Weed Detection Dogs

In 2015 the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage approached Steve Austin about training a dog to detect a weed. Never one to walk away from a challenge, Steve said yes, let’s do this. When he first started the project he didn’t think the dogs would be successful but he soon proved that thought to be very wrong!

Steve’s own dog Missy was already trained to detect feral cat and fox odour, so knowing what an excellent detection dog she was, he trained her to also detect the noxious Orange Hawkweed. The pilot project was outstanding as Missy proved to Steve that she could in fact locate a small piece of the weed!

The pilot project then moved on to a full time project with all systems go! Sally the black cocker spaniel was trained to detect the Orange Hawkweed and assigned to Hillary Cherry from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to work in the field in the rugged Kosciusko National Park. The outcome went beyond Steve’s wildest dreams! Sally was easily finding the plant also!

The next dog brought into the project was Conner (aka Conservation!). And once again, Conner proved that a professionally trained detection dog can find weed in the all kinds of terrain. In April Conner even found the weed after it had been covered by fresh snow!

Steve feels that the outstanding success of these weed dogs is an equivalent to his success with the incredible detection work done on Macquarie Island.

Conner has recently started training on a new target odour known as Alligator Weed. This trial will determine if one dog can locate two different weeds.


Missy is Australia’s first weed detection dog.

In this photos, Missy is 5 year old working English Springer Spaniel.  She was first trained to detect feral cat and fox. 

Steve chose Missy to use for the pilot project to detect Hawkweed because of her incredible performance in the field. Missy became Steve’s first weed detection dog when she was trained on the target odour of the noxious Orange Hawkweed.  


Sally is a working Cocker Spaniel who was around 2.5 years old in this photo, became Australia’s second weed dog.  The pilot project with Missy was so successful, Sally was then trained as to detect Orange Hawkweed and now works with Hillary Cherry of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.  

Working in the vastness of Kosciusko National Park, she is easily able to locate the noxious weed. 


High in Kosciusko National Park stands a very talented Conner, aged around 2 years old in this photo.  

Conner started his detection training on Orange Hawkweed and recently he began training on a second weed, being Alligator Weed.

Recently Conner was working with Ryan Tate, and astounded everyone when she indicated on a small Hawkweed plant hidden under fresh snow!

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