Dog owners helping to keep kiwi safe
Sometimes dogs need to go into areas where kiwi live, and increasingly kiwi and dogs are overlapping as subdivisions are developed and projects re-introduce kiwi populations where people already live.
Let’s work together to make sure kiwi remain safe in their own backyards. Register your dog for kiwi avoidance training today.
Kiwi Avoidance Training explained
Kiwi avoidance training for dogs is one tool that can help reduce the threat hunting and farming dogs pose to kiwi in the wild. The best way to protect kiwi is to keep dogs out of kiwi habitat altogether. However, kiwi avoidance training can be a useful tool for dog owners to deter their dogs from injuring or killing kiwi if they do go into areas where kiwi live.
Established in 1996, Kiwi Avoidance Training is jointly coordinated by Save the Kiwi and the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai.
Why is kiwi avoidance training necessary?
Kiwi are fragile
Kiwi don’t have breastplates and chest muscles to protect their internal organs like other birds do. This means just a gentle nudge from an inquisitive dog has the potential to crush its very delicate ribcage and internal organs – even if the dog wasn’t being aggressive.
Kiwi are vulnerable
A kiwi doesn’t fly and sleeps during the day, which makes it particularly vulnerable to predators that hunt or roam the bush while it sleeps.
In Northland, kiwi only live for around 13 years compared to the average of 40 years, mostly because of dog attacks.
Just one adult death is devastating
There are an estimated 68,000 kiwi remaining, down from the millions that used to roam New Zealand’s forests. One adult kiwi could lay 200 eggs in its lifetime, and her offspring could produce 800 chicks. Even just one kiwi death can have a devastating impact on kiwi recovery.
Dogs are hunters
It is instinctive and natural behaviour for a dog to investigate unusual odour and movement. Regardless of their size, breed, training, or temperament, all dogs have the potential to regress back to their hunting instincts and kill a kiwi.
Local bylaws may apply
In some parts of New Zealand, some councils have identified areas that dogs cannot access unless they have been kiwi avoidance trained. In other areas, public conservation land is restricted unless you have kiwi avoidance trianing.
Owners can be fined
The Dog Control Act (1996) enables the destruction of any dog found to have injured or killed any protected wildlife, including kiwi, and the owner to be fined $20,000, and/or three years in jail.
What happens during kiwi avoidance training?
Before a dog can be trained to avoid kiwi, it must have been taught basic obedience, so it does what its owner asks.
During training, an e-collar is put on the dog. The dog is walked past props like a taxidermied kiwi or kiwi nesting material. If it shows an interest in these objects, it gets a short sharp shock from the trainer, via the collar.
The dog is then walked past similar props. If it avoids them, it has shown good kiwi avoidance behaviour.
Refresher training is held every six, 12 or 24 months, depending on the outcome of the first training, to make sure the dog remembers what it has learnt.
Find out more about kiwi avoidance training in your area
Ready to train your dog to avoid kiwi? Get in touch with a trainer in your region to find out about their next training session.
Does kiwi avoidance training work?
Kiwi avoidance training is a tool aimed at reducing the threat of a dog injuring or killing a kiwi. However, kiwi avoidance training does not make a dog ‘kiwi-proof’. It should only be used for ‘dogs with jobs’ such as hunting dogs or farm dogs that have to be in kiwi areas. All other dogs should be kept away from areas where kiwi live. Even if your dog has been kiwi avoidance trained, it is recommended that you keep your dog on a lead when you take it into areas where kiwi live.
How often should my dog be kiwi avoidance trained?
Kiwi avoidance training is not a silver bullet. Even after a dog has been trained, an uncontrolled or roaming dog may still attack a kiwi, especially if it is not regularly retrained. In the same way that rugby players need to train to remain at the top of their game, dogs should be retrained regularly to ensure they remember their training and continue to avoid kiwi. Once your dog has been trained you will be sent a reminder to let you know your dog is ready to be re-tested to check that it has remembered the initial training. This might be six, 12 or 24 months later, depending on the outcome of the first training.
Is kiwi avoidance training the only option?
No. The best option is simply to keep dogs away from places where kiwi live. If it is unavoidable to take a dog into a kiwi area, it should always be under control. This means keeping it on a lead, even if it has been kiwi avoidance trained. If you live where kiwi may stray into your back garden, always keep your dog leashed or kennelled at night.
Is kiwi avoidance training suitable for pet dogs?
Kiwi avoidance training is primarily for ‘dogs with jobs’ like hunting dogs or farm dogs. Pets can be kiwi avoidance trained, however it should be used as a last resort. Instead, owners of pet dogs should use other methods to ensure their dog never meets a kiwi, including keeping them out of areas where kiwi live, keeping them on a lead if they absolutely have to go into kiwi habitat, and obeying the signs.
After I have kiwi avoidance trained my dog, can I take it anywhere?
No. A lot of public conservation land around New Zealand is off limits to dogs, regardless of kiwi avoidance training (unless they are covered by a hunting permit). Dog owners should visit the DOC website or check with their local DOC office to see where they can take their dog. Some local and regional councils are creating dog-friendly off-leash parks too. If in doubt, always obey the signs. If you see a ‘no dogs allowed’ sign, don’t assume that because your dog has been kiwi avoidance trained the sign doesn’t apply to you.