Steve with rodent detection dogs, Sebby and Zuma on Lord Howe Island

Are you looking for a career working with dogs? Maybe you’re already working in the industry and are seeking to expand your knowledge and skills. Or perhaps, you simply want to be better able to understand and train your own dog. Do you have a passion for conservation?

Learn from the leaders in the industry, Steve and Vicki Austin. As well as their range of experience and success in dog training applications, both Steve and Vicki hold certification under the independent, New York based, Certifying Council for Professional Dog Trainers.

Loving dogs is wonderful! But understanding them and their needs is so much more important to ensure their happiness and mental well-being. Education is the key. Open the lines of communication.

Vicki with her beloved Chilli and Lisa

Our Accidental Careers in Dog Training

The fact is: we’ve been lucky in our careers. We’ve had some brilliant opportunities. I’m not going to deny that we also worked bloody hard! We learnt the hard-way, how best to train and work with dogs and people. Dog training education courses didn’t exist back when we started out, at least, not in Australia. Success and knock-backs made us ambitious to learn and grow.

Steve and I want to share our knowledge, success and passion with other dog trainers; professionals and enthusiasts alike. We enjoyed our opportunity to deliver our own course in a commercial arrangement with TAFE NSW for six years. And, previous to TAFE, our time instructing at another dog training establishment, where we were both made Life Members. Now, we believe we can offer a better learning experience without the constraints of an RTO (registered training organisation). Rest assured, we do have the necessary (and then some!) qualifications.

Neither of us ever actually planned a career in training dogs. At high school, it wasn’t on the list of suggested, or even possible, career paths. We got lucky! On opposite sides of Sydney, and before we’d ever heard of one another, we joined local dog training clubs and discovered a passion for dog training. We both became Chief Instructors and competed in obedience trials, both gaining the highest title, Australian Obedience Champion (AOC). Steve won the Obedience Section at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in 1980. I became a full-panel Obedience Judge. And all this happened before we even met!

Early in my professional dog training career, I met Steve, when he was the National Dog Trainer for Australian Quarantine Inspection Services, a position he held for ten years. He was training Beagles for Australian airports; and various other breeds for Australia Post and other parcel carriers. This, combined with his love of field gun-dog training and trialling, was perhaps the beginning of his amazing achievements in scent detection dog training.

These days Steve’s number one passion is canines for conservation.  He is incredibly concerned for the future of many of our native species.  Due to predation by feral cats and fox and competition for habitat and food sources, by rabbit, wild pigs, deer, camels, goats and others, we have lost forever, many species already; and we’re losing more every year.

Steve is proud of his efforts in training scent detection dogs for many conservation efforts, including:

  • Rabbit eradication on World Heritage listed, Macquarie Island.  The rabbits were responsible for reducing the natural vegetation that protected the eggs and chicks of ground nesting birds, from predation by skuas overhead.  Many species of birds breed only on Macquarie Island; nowhere else in the world. Two species had already been lost, but it is hoped that currently endangered species will now successfully repopulate.  After seven years of conservation efforts, Macquarie Island was  declared pest-free in April 2014. Steve is particularly proud to have been involved in this historical achievement.
  • The Australian Eastern Bristle Bird has dangerously declined in numbers. Penny was trained to detect the species so they could be located and protected in their natural habitat.  Penny also later added koala and Eastern Emu to her repertoire.  
  • Penny’s house-mate, Bunya, has been trained to locate turtle eggs after it was discovered that there were almost no young turtles in the oceans because the eggs and the hatchlings were being predated upon by foxes. Bunya was further trained to achieve a remarkable ability to scent detect a specific species of antechinus from other antechinus species in the same environment.
  • A two-pronged approach was taken to protect the, once-thought extinct, Smokey Mouse, in the ACT. Maggie was trained to find them and Dottie was trained to find fox and feral cat, that predated on them.
  • Connor and Sally lead the fight against invasive weeds; hawkweed in alpine regions and alligator weed in waterways. Hawkweed is particularly nasty in that it makes the soil infertile for anything but itself.  Humans attempting to find the weed are far inferior to the dogs’ abilities.
  • Many dogs have been trained to scent detect feral cat, fox and rabbit for extermination, across Australia including  NSW, Queensland, Phillip Island (Vic), Tasmania, Australian Wildlife Conservancy.
  • Scent detection of the cane toad is assisting to restrict its access to cane toad-free areas such as Moreton Island and Perth.
  • Rats on Lord Howe Island were responsible for the extinction in 1920 of a phasmid known as a ‘land lobster’.  A small population of the stick insects were found on an outlying island in 2011.  The rats and mice have to be eradicated from Lord Howe Island before the insect can be released again into a natural environment

Steve, on Macquarie Island, with Gus and Ash