We’ve been following WK Blenheim client ZeroStone’s journey over the last few years; from when detector dog Stone was just 10 weeks old, to his on-site workplace training only a few weeks later, to an additional update on Stone’s progress a few months later.

In late 2021, Matt and Stone of ZeroStone paid us another visit to tell us about their latest business venture (well Matt did, Stone was mostly there to show off his detection skills and look cute whilst doing it!)

ZeroStone; more than just investigations:

Directors Matt MacDougall and Mike Lawson both come from a background in the New Zealand Police Force. Mike; an officer who did investigations, and Matt; a dog handler, joined their skill sets and passions together to launch the new branch of ZeroStone, ZeroStone Detector Dogs and Canine Training.

Despite launching the dog side of the ZeroStone business in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, their business has flourished.

Still specialising in their relative fields, Matt and Mike offer a wide range of services, including private investigation, defense counsel, and workplace drug searches and testing.

From a Tiny Pup to a Skilled Search Dog:

After WK first met Stone at 10 weeks old, watching his development into a talented search dog has been fascinating and a true pleasure. Matt explains to us the training process for a search dog.

He admits the hardest part of the process was obtaining a private drug license, for him to use real drugs to train Stone with, as the process took a lengthy 9 months. Not deterred by this setback, Matt used tennis balls to train Stone’s brain and nose while waiting for the license.

Once the license was approved and Stone had learned the search pattern, Matt phased out the tennis ball and began to phase in the drugs; starting with a larger quantity, waiting for Stone to find it and sit to indicate he’d found it, and gradually decreasing the quantity and hence scent. 

This process is known as marker training, and Matt notes that technically any animal can be marker trained, there’s currently a chicken being trained somewhere in the world! Stone has further been ‘proofing’ trained to not give false readings for a plastic baggie (that may not have drugs in it), as well as Matt using a different bag each time Stone trains so that he cannot cheat and simply search out Matt’s scent! Stone is currently trained on four kinds of drugs; methamphetamine, MDMA, cannabis and cocaine; and he’s currently being trained on heroin. 

Matt MacDougall, Stone and WK Advisor Greg Newman

Adding to the List of ZeroStone’s Services

Despite there being only two private drug dog detection companies in New Zealand, Matt has acknowledged the market for this service can be fleeting. Offering their service to private workspaces, schools, accommodation and some parents who might be concerned; a lot of establishments tend to avoid searches to retain staff and/or maintain a certain reputation. 

ZeroStone has several regular customers who use their drug detection services and are determined to persist with the development of Stone’s skills and Matt’s passion. At the same time Matt has realized that his expert skills at training Stone to detect drugs are transferable to taming the yappy Pomeranian down the road too; cue ZeroStone’s newest service offering, private dog training.

What started as a favour to a friend in Nelson who was searching for a private dog trainer but couldn’t find one and thought of Matt, he’s now got 10 (may well be updated now) dogs trained in the Blenheim region to his name. And it couldn’t be more successful, Matt tells us; “we’re getting thumped with interest, nearly an inquiry a night at the moment”. 

ZeroStone is offering a wide range of options for private dog training, from a short 45 minute session right the way through to a comprehensive 6-week training programme with an outcome of both a good dog and a good dog owner (equally important!)

One of Matt’s specialist skills is  sorting out crazy and more difficult dogs into more calm and manageable pets. He notes that there is no age limit to the training; and although it is definitely better to get in early, any dog can be helped, regardless of age or breed.

WK is honoured to be a part of this journey with Matt and ZeroStone and we thoroughly enjoy seeing the business develop and expand. Thanks to Matt and Stone for popping by, we look forward to seeing you both again soon!

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