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Our History


Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

Tilia Training (Mequon Nature Preserve)

The concept of Midwest Conservation Dogs was created in February 2016, when Laura Holder, our Co-founder and Executive Director, received a phone call from Kristin Gies, the Executive Director of Mequon Nature Preserve (MNP). Kristin had returned from a conference where she saw a conservation dog demonstration from Working Dogs for Conservation, the longest tenured organization in the U.S. offering detection canine teams for conservation-focused efforts. 


Kristin wanted to bring this innovative, earth-friendly method to MNP and reached out to Laura to help develop an on-staff dog/handler team that could be utilized on the 400+ acre property. Laura looped in another Milwaukee-based dog trainer to help MNP’s vision become a reality and aid in finding a purpose-bred puppy (Tilia) that could be raised and trained alongside an MNP staff member. Tilia arrived at MNP in August of 2016, and her foundation training began in October. The foundation training for Team Tilia spanned the course of 18 months and included her first successful fieldwork season.

Photo courtesy of Hannah Stonehouse Hudson

Midwest Conservation Dogs was Officially Born

Passion for detection dogs, combined with a deep commitment to conservation, fueled the desire to make the idea of conservation dogs in the midwest an official venture. And thus, Midwest Conservation Dogs, Inc. was officially born as a 501(c)3 organization with the IRS in January 2017.

What We've Accomplished

Since our inception, Midwest Conservation Dogs, Inc. worked throughout the upper midwest region, providing professionally trained, scent-detection dog/handler teams for a variety of organizations. Working alongside researchers and scientists, our teams have helped eradicate invasive species, locate endangered turtles, and assist with monitoring efforts for keystone species. In 2019, we launched our Pollinator Program to specifically focus our talents on the restoration and preservation of  critical pollinators.

Our Role in Educating Communities

In addition to providing detection services, we’re extremely passionate about educating communities. In 2018, we began providing educational programs for groups of all ages and in 2019 we received a $10,000 grant from United Way/Stacy’s Pita Chips to directly support educational visits for youth groups.

Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Montessori School

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Onto Bigger Things

While living out our mission to advance conservation efforts and educate communities as Midwest Conservation Dogs, Inc., we found our work was in greater demand. Our team happily grew to support our exciting, new fieldwork opportunities, but our team of imagineers also discovered something dire… We’re still among a minority of folks who know this type of conservation work exists.

Dogs are at the Heart of it ALL

We didn’t want conservation work alongside dogs to be the best-kept secret any longer! To help tell a more impactful story about the work we do and to educate more people, we rebranded from Midwest Conservation Dogs, Inc. to Conservation Dogs Collective, Inc. (CDCI)! Our new, better story revolves around the center of our organization—our beloved dogs.

Conservation Dogs Collective

Although our organization took on a new look and feel, we’re still advancing conservation, one wet nose at a time. The difference is, we’re committed to creating deeper connections with others who are just as crazy about their dogs as we are about ours. After our years of experience loving, training, living with, and working alongside our dogs, we were ready to spill more trade secrets to help dog lovers—not just in the Midwest—around the world create stronger bonds with their furry family members. It’s a beautiful way for us to give more to our incredible supporters… Our dogs can’t do this work without them!

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Hayward

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