Aversion training programme deters dogs from rare blue ducks

The Department of Conservation (DoC) is reminding dog owners that man's best friend could be doing more damage to our precious bird life than we think.

The whio or blue duck is endemic to New Zealand but there are less than 3000 left - around 200 in Taranaki.

On Saturday the first aversion training programme of the year to deter dogs from the ducks got underway in Taranaki. And DoC encouraging more dog owners to enlist their pups.

It's Meg's first day of whio aversion training. The German Pointer-Labrador cross gets just one electric shock when she takes a sniff of a taxidermy whio. It only takes one shock for her to learn.

"She did really well, you can see that massive aversion that she did," says DoC biodiversity ranger Joe Carson.

"She's done kiwi aversion training before," owner Barbie adds.

Carson says whio are coming out of the national park because they are doing so well. But as they do dogs can pose a threat to them. So, DoC runs courses training pet dogs about the right behaviour.

"Dogs have a lot of scent receptors in their nose and that's how they see the world generally," Carson says.

To train dogs to stay away DoC sets up taxidermy ducks and plants a bag of fresh whio scent nearby.

"It [the dog] gets a shock when it shows interest in that scent," Carson says.

Jet is up next and is drawn in by the whio scent. But she learns her lesson fast.

"On that second aversion she didn't want anything to have to do with that smell so that's perfect," Carson says.

Ian McKee takes Jet hunting so wanted to get her trained up and hopes more dog owners do the same.

"There are enough tools out there, it's just getting the message out there to dog owners to use what's available," McKee says.

"Dogs post a bigger threat than we think. It's not necessarily a bad or ill-tempered dog, just a curious dog can do a lot of damage to a nest," Carson says.

These dogs are suffering some short-term pain for whio to have a long-term gain.