Protecting KiwiThe Importance of Kiwi Avoidance Dog Training

We were delighted to run a Kiwi Avoidance Dog Training day at the Matakana Pony Club in early April with The Forest Bridge Trust’s very own Steve Rigby acting as the training facilitator.

With the growing kiwi populations across Rodney and Kaipara, Steve and The Trust recognised the need for a dedicated trainer for our area. As a keen dog lover Steve from our Predator Control team was keen to step up and take on the challenge.

Steve’s journey to becoming a certified Kiwi Avoidance Dog Trainer was no small feat. After attending the Save the Kiwi hui and completing the Kiwi Avoidance Dog Training modules, he shadowed a qualified trainer several times before passing his final assessment with flying colours. Now, equipped with the necessary skills and expertise, Steve was able to run his first training session, attracting 15 local dogs.

During the training, which lasts just 15 minutes, Steve guides the dogs and their owners through a pre-set course. Along the way, a kiwi decoy laced with the pungent scent of kiwi is strategically placed. If a dog shows interest in the decoy, Steve administers a light correction via an E-collar fitted onto the dog. Remarkably, one correction is often all it takes, with most dogs giving the decoy a wide berth on their second trip through the course.

Kiwi Dog Avoidance Training - The Forest Bridge Trust

The effectiveness of the training was evident as most dogs who had previously undergone the KAT sessions six months ago remembered the scent and avoided the decoy without requiring further corrections. Steve recommends regular refresher sessions every 6-12 months to ensure continued avoidance.

But why is this training programme necessary? Kiwi are at risk of injury or death from dog attacks, particularly in areas where kiwi habitat overlaps with human populations and dogs. Despite their seemingly harmless nature, any dog, regardless of size or breed, can pose a threat to kiwi due to their acute sense of smell and instinctive behaviour to investigate kiwi scent.

Kiwi are particularly vulnerable to dog attacks due to their lack of wings and the ability to fly away. Kiwi don’t have breastplates and chest muscles to protect their internal organs like other birds do. The death of a kiwi by a dog may occur from crushing, causing internal bleeding, rather than visible injuries from mauling or deep bites.

It’s crucial for dogs with jobs or those living or working in kiwi areas to undergo avoidance training. However, it’s important to note that trained dogs are not “kiwi safe,” and pet dogs should be kept out of kiwi areas altogether to prevent potential harm.

Through Kiwi Avoidance Dog training programmes, we can minimise the threat of dog attacks on local kiwi populations, ensuring the survival and well-being of our iconic birds for generations to come.