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Animal Educators Blog

Animal Educators Blog

What is a Turtle Dog?

Posted on January 21, 2020 at 9:55 AM

Is it a Turtle that looks like a dog? Or a dog that looks like a turtle? What is a Turtle Dog? 

The most popular question we get here at Allison Woods Outdoor Learning Center is, What is a Turtle Dog? And Why have such an animal? Well, the answer is simple, no it is not a turtle that looks like a dog, or a dog that looks like a turtle. They are simply dogs that look for turtles! We have 3 Boykin Spaniels trained to find the Eastern Box Turtles for research purposes! 

The second most popular question we get is, why would you want dogs to look for turtles? Eastern Box Turtles are one of the most commonly observed turtles in the wild, especially here in North Carolina. They are terrestrial and love to stay in areas where they camoflage well, like meadows, forests, and fields near a water source. Sometimes people even find them in their gardens at home!

Eastern Box Turtles are an indicator species that tell us a lot about the environment! Let's say something were to go wrong in our environment, like a forest fire or flood, the entire ecosystem would change! Box Turtles would be one of the first animals to know. All their food would become scarce during a forest fire or flood and change their entire food web! 

What should you do when you see a box turtle trying to cross the road? If it is safe to do so, pull over, and move the box turtle to the side of the road in which it was headed. If you place it in the direction it was coming from, that turtle will turn itself around and try to go right back across the road. 

Turtles are key players in our ecosystem!  We want to keep them around for many many years, which is why it is important to keep track of their population density. The Turtle Dogs job is to find the Box Turtles and bring them to us. The best part is the dogs do not harm the turtle in any way! Then it is our job to study the turtle then release it back into the wild as soon as we can! 

For more information about the Turtle Dogs or the Eastern Box Turtle, join us on a field trip or one of our community event days! We are more than happy to talk about the Turtle Dogs! 

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