Cane Toad Detection Dog Reggie

Thu, 08 Nov 2018

By Tangalooma Island Resort

Tangalooma Recruits Cane Toad Detection Dog Reggie

Working English Springer Spaniel Reggie is Tangalooma Island Resort's newest team member and is tasked with the important role of keeping Moreton Island free of cane toads. It’s not every day you get to meet one of Australia’s most renowned dog trainers, so we took some time to chat with Reggie’s experienced trainer Steve Austin to learn about Reggie’s training and some of Steve’s other dog stories.

Tell me how the opportunity for Reggie to work at Moreton Island came about.

I trained Reggie years ago as a cane toad detection dog when he was only 8 weeks old for Parks and Wildlife in Western Australia. About 2-3 months ago I was approached to help rehome Reggie. I’ve been going over to Moreton Island twice a year for five years with my own dogs to detect cane toads, so I spoke to Sue and Trevor Hassard who run the Wild Dolphin Feeding Program about the possibility of Reggie going over permanently.

Reggie has been living with the Hassard’s for two months now and loving life back in the workforce. He’s a very motivated, very independent hunting dog who wants to get out there.

Federal LNP MP Luke Howarth was responsible for securing a grant from the government to pay for the project.

How does Reggie know how to find cane toads?

Reggie works closely with his handler and will receive rewards when he finds a particular odour, in this case the odour of a cane toad. Reggie receives a reward of cooked chicken only when he detects the cane toad odour. The odour is brought to the Resort and stored in double sealed bags on ice so Reggie can continue his training.

What does Reggie do when he finds a cane toad?

Reggie is trained to stop and stare at the exact spot where he can detect the odour. He is trained not to bite or touch the cane toads.

How else can dogs be used for conservation?

Detection dogs can be used to protect a variety of endangered species as well eradicating pests.

Detection dogs were used at Macquarie Island to eradicate rabbits that had completely devastated the ecosystem and habitat. In 2008, rabbit numbers were past 130,000! Detection dogs were brought in to eliminate any survivors after poisonous baits were dropped by helicopters to kill the rabbits. In April 2014, the project was declared complete with Macquarie Island officially announced as pest-free.

Can you talk to me about your experience training dogs?

I have been training dogs for over 30 years and have trained animals for quarantine, search and rescue, police work, and wildlife preservation, among other roles. I was given a puppy called sooty when I was 13 which I taught to balance a schooner of beer on its head. This is when I realised I had a unique talent for training dogs.

What’s the hardest thing about training a dog? 

Actually the hardest thing is training the handlers to do the right thing. We look for people who are enthusiastic, motivated and genuinely passionate about dogs. Science is critical when training a dog but you also need to have strong intuition to sense different dog behaviours.

What’s your favourite dog breed?

I love any dog that’s enthusiastic and driven. I do have a soft spot for Cocker Spaniels, Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds and Border Collies.

To find out more about Steve Austin visit his website:

Thanks to Steve Austin, our dedicated Resort staff and Luke Howarth MP.

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Tangalooma Island Resort

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