Testing for COVID-19 is now more important than ever to avoid a second wave, sweeping local regions and whole countries in and out of lockdown. However, it has been widely acknowledged that mass testing regimes will play a key role in minimizing the impact of the disease. As testing is proving challenging in some environments and even in some countries, are there other reliable methods which could prevent COVID-19 from spreading? Some dog behavioral experts believe the key could be in the form of our canine friends.
How can dogs act against COVID-19?Since the global outbreak, researchers have been accessing the accuracy of dogs trained to detect people infected with COVID-19, especially those who are asymptomatic and aren't displaying symptoms.
If proven effective and accurate, detection dogs could be invaluable towards the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
What are dogs trained to detect?Detection dogs will often have to pass four stages of training before they can begin working in a live environment for a new scent.
The scent will be placed in a tube or on a piece of cloth. The dog will then play with it until associating the object with the odor.
While the dog is watching, the object is hidden in an easily accessible area before being encouraged to find it. The object will then be hidden in more difficult areas to access. Positive reinforcement is used to encourage the dog to find the object.
The object covered in the desired scent is now hidden in an inaccessible place, without the dog watching where it is hidden. They will then be given a command to find the object and trained to signal when they can smell the desired odor.
The object is no longer used and the dog must now learn to search for the odor associated with the object.
Around the world, there are a number of different researchers looking into the possibility of training dogs to detect COVID-19. The Nosais Project in France at the Alfort Veterinary School is being led by Professor Dominique Grandjean and Clothilde Lecoq, who are looking into the effectiveness of training dogs commonly used to detect other substances.