Friday, 14 December 2018
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Penn Vet Working Dog Center course trains amateur dogs in scent detection skills – The Daily Pennsylvanian

Morgan with Trooper Stanker on scent wall

Photo from John Donges

Penn Vet Working Dog Center is hosting training for local non-professional dogs to enhance their sense of smell in a new class this fall. The class, titled “Citizen Science,” allows dogs to improve their smell-detection skills that could be used in research studies.

After completing all the levels of training, the dogs participating in the class will be able to take part in Penn Vet research studies that use their sense of smell to detect ovarian cancer, find artifacts, and identify bacterial biofilm infections.

Shelby Wise, who is pursuing a Masters in Criminology in the School of Arts and Sciences and a Masters in Social Work at the School of Social Policy and Practice, is currently an intern at the center. Wise said the center currently only has a handful of dogs who participate in the studies, but the class will significantly expand the pool of dogs involved.

Philadelphia resident Anastasia Ayzenberg brought her dogs to the center when a vet told her that one of her schnauzers was suffering mentally from a lack of stimulation.

Ayzenberg added that her dog, Challah, gets excited in anticipation of the Penn Vet class every time she picks up the tracking leash for scent detection training. 

“[Challah] hops like a bunny. She’s seven years old now, but she prances around like a young puppy,” Ayzenberg added.

Photo from Anastasia Ayzenberg

Wise said while the course’s dogs are considered amateurs, many of them do scent detection for sport.

“These dogs that take the class have already had some nose work experience, meaning that they have practiced the skillset of searching for a scent before, and have competed in some form of competition as well,” Wise said.

If the dogs in the course perform well enough on certain scent identification tests, they are invited to participate in a more advanced course to further develop their abilities, Penn Today reported. Owners also have the option to enroll their pets in a research study at the center.

Wise said the center does not always do serious research and training, however, adding that a highlight of her summer was going to Great Adventure in New Jersey along with the center.

“If you’ve never seen 25 dogs and 40 trainers, handlers, hiders, and data recorders run around a water park for the day doing searches, environmental agility, and letting the dog swim in the lazy river you’ve missed out on pure happiness,” Wise said. “Every dog and human went home happy and tired that day!”

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