Dogs can smell odors in the low parts-per-billion range, which is much more sensitive than a human’s sense of smell (somewhere near 1,000 times more sensitive). The things that dogs can be trained to do using their sense of smell is just amazing! Being a former mycologist, I knew that dogs (and pigs) can be trained to hunt truffles, and of course, we’ve all seen the drug-sniffing dogs at airports, but recent news articles that I’ve read got me curious about other things that dogs can be trained to do.
Dogs smell truffles
If you are familiar with truffles, they are fungi that form below-ground and certain types are a rare culinary delicacy worth hundreds of dollars. Both pigs and dogs are used to find truffles, but a pig is more likely to eat the truffle than a dog and arguably, a dog is more easily managed than a pig. I even found a website where you can purchase a pre-trained truffle-hunting dog for $12,500!! Here’s a short article about truffle-hunting dogs with a short Q&A with an Italian truffle hunter: http://zesterdaily.com/world/dogs-not-pigs-are-best-truffle-hunters-in-europe/
Dogs detect diseases in plants
The citrus industry is big business in some states and a diseased tree can be costly to a farmer. A dog trainer in Florida recently trained four of his 10 dogs to detect citrus canker and citrus greening. His dogs have a success rate of more than 90 percent! Read the full article at: http://www.news-journalonline.com/lifestyle/home-and-garden/2012/08/11/dogs-to-the-rescue-of-citrus-trees.html
Dogs can smell diseases and cancer in humans
DOGS SMELL DIABETES – Check this article out, it’s fascinating! Eli Lilly and ICAN started investigating whether dogs could be trained to sniff out changes in body sweat due to low sugar in people with diabetes. The results presented to the American Diabetes Association’s 72nd Scientific Sessions showed a “clear correlation between the number of alerts the dog gave and the number of hypoglycemic states that were detected and thus prevented over the duration of the study.” – http://www.bioresearchonline.com/doc.mvc/lilly-research-to-determine-diabetes-and-severe-hypoglycemia-0001
DOGS SMELLS BLADDER CANCER – a September 2009 study published in a leading British medical journal showed that dogs can detect bladder cancer by smelling the chemical odor of the cancer in urine. As a matter of fact, the study dogs detected cancer in a sample that was not suspected. The researchers went back to the patient and ran some tests, only to find out that the dogs were correct! A 60-minutes show tested one of the dogs from that study twice and she correctly identified the urine from a bladder-cancer patient both times. Read the article:Â http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-18560_162-665263.html
Dogs help with search and rescue
Rescue dogs are amazing animals. They search through wilderness, disaster areas, and water for humans. The American Rescue Dog Association tests member units every three years to make sure they meet specific standards, through a two-day field evaluation procedure. This is a volunteer organization making a difference by assisting law enforcement agencies.
In 2010, rescue dogs from all over the world were sent to Haiti to help with search and rescue efforts. Read an article: http://news.discovery.com/animals/search-and-rescue-dogs-from-around-the-world-go-to-haiti.html. One of the rescue dogs that went to Haiti was a shelter dog who now works with Los Angeles County. This dog was awarded the “dog of the year” award for 2010 by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Dogs sniff out human sewage
Ok, this is a weird one that popped up in the news recently. These dogs are trained to smell human waste. You might ask why….well, human waste, and the bacteria it contains, is an environmental contaminant. In order to find the source of the pollutant in local waters, these dogs help sniff out the source. I suspect this is a much more accurate way of finding polluted streams as compared to a fecal coliform count (which you might see in your local water supply report), especially since humans are not the only source for that bacteria. Here’s the rest of the article:Â http://www.seacoastonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120808/NEWS/208080367/-1/NEWSMAP
Dogs sniff out invasive species
Apparently the freshwater Quagga mussel has a smell to it, not that you or I would notice it other than the typical ‘fishy’ smell of the ocean. Police dogs in California have been trained to sniff out this mussel, which is a problem species due to its adaptive capabilities and rapid reproduction.
Dogs have also been trained to sniff out:
- human remains
- bed bugs
- fruits and vegetables at customs
Here are some other articles of interest: