Thursday 26 November 2020

Pioneering research is training dogs to sniff out Coronavirus


Floki, training to sniff out Coronavirus. (Copyright Getty Kelly Barnes)

Floki is no ordinary Springer Spaniel. He's one of a very special group of dogs being trained around the world to sniff out Coronavirus from human sweat, and is helping to identify people who are infected before they even know it themselves.

This pioneering training is being carried out in various international locations, including Adelaide, Australia, Helsinki, Finland, and in Lebanon by a French-Lebanese research team. There's also a team in the UK, led by Medical Detection Dogs, working in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University, that is developing training for dogs who can passive-screen people for signs of the virus (with no physical contact).

Trained sniffer dogs are certainly not new, and they are already being used successfully in the detection of other diseases such as cancer and malaria. They also work alongside airport security teams to detect explosives and drugs.

Trained dogs could provide a rapid, non-invasive way of screening for COVID-19, without using up health service resources. One dog could screen up to 250 people per hour, providing a valuable resource for airports, public arenas and stadiums, for example.

The dogs themselves are at very low risk, as they are not susceptible to the disease, and their training use deactivated 'dead' virus samples. In a real detecting situation, the dogs sniff the air around a person without being in direct contact, and such is their olfactory power, they are still able to to detect signs of the virus. A dog's sense of smell is extraordinary - research by Medical Detection Dogs shows that a dog can detect the odour of disease equivalent to one spoonful of sugar in two Olympic-sized swimming pools of water!

                                             Copyright Medical Detection Dogs and 

Let's hope this pioneering research, using the amazing power of scent that dogs have, eventually helps contribute to our battle over Coronavirus, enabling us to return to a more normal way of life.

Yet another reason to be grateful to man's best friend!

If you think that your dog could be a Covid detective, why not give scent training a go? 
'Detector Dog' from expert dog trainer, behaviour consultant, and HM Customs & Excise detection dog handler Pam McKinnon, takes you and your dog through each stage of scentwork, from the basics, to the advanced, opening up a whole new world of activities for you and your dog to enjoy together.

For a great insight into the invaluable work our canine compadres undertake for us, Nan Walton's 'Partners' is the book for you. Nan draws upon her hands-on experience from 20 years spent in search and rescue, forensic crime scene recovery, canine narcotics detection, and therapy dogs, to bring you 25 stories from professional canine handlers. Not only will you find heart-warming stories of loyalty, courage and perseverance, but also examples of working dog behaviour, and - the real story that 'Partners' delivers - the unity and trust between dogs and partners.