How Humans Have Benefitted from Dog Scent Work Training
If you have owned a dog, you will be aware of the incredible sniffing and searching a dog does with its nose. It seems to be able to find all sorts of scents in the grasses and trees. But how powerful is it really, and how much use is it to us?
Dogs have an extremely strong sense of smell. In fact, their sense is between 10,000 and 100,000 times better than a human’s. Furthermore, the section of the brain used to analyze smells is 40 times bigger in dogs than in humans. This probably explains why dogs love to sniff everything so much.
That is so amazing, and for a long time we have been utilizing that ability to help mankind – but what can they really do? Luckily, through scent work dog training, dogs are now capable of using their strong sense of smell to help us, humans, in many different ways.
Let’s take a look at some of the most important ones.
Drug and Bomb Detection
Police departments all over the world have greatly benefited over the years by using detection dogs to find illegal substances such as drugs and explosives. Detection dogs are just regular dogs that have gone through proper scent work dog training, in this case by the police.
A common misconception among people is that dogs sniff out drugs because they want to eat them, but that is entirely wrong – they are actually searching for a toy. Yes, a toy.
The way that police dogs are trained is by playing a game of tug-of-war with a clean white towel. Once they have been playing with it for a while, a bag full of drugs is placed in the towel so that the dog can associate the smell of drugs with the toy.
Then, the police officer, or the handler, hides the towel and waits for the dog to find it. The dog is actually searching for the toy and is rewarded with another game of tug-of-war as soon as it finds the drugs.
As the training becomes more advances, various drugs and chemicals are introduced so that the dog can detect different illegal substances.
The difference between drug and explosive detecting is actually in the alert process. When dogs are trained for drugs, they use aggressive alerting, which includes digging and scratching where they smell the drugs.
Bomb detection dogs, on the other hand, use the passive alert and sit near the suspected explosives.
The most impressive quality of detection dogs though, is their ability to differentiate between individual scents, even when they are combined or masked. In fact, back in 2002, a drug detection dog was able to find marijuana which was placed in a balloon, and then smeared with coffee, pepper, and petroleum jelly.
Even though there is still a lot of research needed, some of the preliminary results for canine disease detection are promising.
In the same way dogs can be trained to detect illegal substances, they can also be trained to detect abnormal levels of blood sugar in people with diabetes, or even concentrations of alkanes generated by tumors in people with cancer. Pretty impressive, right?
Disease detection dogs also go through the same scent work dog training, but here they are training using the saliva of diabetic or cancer patients. Samples are carefully collected from patients and then frozen so they can be used for later training.
The history of dogs detecting diseases goes all the way back to 1989 when a report stated that a dog was frequently sniffing a lesion on its owner’s thigh, which then turned out to be early-stage melanoma.
But it wasn’t until recently when some more studies were conducted, which showed that dogs can detect cancer 40% of the time, that researchers were inspired to conduct more studies. There are now many reports from dog owners that say their dog was sniffing areas on their owners body and acting strangely, only to discover later on that they the person has cancer.
The use of detection dogs in the medical field has a lot more work before implementation, but so far, it’s certain that we can benefit from more scent work dog training for disease detection.
Truffle finding is a very lucrative business considering they only grow in certain areas and are hard to find. They have a strong and distinctive scent, which makes them an “easy” target for detection dogs.
And even though nearly all dog breeds can be taught to hunt truffles, the Lagotta Romagnolo is the main breed for truffle hunting. The key reason behind this is that they originate from the Romagna region of Italy, and have been used for many years to hunt truffles, breeding this scent work skill into their ancestry and genetics.
Still, if you’re interested in the truffle business but don’t have a Lagotto Romagnolo, with the proper scent work dog training you can teach any kind of breed to hunt for truffles. Besides the lucrative business side, training and hunting truffles with your dog can be a great bonding activity as well, and who wouldn’t want to spend time with their dog all while getting paid for it?
In recent years, dogs are often trained to detect bed bugs. Since finding bed bugs is a complicated process for humans, dogs are used to track down bed bugs as a safer alternative to using pesticides.
But the wonders of dogs’ incredible sense of smell don’t stop here. They can even detect wildlife scat, which is used to study many uncommon species. Dogs are able to provide researchers with scat in a non-invasive way, which does not risk harming the animals.
It has been wonderful to discover the range of skills a dogs sense of smell gives it, but even more amazing is the fact that we have learned to utilize their scent catching ability to provide us with various benefits. Dogs get their fair share of benefits as well. Constantly using their favorite sense provides them with mental stimulation, and spending time with their owner is always a pleasure to them.
If you wish to enjoy all these benefits with your dog without actually searching for drugs and explosives, you can enroll in a K9 NoseWork program with Trinny and enjoy a new hobby you can do with your dog.