5 Unusual Scent Work Dog Jobs you’ve Never Heard Of
We all know that there are dogs that sniff out bombs, lost hikers, and drugs.
Those dogs are all heroes but they aren’t the only ones! There are other cool jobs for dogs.
What about dogs that can sniff out cancer and even germs? Or dogs that can find whales in the middle of the ocean?
Trained dogs can now detect everything from diabetes to expensive truffles buried in the forest.
Scent work for dogs is expanding and your pooch may even be able to attend nosework school now or in the future. Really. Even teacup poodles.
How well do dogs smell?
Dog noses have 20 times more scent receptors than human noses. That’s not an exaggeration, that’s a conservative estimate. The actual figure is 220 million for a dog nose and 5 million for a human nose.
If a scent is in the air, they can smell it. Dogs smell at one part per trillion.
Alexandra Horowitz, in her book Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell, makes this analogy:
“The average cinnamon roll has a gram of cinnamon in it. Sure, the human nose is on it, from the moment we open the door of the house. Now imagine the smell of one trillion cinnamon rolls. That’s what the dog coming in with us smells when we enter.”
According to olfactory expert Dr. Lawrence Myers, when we smell a cheeseburger, our dog smells every minute detail about the cheeseburger down to the sesame seeds or the vinegar in the ketchup and all parts in between including who has touched it.
Yes, we can smell vinegar, but we’d be hard-pressed to smell everything that goes into making a cheeseburger – especially who may have touched it.
Dogs can smell more than we can, yes, but what is really important is that they can further discern smells in a way that we don’t.
Amazing Dog Jobs
You already know about the most common dog nosework jobs.
Here are a few you may not have heard about:
1. Cancer Detection
Remember that story about the woman whose dog discovered her cancer? Doctors and scientists are now working with dogs to detect cancer and other conditions in studies. They know the dogs can identify some cancers, now they just have to figure out how to use dogs in a hospital or doctor’s office environment for diagnosing patients. They’re working on it.
2. Mushroom Hunting
A truffle is special (and very expensive) mushroom that has been sought out as a delicacy for centuries. Historically, this job fell to pigs. But, pigs are pigs. A dog can be trained not to eat his quarry.
So why do truffles have to be sniffed out? Because they grow underground. Truffle hunters need pigs or dogs to find the mushrooms.
There are a few breeds that are excellent truffle hunters like springer spaniels, poodles, hounds and others. The most famous truffle hunting breed is the Lagotto Romagnolo which is bred in Italy expressly for finding truffles. If you saw one, you would think it was an unsheared poodle.
3. Prevent Diabetic Crises
Dogs are currently working as companions to diabetics. They can detect both low and high blood sugar levels before they become dangerous.
Diabetic Alert Dogs are some of the most intriguing scent workers. What they are smelling is a chemical change at a precise level.
They may go months or even years before they have to alert. A dog trained to do something that far ahead is very special. Their training is ongoing so that they remain motivated.
4. Convict a Criminal in Court
Some countries are using dogs to pinpoint criminals.
Yes, in the United States we have dogs that will sniff out someone in a public or private space that has explosives or drugs or some other illegal substance.
In countries like Finland, however, dogs are doing “scent lineups” where they are allowed to smell a piece of evidence and then smell their way through a lineup of suspects and pinpoint the right one.
This type of identification has not taken hold in the U.S., but there is one case in Texas where a detective did use a scent lineup to catch the bad guys.
5. Help Endangered Species
Environmentalists and scientists are working with dogs to track 13 endangered species including tigers, caribou, and the spotted owl.
The most stunning nose of all of these is Tucker the Labrador – a whale sniffing dog.
Tucker has been trained to track whale feces. What’s shocking about this is that the feces only remains on the surface of the ocean for brief moments before sinking and Tucker can smell it from miles away. His human handlers then steer the boat by watching Tucker’s reactions.
So are you sufficiently amazed?
If you want to see what your dog can do, you might find a nosework training class near you.
Or, you can try training at home.
The good news is that your dog can already smell well enough to find things. The real training lies with how well you can read your dog and how well you can keep him from reading you.