Dogs Are Being Trained To Detect COVID-19 In Seconds

Trained dogs can now detect COVID-19 within seconds.

Six trained Bio Detection dogs with the Medical Detection Dogs organization went through double-blind testing to see if COVID-19 had a smell that dogs could pick up on. As it turns out, it does and dogs can detect it with “high levels of accuracy.”

The Medical Detection Dogs shared on Facebook, “This means they can very reliably identify when people do and do not have the disease and crucially, they detected it even when samples were from asymptomatic individuals.”

Photo: Facebook/Medical Detection Dogs

COVID-19 detection has largely relied on uncomfortable nasal swabs that most people try to avoid. However, these dogs could be changing things moving forward. With dogs able to detect COVID-19, it could change the way that detection is done in public settings. Rather than have everyone get a nasal swab test, sites could have trained dogs on hand to sniff individuals as they walk by and alert their handlers to those who smell positive.

The organization shared in their blog post about it that the findings of the research have not been peer-reviewed yet, but have been sent in for publication.

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They explained how the research was done, saying, “Asher, Kyp, Lexi, Marlow, Millie and Tala sniffed samples on a stands system that required a ‘yes/no’ decision on each sample. When they found the odour of COVID-19, they made clear indications to their handlers such as a sit, nudge or stare. If they didn’t detect the odour on what is known as a ‘blank run,’ with samples from non-Covid individuals, they walked past without indicating.”

Photo: flickr/Found Animals Foundation

They used samples from over 3,750 different people who donated things like dirty socks, face masks, and shirts for the dogs to smell.

They found that the dogs showed “a sensitivity of up to 94.3% and specificity of up to 92%, meaning they can reliably identify when people do and don’t have the disease.”

Their detection ability also proved strong on different variants of the disease. Professor James Logan, head of the department of disease control at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, shared with the Guardian:

“What was great was the dogs that have been trained on the original variant transferred to the new (Kent) variant. They could detect the new variant without any additional training. So this gives us real hope and really suggests that dogs are able to detect different variants of Covid.”

Photo: flickr/Phillip Capper

The Medical Detection Dogs shared in their blog post that this initial phase of research was so successful that they can now move on to testing the dogs in real-world public settings. Since one dog can test up to 250 people per hour, using medical dogs to screen for COVID-19 is not only more comfortable for participants but also much quicker and more effective in public settings.


The organization wrote, “We are now certain that dogs would be best used as a first, rapid screening tool, followed by a confirmatory PCR test for only those individuals indicated as positive by the dog.” Hopefully as subsequent trials and research is performed, that becomes a reality we can move towards!

You can learn more about the COVID-19 detection dogs and the Medical Detection Dogs on their website or Facebook page.

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