Conservation Canines by Isabelle Groc

Review by Evelyn Hussey

Orca Book Publishers, September 14, 2021

128 pages, Hardcover ARC, $24.95 CAD, 9781459821606

Middle Grade, ages 9-12, grades 4-7


It is still cool as Spots gets ready to start work in the morning. Calm and confident, the imposing Kangal shepherd dog is leading a herd of goats into the pasture.

In north-central Namibia, the goats graze everyday on lands where leopards, cheetahs and jackals also live. But Spots keep the goats safe. He watches over them intently. And if a predator approaches, he barks loudly and places himself between the herd and the threatening animal. This is usually sufficient to scare the animal away.

“Our goats go out everyday and we have cheetahs roaming around, but I have never experienced any losses from a cheetah,” says Tyapa. “They know this herd of goats is with a dog so they don’t bother coming any closer.”

Dogs are humankind’s best friends. They play with us, comfort us when we’re sad, and make us laugh with their silly antics. Some dogs also help humans do their jobs — service dogs, bomb-detection dogs, and police dogs. In Isabelle Groc’s book, you will get to discover how dogs help in another huge way – working to protect the environment!

Have you ever seen a dog with a special vest on helping a human do their jobs? Maybe you’ve seen a service dog guide someone through their day, or had a police dog inspect your luggage at the airport. Well, did you know that dogs also help us protect the environment? In Conservation Canines, Groc teaches readers everything there is to know about dogs who work to help conserve the planet. Readers will learn about the history of working dogs, how they are trained, and what kind of jobs conservation canines do. They will also get to meet the trainers and other people behind working dog programs. Groc includes stories from all over the world. With amazing photographs, readers will get to meet dogs like Alli, who sniffs out endangered frogs, and Piloto who protects cows from wolves.

Conservation Canines is a wonderful book where readers can learn as they read. Words that may be tricky or hard to understand are bolded and defined in the back of the book with a useful glossary. The book also includes really useful sidebars that contain short stories or features on specific dogs so readers can learn more about these beloved animals. As an avid dog lover, I thought I knew all there is to know about dogs. Little did I know that Conservation Canines would completely change my view of dogs. I got an in-depth look at how valuable these animals are, both as full-time workers and as beloved family pets. I was intrigued and astounded by how much work goes into training and raising these dogs. I also had no idea how much these animals can do — things like sniffing out specific endangered species, fending off predators, and detecting illegal animal products from poachers. Another thing I really loved about the book was the photographs. Groc is a photographer, and her photos of the dogs are stunning. The stories about each dog are also meticulously researched and readers will be astounded by how much information they didn’t already know!

This book filled me with joy in so many ways: it was so wonderful to learn about all the good things dogs do for the planet besides just being our furry friends. Conservation Canines does it all! I recommend this book to dog lovers and nature lovers alike!

Evelyn Hussey is a BA psychology student minoring in creative writing at UBC. She loves reading memoirs/creative nonfiction as well as realistic fiction. When she is not reading or writing she spends her time rock climbing, binging true crime content or with her beloved dog, Dipsea.

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