Once upon a time, sniffer dogs were limited in their work. In addition to searching for people, they were trained to sniff out explosives, drugs, and cadavers. But as time passed, their roles continued to expand, and man’s best friend — with their 300 million scent receptors — has kept up with it all. Ever eager to please, they can’t wait to get started learning, as the process elicits praise, pets, and treats, three of their favorite things.
Sniffing out Illness
With increasing frequency, we’re reading about dogs who have saved someone’s life by detecting various cancers when no one else knew it was there. They just sniffed and licked and sniffed and licked a spot until the individual decided to schedule a medical appointment, and lo and behold a diagnosis was made. Now, dogs are sniffing out illnesses like COVID and Alzheimer’s disease. Able to pick up on the tiniest changes in the human body, they can even smell fluctuations in our sugar levels or when an epileptic attack is coming on.
Back in 2017, a Belgian shepherd named Chili was brought in by a farm called Nature Fresh as a last resort for solving a pepper weevil problem they were having. Not only can pepper weevils not be seen by humans, but pesticides only make them reproduce faster.
“We were at wit’s end – we didn’t know what to do,” said Cam Lyons, a pest management scout at Nature Fresh. “And in that desperation, I just got thinking of ‘What can we do that’s different?’ . . . so the idea of a scent detection dog just came to mind.”
Since Chili was brought on, the greenhouse has had almost no problems with the pesky pepper weevils. According to Chili’s handler, Tina Heide, “She’ll usually hit on the smell right away. It’s actually really cool to watch her, because sometimes as soon as she picks it up, she’ll whip around and head straight for it.”
Midnight at the Museum
We seldom think of canines at museums unless they’re guarding against thieves. Still, in 2018, one in Boston recruited a dog named Riley to protect its artwork, not from two-legged marauders, but the creepy-crawly kind. Destructive pests can destroy millions of dollars worth of exhibits in a relatively short period of time, so think of it like termites attacking your home.
Trained specifically to detect moths and other pests, Riley — a Weimaraner — was given a shot at the job. For some insight into canines’ abilities, Pepe Peruyero, owner of a dog-training facility known as Pepedogs, noted, “Every insect we’ve been able to work with, we’ve been able to train dogs to accurately and consistently detect them.” It’s extremely encouraging news for a number of businesses and fields where scent detection is necessary.
So, what field will sniffer dogs infiltrate next?
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