Dog Nose Best

Equine & Canine features the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden's Trails 'n' Tails event in the July 2017 issue. 

July 1, 2017

Flannery Hill

Surrounded by the natural beauty of Mission Canyon, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden's 5.5 miles of trails and 78 acres of stunning California native plant displays beckon to be explored by you and your dog. However, the Garden is more than just a pretty place. We are dedicated to research, education, and conservation of California native plants. We work to understand native plants, protect them, and restore species, habitats and ecosystems that provide us with the basic necessities of life. With scientists at the helm of our conservation research, where do dogs fit in?

Photo of girl with dog by Veils & Tails photography
Humans have worked in partnership with dogs for thousands of years. Dogs have used their keen sense of smell to help humans hunt animals, track missing persons and detect illegal drugs. It was only a matter of time before we would use their unique abilities to help us find and protect native plants.

Working Dogs for Conservation, a Montana-based conservation detection dog organization has led the way in utilizing dogs' sense of smell to protect wildlife and wild places. From ecological monitoring and habitat mapping, to invasive species detection, the services provided by conservation dogs is a perfect complement the Garden's aim to conserve and restore native plants.

Photo of Joy by Veils & Tails photography
Finding where species grow, how many there are, and what they need to survive is vital to our environmental conservation efforts, notes Director of Conservation and Research, Dr. Denise Knapp. Unfortunately, these plants are often growing in remote, wilderness areas that are difficult to access by any means. In 2007, in a collaborative project with The Nature Conservancy, Working Dogs for Conservations' canines were used to locate the threatened Kincaid's lupine, a plant host to the endangered Fender's blue butterfly, found only in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Where humans would only be able to locate and identify the lupine when it is in bloom, conservation dogs are able to detect the plant using their sense of smell and then alert their handlers to its location Three conservation dogs were trained to recognize the odor of Kincaid's lupine. They performed a series of trials designed to simulate a rare-plant survey and performed with nearly 98% accuracy!

Photo of Couple at Trails 'n' Tails by Veils & Tails photography
Potentially, dogs could double the field season for botanists locating rare and endangered species because they can detect plants in all stages of its growing season. The plant does not have to be in bloom in order to be identified. Also, since dogs are able to travel faster than humans and over all kinds of terrain, they are perfectly suited to help botanists locate samples over large landscapes.

Another ecological benefit from conservation dogs comes from their ability to track down invasive species. Because they are able to identify species before they have invaded, they help botanists develop plans to eradicate threats to native wildlife, before it becomes too late.

While you won't find conservation dogs working at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden you can support the Garden's core programs for education, conservation, and horticulture and help us keep the Garden friendly for dogs all year long. Consider joining or renewing your membership at the Dog-Friendly level. You and your pooch might also want to join us at Trails 'N' Tails, a special event in August featuring special dog demonstrations, guided hikes and a courtyard full of information booths on the seemingly limitless capabilities and uses of our canine companions. All are welcome, but guests who bring a dog on leash will receive free admission to the event. We hope you will join us!

Trails 'N' Tails
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
1212 Mission Canyon Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
For more information, visit or call (805) 682-4726, ext. 103.


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