Enter detection dogs like Tucker. These dogs are highly driven -- or, as Wasser puts it, "completely insane for a ball." The conservation program taps into the dogs' sense of play, as well as their incredible smelling abilities. Like narcotics dogs trained to suss out different strains of marijuana, Tucker and his canine compatriots are taught to find a variety of scats from the same species, to make sure no pile gets left behind. Once the dogs find the right scat (be it grizzly bear, tiger or orca), handlers give their canine partners a reward: playtime with their favorite toy.
"Our dogs have a bunch of different behaviors when they're on a scent," Seely says. Out in the field, she'll look for the dogs to start zig-zagging, or prick up their ears, or curl their tails. And if the scent is strong, some dogs begin to wag. "That's because they know they'll get their ball soon."
Of all the animals Conservation Canines surveys, orcas have the poop that's hardest to find. On a boat, the dogs can't simply run after a smell. Instead, handler and captian work in concert, acting as the dog's sea legs. Seely is so in sync with Tucker she can tell which way to direct the boat based on a twitch of Tucker's nose, Wasser says. If Tucker's right nostril flares up more than his left, Seely will notice, and then the boat zooms off to the starboard side.