Canine handler/trainer for the Animal Health and Performance
College of Veterinary Medicine
Bart Rogers is a canine handler/trainer for the Animal Health and Performance Program in the College of Veterinary Medicine. He began working for the Veterinary Sports Medicine Program in March 2009 before transitioning to the Animal Health and Performance Program in March 2010. He spent two years at Southern Union State Community College before taking off a year to participate in the project to search for pythons in the Everglades. He plans to return to school and finish his education, pairing his current job with a degree in wildlife sciences from Auburn University.
1. What led you to your job as a handler/trainer for Auburn University?
I've always liked dogs and was involved with hunting dogs growing up. A position opened up at the Veterinary Sports Medicine Program working with English pointers for Dr. Rob Gillette, so I interviewed and got the position. I thought it would be great to get paid to work with dogs all day!
2. How did you get involved in the project to search for pythons in the Everglades?
I had been involved with the handling and training of explosive detection dogs (EDD) for a research project. Then we created the EcoDogs program to assist with data collection for biologists. We did a press release for the scat detection dogs, which I worked with in Apalachicola, Fla., looking for bear scat and we were later approached by the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service to see if we could do a pilot study to help with the python problem in and around the Everglades.
3. How do you train a dog to find pythons in the Everglades?
First, we associate the odor of the pythons with the dog's reward (a ball on a string or a Kong toy) and then transition to learning how to work in the environment they will be searching in. Then we teach the dog to give a final response (sit and stare at the target) five meters away from the snake.
4. What is a regular day like for you in the Animal Health and Performance Program?
A regular day for me could consist of conditioning (exercise) and training explosive detection dogs and EcoDogs, as well as handling and instructing students in explosive detection courses.
5. What have you enjoyed most about your work at Auburn?
I have enjoyed being involved in groundbreaking projects and learning something new every day, as well as being able to see a dog perform the task I've trained it to do in a real world setting.