Meet Falco. He’s exactly like Zorro, but without the cape … or the mask … or a sword … and he’s a dog … so really nothing like Zorro, except for the dashing good looks and exotic name.
Falco is a Cesky Fousek (Chess-key Foe-sek), otherwise known as a Czechoslovakian Wirehaired Pointer, or a Bohemian Wire-haired Pointing Griffon. This is a Czech breed of versatile hunting dog, and as a wirehair, often adorned with a resplendent moustache and beard. At a touch over 4 months old, Falco has yet to acquire his facial finery.
Falco is one of the newest members of the Conservation Dog Programme, which is a partnership between the Department of Conservation and Kiwibank, with the aim of one day becoming a fully certified protected species dog.
Falco’s handler Andrew ‘Max’ Smart has over 17 years’ experience as a Conservation Dog handler and is one of the Department’s protected species dog certifiers. Falco will be Max’s fourth dog, all of which have been some breed of wirehaired pointer, which is a good breed for protected species work.
After much training, Conservation Dog teams such as Falco and Max can be certified for either protected species or pest detection work. This is a serious and long term commitment as it takes many months of daily training to certify a handler and their dog. Each dog is different and the length of training can vary accordingly. The training is rigorous and teams are required to meet a high standard to pass certification assessments and to maintain their standard at that level. Once certified they will still need to train several times a week for the duration of the dog’s working life (up to 12 years).
Max’s older dog Oska (pictured above) is Falco’s uncle, and will be 7 years old in September. Oska is also a Cesky Fousek, and fully certified for detecting whio, pateke, kākāpō and takahē.
As a sucession plan for Oska, Max wanted a second dog, so when when a litter of Cesky Fousek’s became available in March it seemed like the right time. Max travelled up to view the litter and after much consideration, chose Falco due to his temperament. Falco’s training started immediately.
Falco is a pup; like any pup he chews, he digs, he runs around like a mad idiot … and he doesn’t always listen. In the short time Falco has been with Max, he knows most of the basic obedience commands, he has been out bush walking, negotiated river crossings, visited the local high school and handled being mobbed by a throng of toddlers after inadvertently ending up in the middle of the kindergarten Easter festivities at the local park.
Training is ongoing and Falco is making good progress. Time, patience and consistency will lead to a well-trained confident and steady dog. He will hopefully gain interim certification before next summer.