Dogs That Use Their Nose For A Living

You know that dogs have an amazing sense of smell. But did you know that we humans put these dogs to work in odd and interesting ways?

For starters we all have heard about bomb-sniffing dogs. We also know about search-and-rescue dogs that can find people in disasters. And police use dogs all the time to sniff out drugs. But there are dogs that can detect cancer, bed bugs and more.

What got me thinking about the amazing ways that dogs’ noses are put to work, protecting or helping people in one way or another? A recent Associated Press article about how the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has brought a Weimaraner puppy onto the staff. The puppy’s job? To sniff out bugs and pests that could put the museum’s collection at risk.

Here is a quote from that story:

“Deputy Director Katie Getchell tells The Boston Globe that insects are an ongoing concern for museums and there already are existing protocols in place to handle potential infestations. Riley will add another layer and help sniff out pests humans can’t see.”

You may be surprised at some of the other ways government organizations and different enterprises are employing dogs and their noses. Here are two examples:

Customs and Border Protection

Years ago I wrote an article for a travel magazine on the beagles you’ve probably seen roaming airport baggage claim areas. These dogs are trained to sniff out foodstuff that travelers try to smuggle into the United States.

Known as the Beagle Brigade, it is a program the U.S. Department of Agriculture debuted in 1984; the program now runs under Customs and Border Protection. These dogs are part of the agriculture canine program, which also includes Labrador Retrievers that work at cruise ports, border crossings and more.

For travelers looking to bring back tasty treats from a trip abroad, these dogs can be a real buzz kill. But there’s a legitimate reason you shouldn’t bring certain food, plants or living things back to our country. You could unknowingly introduce plant pests or a foreign animal disease into the U.S.

Ever been “threatened” by a stink bug, which has no known natural predator here? That’s because someone probably illegally smuggled something from China or another part of Asia where the bug is native, and a stink bug hitched a ride. Or, the Environmental Protection Agency says, the bug could have stowed away on a container ship. Either way it got here when it shouldn’t have, and that’s the kind of pest these dogs can help prevent from infesting our agriculture.

University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania Working Dog Center (WDC) in Philadelphia is primarily a place where search-and-rescue dogs get their start. But there is a component to the WDC that involves tapping into that canine keen sense of smell.

“In addition to becoming search and rescue dogs, puppies have entered careers detecting human remains, bed bugs, gas leaks, explosives, narcotics and accelerants,” says an article on the University of Pennsylvania website.

Another cohort at the WDC is being trained to sniff out cancer—ovarian cancer, to be specific. This notion of a cancer smell test isn’t the work of science fiction.

Service dogs are already being used to smell diabetes—or rather when their handler is about to go into insulin shock—and Smithsonian magazine reports that researchers in Japan have successfully taught dogs to smell and recognize stomach cancer.

It’s amazing what a dog can smell that we humans can’t and how they can use their sense of smell to help keep us safe and healthy in so many different ways.

When not covering pets or money-saving topics for Parade, you can find writer Leah Ingram hanging out with her two rescue pups Oscar and Sadie or working on her profitable online store called Puppieware™ by Pawsome Doggie. Puppieware™ sells dog-shaped cake pans and bakeware, dog theme birthday party supplies, and unique gifts and housewares for dog lovers. Use code PARADE to save 10 percent.

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