I’m a big fan of working dogs …the training required is an art form and shows that dogs truly are mans very special best friend!.These working dogs don’t herd sheep or chase rabbits …they have a much more sophisticated nose!… They hunt for Dry Rot!..One of those things you learn about often a little bit too late and your property may crumble around you….
Hi Mark thanks for taking the time to chat to us about your dogs and unusual job you both do!!?
(1)How long have you had dogs?
I have had dogs for around four years.
(2)Are they pure bred animals? What breed, is this by accident or design?
Both are pure bred dogs. Meg is a Border collie and Jess is an English Springer Spaniel. Her Kennel Club name is actually ‘Dry Rot Jess’.
(3)Are they working dogs first and pets second…..?Could you explain how you maintain this?
They are both, they live with us as family dogs but as soon as they see the signs that it’s work time they switch into work mode. They learn to recognise that what you’re wearing means work time (for them this is a good thing as they see work as a game). Then at the next stage they end up with a harness on and they switch off completely from the sociable dogs that that like to roll on their back and have fuss and are focused on the task in hand.
(4)OK. Now the job these guys do is quite unusual….could you tell us where this idea came from and how does one train a dog to find dry rot!!….maybe you should tell us a bit about dry rot too!!
Well firstly I should explain what it is we search for. Dry Rot (Serpula Lacrymans) is a fungi that destroys timber. Ironically it actually needs water to grow and survive. It is by far the most destructive wood rotting fungi. It can travel over and even pass through masonry to find more wood. It is spread through airborne spores. Good building practice and preventative maintenance is the best way to prevent it.
The idea came from a friend who was working as a dog handler. It pairs well with my background in construction.
The training of a dog to find dry rot is done in a similar way to any search dog training. Put simply, the dog thinks it’s playing a game of find its ball but it thinks the ball smells of dry rot.
(5) Could any dog do this with your training do you think? , and how long did it take you to train them?
Search work isn’t for all dogs but it’s not breed specific. In a dog you require a high drive or put another way a dog that will do anything for its toy or some food. Working gundog breeds are most commonly used as search dogs such as Spaniels, Labradors but there is nothing to stop other dogs with the right characteristics doing it.
Training takes around 6 months. A dog can be trained to search in about 8 weeks but a lot of the time I spend after the 8 weeks is proofing the dog on the exact target odour and not any associated scents.
(6)Does a dog have a retirement age…What’s the pension like?
As a new company we’re yet to have a dog retire but retirement age will be defined by the dog’s enjoyment (if it’s not enjoying the game it won’t work well enough) or by its health. The pension is a peaceful retirement lying by my fire with plenty of long walks.
(7)This must be a pretty unique service to offer .I’ve heard of sniffer dogs at airports but never in construction. Are you the only one doing it?
We’re one of two companies offering this service. We are unique because we work for other surveying companies giving them the chance to offer this service along with normal survey.
Thanks again Mark ,continued success to you all.