Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Learned aversion to poison baits using a ‘self-training’ device in domestic dogs (#66)

Tracey L Kreplins 1 , Peter Adams 1 2 , Bill Bateman 3 , Shannon Dundas 4 , Malcolm S Kennedy 2 , Trish Fleming 1
  1. Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA, Australia
  2. Department of Food Agriculture Western Australia, South Perth, WA, Australia
  3. Department of Environment and Agriculture, Curtin University, Bentley, WA, Australia
  4. Department of Primary Industries, Orange, New South Wales, Australia

Accidental poisoning of domestic dogs is an unfortunate occurrence when using poison baits to control introduced pests such as feral cats, red foxes, and wild dogs. Risks to domestic dogs can limit the use of baiting by land managers and result in reduced control of predator species that decimate our native wildlife. We developed and trialed the use of a device attached to a non-toxic form of a poison bait to assess whether we could induce a learned aversion towards the baits in domestic dogs. Presentation of an electrified and non-electrified non-toxic bait occurred over several time points at day 0, day 1, week 1 and 5 weeks, 3 months and 6 months, at the dog owners’ property and in situ (i.e. conservation estate). This study of 25 domestic dogs has shown that a learned aversion to the non-toxic bait can be created in domestic dogs. Twenty dogs developed strong avoidance responses after presentation of a single electrified bait. Four dogs took more than two presentations of the electrified bait to develop aversion towards non-electrified baits. One dog repeatedly ate baits and did not show any aversion behaviour. Longevity of the training is still undergoing testing but the dogs continue to demonstrate a learned aversion to the non-toxic forms of the bait. To date the training has shown great promise to create a learned aversion to toxic baits by domestic dogs, thereby reducing the risk of accidental poisoning.