Canid and Reptile Behaviour and Olfaction Lab (Simon Gadbois, PhD)

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Information for volunteers of the Canid and Reptile Behaviour and Olfaction Team

You want to volunteer?

Look at our research page and see what may interest you, then, contact Dr Simon Gadbois. If you are planning to work with the dogs, you must be comfortable with dogs. If you are planning to do field work (with or without the sniffer dogs), you must be comfortable with reptiles (turtles and/or snakes). We are almost always look for:

All volunteers will have to get animal care certification from the UCLA in accordance with the CCAC.

The majority of our volunteers are in Biology/Marine Biology or Psychology/Neuroscience at Dalhousie. But we also have students from other disciplines, SMU students and non-students volunteering in the lab.

We should meet soon to discuss your interests.

Please, if you have not done so yet:

  1. Join the private Facebook group “Dal Canines-Staff only”:
    • We use this for scheduling, any field work announcements, meetings, and some socializing.
  2. Put your name on the schedule.
    • You can find the schedule here or find the link under the “Files” tab of the Facebook group. It is a Google document. Just double click in your preferred shift time and add your name to the slot. If you have a common first name, please add an initial for your last name (e.g., Jennifer S.).
    • We ask that you stick to one to two hours a week to begin with, and after a few weeks if you have time and would prefer more hours, feel free to add more.
    • We ask this because we prefer that you sign up for an amount of time that you can commit to weekly. It is very important that our volunteers show up to their scheduled shift. Dogs cannot be left alone in the lab.
  3. Complete your animal care certification.
    • Just get it done, unless you already did it for a course (e.g., “Measuring Behaviour” or other lab or field classes that require handling animals).
    • You have two options: There is a test that needs to be completed in both cases. Hundreds of students from the lab have done the test over the years, and we yet have to see somebody fail. You will never get the results (grades) but you will receive a certificate stating that you did the necessary module. It is good for life, anywhere in Canada.
    • You can read the material yourself by going to the following website: If you study the material by yourself without attending the seminar, you can email Jennifer Devitt ( to set up an appointment to write the test. Details on the modules to cover can be found here: You will go to her office in the University Veterinarian’s office in the basement of the LSC, Psychology-Neuroscience wing. It takes roughly 15 minutes to write. A quick read is all you need.
    • Alternatively, you can attend a seminar (+/- half day) on the material. You can find the schedule at
    • More general information on the UCLA (local animal ethics committee) and regulations can be found at
    • You need the core module, and typically rat/mouse handling (this is the closest to “dogs” that is offered at Dal.). If you are interested in field work, you should consider doing the “Wildlife” module.
    • You are allowed to volunteer without the animal care certification. You are, however, limited to a low level of involvement, meaning that you cannot walk the dogs or participate in data collection and you are not to interact with the dogs.
  4. Fill out a volunteer waiver form.
    • This is a departmental requirement. It protects the university in the unlikely event that you are harmed during your time volunteering in a lab at Dalhousie.

Other information: Volunteer functions.

We have an unofficial “hierarchy” of functions in the lab, but they do not necessarily follow seniority.

  1. Dog sitter: You are present in the lab, but will not interact (e.g., play) with the dogs.
  2. Dog walker: You can interact with the dogs and take them on short walks around campus.
  3. Dog handler: You help in handling the dogs before, during and after experiments when asked by a student-researcher, research assistant, lab manager or Dr. Gadbois
  4. Dog trainer: Typically reserved to Honours students, graduate students and research assistants that are project leaders.

What are my responsibilities as a volunteer?

Volunteers are asked to:

When dogs are not participating in data collection:

In order to be involved in the actual handling of dogs (data collection), in the lab or the field, volunteers must: