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Flintshire spaniel named world's first scientifically proven detection dog of rare newt species

When he finds a great crested newt, Rocky will sit, stand or stare to alert his handler of its presence. Credit: Wagtail UK

A Flintshire cocker spaniel has been named the world's first scientifically proven golden crested newt detection dog.

Sniffer dog Rocky is part of a team of Conservation Dogs at Wagtail UK, a detection dog training company based in North Wales.

Great crested newts are protected by law. Difficulty finding and relocating the species can pose challenges for major infrastructure projects.

When he finds a great crested newt, Rocky will sit, stand or stare to alert his handler of its presence.

Both males and females great crested newts have orange bellies with black spots. Males develop a serrated crest along their back. Credit: Stuart Warrington/National Trust

Rocky and his handler took part in scientific research to determine how reliable dogs were at distinguishing the scent of great crested newts from other UK amphibians.

Great crested newts are the largest newt species in the UK. They can be found across most of Wales except Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion.

The amphibian has seen a heavy decline across Europe over the last century.

This is mainly due to pond loss and deterioration, according to the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.

Wagtail UK said using Rocky to find the newt species is more accurate, time and cost effective and less evasive.

This work highlights the innovative manner in which dogs can be used in conservation and to assist with ecological surveys.

Four years of research, painstaking trial and error - and now success has produced a brand new, innovative method of detection dog training by Wagtail UK and Conservation Dogs to find great crested newts.

– Collin Singer, Managing Director at Wagtail UK