Thanks to Kiwi aversion training, there are now 25 fewer kiwi killing machines in the Taupō district.
As part of Conservation Week, Department of Conservation (DoC) ran avian avoidance sessions at Whakaipo Bay last Sunday. Community ranger Candace Graham said there was a lot of interest from dog owners, with the 20 available places booking out fast.
"We also had five walk-ins on the day and we were happy to squeeze them in for the training."
Specialist avoidance trainer Jim Pottinger from National Park was on hand to take the dogs and owners through the 15-minute training programme. A professional deer culler since 1997, Jim said the need for kiwi aversion training for dogs became apparent to him and so he learned how to train dogs to avoid kiwis.
"Dogs use their nose. It's about training their nose."
Four road-kill adult kiwi were placed around a small area. People working at Mt Ruapehu for DoC and Ruapehu Alpine Lifts know Jim collects the dead kiwi. Two kiwi were run over at night, crossing the state highway at Makatote and at Whakapapa. Jim says in the dark kiwi look like shadows on the road.
"Henry the kiwi was run over by a driver who had been through road safety training and taught to not swerve to avoid a possum. Unfortunately he had run over a kiwi."
Fresh out of the freezer, one kiwi has a line rigged that Jim pulled to mimic movement. He also had a recording of kiwi sounds and fresh kiwi poo.
Fifi the miniature fox terrier was wearing an electric dog collar. It was done up to the second to smallest notch.
"The poodles in Wellington have to use the smallest notch," said Jim.
Fifi showed plenty of interest, with her nose, ears and eyes taking it all in. Her first venture towards the dead kiwi earned her a small electric zap from the dog collar and that was enough to put her off.
"Fifi is a fast learner. I had a bulldog recently that took 11 zaps before he was put off the kiwi."
Jim says the key to training a dog is to teach them to pay attention when they are focused on something. He says dogs that regularly play with their owners are easy to teach as they have learned to listen out for commands that interrupt what they are doing.
He says putting the dog on a long string and then jerking the string is another way of teaching a dog to avoid a kiwi. However that method is time consuming and needs to be repeated on multiple days for the dog to learn.
"The dog collar is a fast and successful way to teach a dog. After today there are 25 dogs less likely to attack a kiwi," says Jim.
The training is effective for 12 months and then a refresher course is required. Candace said they hope to repeat the training in 12 months or so.
As for Fifi, now that her family know how to train her, they are planning to use the string method to put her off chasing ducks.