Phylloxera Detection Dog
Phylloxera is a wine and table grape crop pest that has been known around the world including Australia and once is in the individual vine can not be eradicated or removed without destroying the plant. It is easily spread and greatly effects both yield and quality of the fruit. It is extremely good at being spread by both human, machinery and even livestock or native animals.
This pest is becoming more and more prevalent world wide and can cause wineries to have to destroy plant stocks and disuse large parcels of land. In 2017 a Victorian professor and researcher employed me to design and implement a detection dog research program to prove that Phylloxera could be identified by a detection dog, as all research up to this point had not been able to prove that this pest was detectable via chemical or odour.
There had been months of preparation put into the dogs to ensure that when I arrived in Victoria my transition and training was at the best point to be successful with the. Time allotment I had and the equipment I had developed and taken. I went and lived in Victoria and worked on this project proving dogs could in fact find Phylloxera through olfaction.
Since the beginning of my career I have always developed all my own training processes and have never just taken other programs and copied them as I believed I needed to learn to understand all facets of development and to just copy or mirror others was not to truly challenge my skills or mind. So for the purpose of this job I designed and built a range of specialised training props and techniques that I transported and used to assist me in being successful in this demanding task.
I took 2 dogs to do this job as I always have plans for both best and worst case scenario. I could not see me driving 1700 klm and having a single dog that either got sick or some how injured and wrecked all the forward planing and timelines. I knew I would need to be in Victoria for 5 weeks to allow me to get the dogs imprinted and consolidated on the Phylloxera and then to be able to blind test enough to be confident of our results.
When I arrived I told the professor that I would not be able to give any conclusive information on if this task was possible until day 12 to 15, he was happy with this and by day 12 we were quietly confident of this being capable from the way the dogs were responding and the behaviour we had seen.