A dog’s sense of smell is undeniably more powerful than that of humans. When put into good use, many canines are highly capable of discerning various scents, making them good candidates as sniffer dogs.
Canines of Many Talents
What does a sniffer dog do? It is general knowledge that sniffer dogs, also known as scent dogs, are trained to detect firearms, explosives, and drugs. However, that is not the extent of their amazing abilities.
Sniffer dogs can also be well-versed in other canine jobs. With their keen sense of smell, they help track down poachers and locate endangered as well as invasive species.
Sniffer dogs’ superior scent detection is a valuable asset in search and rescue missions during natural disasters too.
Sniffer dogs can be also trained to detect early symptoms of debilitating illnesses such as diabetes, several types of cancer, malaria, and Parkinson’s disease.
And as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, experts have seen a promising potential of sniffer dogs in singling out infected persons from noninfected ones.
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Sniffing Out COVID-19
A team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine are assessing whether or not canines can be trained to accurately identify individuals infected with the coronavirus.
6 dogs underwent scent detection training to recognize the smell emitted by people with COVID-19 as part of the screening trial. They were tasked to sniff worn socks, face masks, and T-shirts of various materials.
When these dogs correctly identified whether the sample came from a person who has tested positive or negative, they are given treats as rewards.
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Researchers believe that the dogs identified or were able to detect positive samples by smelling the volatile organic compounds of the coronavirus. These are chemicals discharged through waste products such as sweat, urine, and saliva when cells metabolize.
Similar studies were also made in other parts of the world. In France, researchers discovered that dogs could distinguish between sweat samples from individuals who tested positive or negative for the coronavirus.
These favorable results encouraged many countries, including the UK and Finland, to start training COVID-19 detection dogs. It is done in hopes to hasten the COVID-19 screening as these trained canines can sniff out positive cases in seconds.
How effective are sniffer dogs in detecting COVID-19 infected individuals? Dog screening paired with PCR tests will pick up around 91% of coronavirus infections. However, since these efforts are still at an early stage, more observation on its progress is necessary.
The Best Breeds That Fit the Role
Dogs naturally possess a superior sense of smell than humans, but some breeds show a higher aptitude for scent detection than others. So, what breed of dog is a sniffer dog? The most popular choices of breeds as sniffer dogs are:
- Belgian Malinois
- Border Collie
- English Springer Spaniel
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
As each of these breeds has different temperaments and physical attributes, they are commonly deployed in situations where they are well-suited for.
For instance, the Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd are working dogs that work best as police sniffer dogs due to their intimidating presence and superb scent detection.
However, when it comes to search and rescue operations, Spaniel or Labrador breeds are preferable choices since they give a more comforting atmosphere during times of distress.
What It Takes to Be a Sniffer Dog
Purebred dogs are not the only ones capable of working as sniffer dogs. Cross-breed and mixed-breed pooches can too. One of the most vital aspects needed to make the cut, aside from having a keen sense of smell, is possessing the ideal temperament.
If you are wondering: “Can my dog be a sniffer dog?” Your pooch has a high potential of being one if he carries these important traits:
- High level of cooperativeness with their handler
- Extremely play- and praise-motivated
- A high degree of boldness, obedience, and athleticism
Additionally, your dog along with his handler will need to complete sniffer dog training to enhance his scent detection skills and his amiability with his handler.
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It Comes with a High Price
Sniffer dog training requires an extensive amount of time and money. It takes plenty of patience and hard work to train dogs capable of dealing with different scenarios appropriately when on active duty.
With that in mind, let us talk about how much does a sniffer dog cost. The price range of sniffer dogs runs from £3,000 to over £10,000. If you prefer to hire sniffer dog services, they can charge up to £300–£1000.
6 Mind-Blowing Sniffer Dog Facts
- Several sniffer dogs were initially trained to become guide dogs. But because they are extremely energetic and easily get distracted by smells, they were better suited as sniffer dogs.
- Specific types of sniffer dogs are trained for scat detection of animals, especially endangered species such as blunt-nosed leopard lizards and North Atlantic right whales. They help experts get a clearer picture of how human development has impacted these species.
- A research by chemists shows that trained sniffing dogs can detect fire accelerants such as gasoline even in small amounts. In fact, they can smell something as small as one billionth of a teaspoon.
- Sniffer dogs are commonly trained to use 2 types of methods when alerting their handlers: aggressive alert and passive alert. Aggressive alert involves digging and pawing at the spot where they detected a scent.
- However, this method can be dangerous in certain situations, such as bomb searches. Hence, passive alert, wherein sniffer dogs simply sits down and waits once they find the scent, is used in these cases.
- In 1974, the first-ever sniffer dog specifically tasked to find cadavers in the USA was used in a homicide investigation. The pooch was a yellow Labrador named Pearl, and her keen sense of smell successfully located the concealed grave of a Syracuse college student.
- Gangsters placed a £25,000 bounty on the seasoned UK sniffing dog named Scamp after he thwarted many of their schemes.
- Scamp, the sniffer dog has a long list of notable achievements. It includes uncovering over 25,000 fake cigarettes at a Willenhall shop and £29,000 worth of illegal cigarettes and tobacco in West Bromwich.