.

While one kiwi was a taxidermied one, surrounded by fresh kiwi nest leaves, the other was a dead kiwi that had been frozen and was thawed for the training exercise.

When the dog approached the first kiwi and sniffed it an electric shock was sent to a special collar, causing the animal to yelp out in pain, and recoil away from the bird.

When the dog approached the next kiwi, as soon as it could smell the scent it jumped back and ran away, because it associated the smell of the bird with pain.

This stops the dogs from chasing, injuring or killing the birds when they are out in the kiwi's natural habitat, Jones said.

The training had been remarkably successful, with initial courses held every four months and dogs taking a refresher course every year.

"I've only ever had to shock three dogs twice before. The rest have picked it up straight away.

"Hunters are probably the best at bringing their dogs along. They seem to be very responsible owners.

"It's good to see the owners take some responsibility for ensuring we keep our national bird," he said.

Anyone wanting to enrol their dog in training can phone the Department of Conservation.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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