Cancer Detection Dogs recently gained the spotlight for their ability to accurately smell cancer in breath, blood, or other tissue samples. These unique medical detection dogs undergo specialized training to alert their handler to the presence of cancerous cells. While this branch of scent work is relatively new, using dogs to detect, locate, or verify scents has been done for thousands of years. What is BioScentDX? BioScentDX, a company specializing in using canines for cancer screening, presented the results of their recent cancer detection research and studies at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting held during the April 2019 Experimental Biology symposium. Dogs, BioScentDX says, can be trained to detect cancer from scent samples with 97% accuracy. Heather Junqueira, the lead researcher and study director at BioScentDX, says dogs offer a low-cost, minimally invasive way to screen high volumes of patients. Quicker, cheaper methods of detection allow for earlier discovery of cancer, which allows for treatment to begin during the early stages of the disease. "This work is very exciting because it paves the way for further research along two paths, both of which could lead to new cancer-detection tools," said Junqueira. "One is using canine scent detection as a screening method for cancers, and the other would be to determine the biologic compounds the dogs detect and then design cancer-screening tests based on those compounds." Dogs' Brains Specialize in Processing Scents The canine brain prioritizes scent over the other senses. Furthermore, it dedicates a whopping 40% of sensory function to processing scents and smells. This allows dogs to reliably identify and catalog millions of smells. When a trained detection dog encounters a target odor, they alert their handler so appropriate action can be taken. For some detection dogs, the target odor is drugs, explosives, or the scent of a missing person. For others, like the cancer detection dogs at BioScentDX, the target odor is cancer. There are several breeds of dogs capable of locating and identifying scent diluted to parts per trillion. Beagles, Labradors, and German Shepherds rank high among them. "Parts per trillion" looks like a single spritz of perfume in a stadium or a half teaspoon of sugar tossed into an Olympic sized swimming pool. Another way to look at parts per trillion is with time -- it's the equivalent of 1 second out of 32,000 years. BioScentDX exclusively uses Beagles for their cancer screening programs but other researchers have ran
Search and Rescue Dogs perform incredible feats. Using their nose, they help their human handlers pinpoint the lost and missing, regardless of environment. Most people think of disaster search dogs or wilderness search dogs when thinking of search and rescue dogs, but search dogs also work in water, as do rescue dogs. Many think of "search and rescue" as a single thing, but SAR dogs can be trained for searching, for rescuing, or for both. When it comes to water and aquatic environments, there's a distinct difference between searching and rescuing. In a nutshell, water search dogs sweep lakes, ponds, rivers, and the surrounding terrain for human scent. Most water search dogs serve as human remain detection K9s but some also work the scent of live humans in the water, like divers or free swimmers. In contrast, water rescue dogs help people who are in trouble in the water, like struggling swimmers or boaters who became trapped in a storm. They swim out to those people and via varying means, bring them back to their handler. The handler is usually part of a rescue team. Depending on the environment, the human team members often remain in a helicopter or sturdy boat while the dog performs the rescue. Search Dogs Find Human Scent Water Search Dogs are also known as Water Recovery Dogs or Water Recovery K9s. These specialized search and rescue dogs alert to human scent in the water. Typically, they're trained to alert to the scent of human remains. Water Search Dogs help police find victims of drowning or to locate other bodies in the water. After hurricanes or massive floods, Water Rescue Dogs assist rescue teams with locating those missing as a result of the disaster so their family can get closure. Water Search Dogs often start out as Human Remains Detection Dogs and then they add water to their environmental skill set. Human scent is human scent, but the dog has to learn that it can be under water. Most of these search and rescue dogs work from a boat. Sometimes, for smaller bodies of water, they'll search along the shoreline or under bridges. The same breeds that excel with land-based search and rescue often perform water searches, too. Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, and various herding breeds, like Border Collies, regularly cross train for water searches or recovery work. Rescue Dogs Help People in Distress In contrast to Water Search Dogs, Water Rescue
Service Dogs and Assistance Dogs aren’t the only dogs in the world who do amazing, life-changing work, but they are one of the few types of working dogs clearly defined and protected by United States federal law. Too many people don’t understand the differences between many types of working dogs, though, and it’s time to clear up some of the confusion.
Fire departments and dogs have been working together for a couple centuries or more. Historically, Dalmatians were known for their ability to clear the way for the horse-drawn fire wagons. In modern times, working dogs still play a very important, but different, role in fire departments across the country. Arson Dogs Arson Dogs sniff out accelerants left behind at fire scenes. These hard-working detection dogs perform important work with their fire investigation handlers. They're taught to sift through the remains of suspicious fires, smelling for trace amounts of common fire-starting substances like gasoline or lighter fluid. When an arson dog encounters a substance they've been trained to detect, they sit next to the source of the scent in order to alert their handler to its presence. Arson Dogs can be any breed of dog with a lot of food or toy drive. Usually, though, arson dogs come from the retriever or sporting dog groups, which includes popular breeds like the Labrador Retriever, German Shorthaired Pointer, and several types of working spaniels. There are hundreds of arson dogs at work in the States today, with many of them provided to fire departments by the State Farm Arson Dog Training Program. Search and Rescue Dogs Search and Rescue Dogs search for lost or missing people in wilderness, urban, and disaster environments. Fire departments often employ Search and Rescue Dogs to help them find or recover missing people more quickly. Some teams, like the Phoenix Fire Department in Arizona, are certified as a FEMA Task Force, and their search dogs work worldwide during urban disasters. Search and Rescue Dogs are usually medium or large dogs who possess a lot of stamina, drive, and good temperaments. Labradors, Border Collies, and German Shepherds excel at search and rescue work. Tracking Dogs Tracking Dogs follow scent trails left on the ground by wandering people. These specialized scent work dogs excel at recovering people on foot, whether or not they want to be found. When the trail is fresh, a tracking dog can follow it through a variety of terrains, including urban ones like concrete or asphalt. Some tracking dogs can follow trails that are weeks or months old. Fire departments commonly use tracking dogs to help recover lost children or missing elderly people. Bloodhound are the most well-known tracking dogs, but Labradors, German Shepherds, and other working dog breeds often perform the job well. Crisis Response Canines Crisis Response Canines are a type of therapy dog. These
Search and Rescue Dogs work with their handlers, team, and emergency personnel to find and recover people or human remains. Utilizing scent, these highly trained dogs can cover and clear vast amounts of hostile terrain quickly, thoroughly, and effectively. They work on a grid, with the dog covering the entire grid side to side.
I was lost among the junipers in the starkly beautiful La Tierra Mountains just outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. I sat in a deep stream bed that could drown me in seconds with one flash flood. Lucky for me, temperatures hovered around 60 degrees during a storm-free afternoon. Would I be found by the search dog, I nervously wondered?
Service Dogs can ride in airplane cabins with their handlers, but other types of working dogs often aren't allowed. Learn about the best kennels and crates for transporting working dogs, including search and rescue dogs, police K9s, and detection K9s. Airline policies can vary widely concerning non-Service Dog working dogs.
London-based Hanwell Pet Store has created an infographic titled, “10 things you probably didn’t know about dogs.” (But since you’re reading Anything Pawsable, you likely already know these things and more!)