You’ve probably heard about dogs that use their noses to sniff out explosives, find missing people, or even sense medical needs, like detecting cancer or predicting an oncoming seizure. Those aren’t the only things dogs’ noses are good for, though. Their super sniffers are often better at detecting things than our best machines, so there are tons of ways they can be used. People have come up with some pretty odd jobs for pups to do with their superhero-like sense of smell. Here are a few of the weirdest things dogs are trained to do with their noses.
1. Save Artwork
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston recently hired a furry staff member to help care for their precious works. Riley the Weimaraner is trained to detect moths and other bugs that feast on cloth, wood, paper, and more. Pest control is something museums need to do constantly to protect valuable and irreplaceable objects. Riley can detect art-eating bugs and will alert his human partner by sitting in front of any pieces that have pests present. A human can then examine the work for signs of damage. Pest detection isn’t just good for saving art. Dogs have been used to track down larva on golf courses so they can be eliminated before they become a problem, too. Hopefully Riley will be able to help bust bugs and save valuable pieces of human culture.
2. Find Whale Poop
Tucker is one of many dogs trained by Conservation Canine, a program that puts dogs’ noses to good use to help endangered animals. It may sound gross to go sniffing out whale poop, but Tucker helps scientists track down the excrement that holds valuable clues about the creatures’ genetic identities, diets, where their prey came from, hormone levels, pregnancy stages, and they can even tell if there are any pollutants in the whale’s system. Whales aren’t the only endangered species whose poop gets tracked down by trained pups. The program that trained Tucker also trains dogs to find scat from spotted owls, caribou, wolves, and tigers among other animals. These dogs are giving endangered species a fighting chance by helping conservationists get information that can help them preserve the environment and ecosystem.
3. Sniff Out Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are a growing problem in many of the major cities in the United States, and one way to combat the infestation is to rely on bed bug detection dogs. Roscoe is one such pup that can sniff out these little creatures that leave fecal droppings no bigger than a dot of ink. Bed bug dogs can detect with up to 98 percent accuracy, though sometimes that causes a problem. The scent of bed bugs can linger on clothes, waft through vents, or be brought inside by other animals or people. This means that sometimes the dogs indicate that there is an infestation when there isn’t one. This may be one of the few instances where being too good at your job is a bad thing. However, many people have benefited from dogs like Roscoe that find bed bugs before they can become a problem.
4. Find The Mushrooms
Have you ever had delicious truffles with your meal? If you’ve had a fancy French or Italian dish, you may have sampled one of these yummy and expensive mushrooms. The reason they cost so much is that they’re difficult to find, especially ones that are ripe and ready to eat. Rare truffles can sell for $2,000 per pound. One of the best ways to find them is with a trained truffle-hunting dog. Although there are several breeds with great sniffers that are often relied on for truffle hunting, really any dog with a decent nose can be trained for scent work. For that reason, many ordinary people go on truffle hunts with their dogs as a hobby. So next time you try one of these delicacies, remember a pup may have tracked it down for you.
5. Detect Computer Hardware
In the modern age, there are tons of crimes that can be committed with computers, hard drives, and other forms of technology. This is a challenge for police, as sometimes thumb drives and storage devices can be very tiny and hard to find. While small drives may be difficult for us humans to spot, they’re no problem for dogs that have been trained to detect the scent of hardware. Bear, a black Labrador, is one dog trained to do just that, and he was integral in busting former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle a few years ago. Bear managed to find a data storage device in Jared’s home that was used as evidence in his conviction. Bear went to work for the Seattle Police Department to continue investigating internet crimes.
6. Look For Sewage Problems
You probably don’t spend much of your day thinking about sewers, but they’re pretty important to our lives. There are tons of things that can flow into sewers that pollute not only the environment, but our own water supply that we use to wash our stuff, bathe, and drink. Luckily, we have dogs to keep us safe. Dogs can be trained to detect pollutants in water and track down their sources. They can sniff out raw sewage, dangerous chemicals and detergents, illegal pipe connections, or pipes that have broken down among other things. Water samples can be taken to test pollutants in a lab, but the problem is that the results can take days or weeks to come through. Dogs, on the other hand, indicate immediately whether something is wrong and find the source right away. These pups are keeping our water safe and protecting the environment.
7. Help Archaeologists
Archaeologists spend a good amount of time digging, so it’s not much of a stretch to think that dogs would be able to help them out. However, dogs aren’t really being trained to dig up old pots and bones, but rather to detect these items so humans can find valuable artifacts. Migaloo is one of these dogs, and she’s trained to find old bones. Dogs are sometimes used by police and disaster responders to find cadavers, but finding bones that are hundreds of years old is a little different because dogs need to be trained to find the odors of bones, specifically, and not the odor of rot or decay, which can be found all over the place in, say, a forest. Dogs aren’t just trained to find valuable artifacts in the field, though. Some are trained to bust artifact smugglers who steal pottery, bones, and other items. Usually these pieces of history are stolen from war-torn countries like Iraq and Syria, smuggled, and sold for a high price. The dogs that detect these items help law enforcement bring down thieves and preserve culture. So dogs aren’t just finding valuable objects for archaeologists, they’re using their noses to save those findings, too.
What other strange jobs have you heard of that dogs can do with their noses? What jobs do you think dogs can do that they have never tried before? Let us know in the comments below!