How A Special Team Of Dogs Are Using Their Snouts To Save Lives

All dogs have an amazing sense of smell. Usually, it’s used to sniff out treats (sometimes treats that weren’t even intended for them!).

But there is an extra special team of four-legged friends at Medical Detection Dogs who are using their snouts to save lives, detecting life-threatening diseases like cancer before it’s too late. 

At Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear, we are honoured to donate our training toys to Medical Detection Dogs (they receive no government funding and rely solely on donations). We asked their Medical Alert Assistance Trainer, Jess Bliss, to share some insight into how they choose and train the dogs that do their important work. Here’s what she had to say…

What does Medical Detection Dogs do?

Jess: ‘We train dogs to detect the odour of human disease. Using dogs in this way is at the forefront of the research into the fight against cancer and helping people with life-threatening diseases.

‘We currently have around 50 dogs in our medical alert training programme. Last year we placed our 100th dog into partnership with a type 1 diabetic client. We also have 30 bio-detection dogs working on projects to tackle various serious diseases, including Malaria and Parkinson’s.’

What makes a good medical detection dog? 

Jess says: ‘Our dogs are happy, easy going and keen to learn with a strong drive to do the job well.

‘We mostly use labradors and lab cross golden retrievers. We also have some spaniels as well as poodle crosses. Gun dog breeds tend to work best as they have good motivation to use their nose as well as good problem solving skills and confidence.

‘It’s essential that our dogs can cope with the sights, smells and sounds of lots of different environments – while remaining alert to the client’s condition and not getting distracted.’ 

How do you train your dogs?

Jess says: ‘We always start with puppies, that we get from a number of sources including the guide dog breeding scheme and privately bred dogs.

‘We have a strict ‘no kennel’ policy so at eight weeks old our puppies move in with our socialiser volunteers and their families.

‘For about the next 18 months, they are given basic training and become well-socialised. It’s then time to begin the matching process. We work hard to match the dogs with the right client – it’s hugely important that they bond and spend a lot of quality time together.

‘When we do make a match, our instructors work with them on scent training linked to the client’s particular condition.’

How does play help with your training?

Jess says: ‘Play is an essential part of our dog training as it promotes dogs loving to be with people. If we teach them that we are fun to be around, they will want to be around us more!

‘We love our dogs to retrieve and play tuggy and our Tug-E-Nuff toys help us achieve the perfect combination of chasing, fetching and sharing with us.’

Read more about Medical Detection dogs on their website and if you’d like to make a donation to help with their work click here.

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