Dogs Trained To Sniff Out Coronavirus

Lead researcher Dominique Grandjean at France’s National Veterinary School of Alfort is training dogs to sniff out COVID-19. Since March eager canine noses have been exposed to sweat samples from people infected with coronavirus. Accurate detection requires 6-8 weeks training for dogs already primed to detect other triggers, 3-6 months training for rookie canines. Once dialed in, dogs exposed to a line of sweat samples can identify COVID with close to 100% accuracy. Notably identifying asymptomatic persons with remarkable acuity.

These dogs are trained to sniff out the coronavirus

Muzzle of a white dog, closeup on its nose.

On average, dogs have about 220 million scent receptors. Image via Shutterstock/

Today, COVID sniffer dogs are being trained in the UAE, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Belgium. In the UAE (United Arab Emirates) COVID-19 detector dogs now patrol airports. The ability to identify asymptomatic infection is huge, perhaps the difference between boarding a plane safely, or sitting next to someone unaware they’re carrying the virus.

Pup Pack

What goes through the mind of a person who thinks this is a good idea? Is he packing his pup to a dog park? Dropping it at doggie daycare on the way to work? Clearly this isn’t pup’s first pack, does it submit gracefully or kick up a fuss? Are doggie packs a thing, did I miss something?

2016-05-14 16.16.28-3

Apologies for image quality – it was a hasty cell phone capture in moving traffic. Click on the image, when it enlarges click again to magnify absurdity in all its glory.

National Dog Day

“Saving 10,000 dogs, one day at a time” is the motto of the National Dog Day Foundation. With two goals – honouring dogs for their love, companionship, hard work in specialized roles, and their vow to rescue 10,000 dogs a year from homelessness or abuse. Since 2004, August 26 has officially been recognized as National Dog Day.

2015-08-15 05.17.23

My little Boxer girl Ruby


ÖRuby is my dog – a boxer we’ve had for 4 years. Ruby isn’t our first boxer; Jessie preceded her, when Jessie passed away we agreed that no dog would enter our home until we could talk about her without crying. It took almost two years – Jessie was special part of the family. Ruby was located searching breeders on-line – we ended up meeting the out of town breeder in the parking lot of a motel about 50 Km’s from home. It was a toss up between Ruby and “Peanut” – the runt of the litter. For a brief moment of insanity we considered taking both; in the end we settled on Ruby.

Ruby is a unique animal; perhaps the tail-gate in a motel parking lot should have set off some alarm bells, but we were oblivious to reasonable thinking – none of us cried at the mention of Jessie, it was damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. She refuses to “do her business” when it’s raining – we live in a rain forest Ruby! Proficient at being sprayed by a skunk; she shares the experience without fail, by rubbing her skunk face on my bedroom carpet. She barks with wild abandon at the vacuum; but only when the power head isn’t attached – the hose drives her out of her mind. Absolutely terrified of a “Slinky” – she refuses to look it in the eye – her head faces the dreaded toy , frozen with fear, her eyes strain for a far away corner of the room. Her face was split open when she ran full speed into a tree while looking back at a dog she wanted to play with. She has a fondness for used feminine products – consuming them any chance she gets.

One night I came home late from work opening the front door into a dark hallway. I thought she was playing with one of her stuffed toys. It was a hot night so my husband had the back door open onto the patio – a patio surrounded by trees full of squirrels. I flicked on the light and started to scream. She had caught a squirrel, and there it lay on it’s back with a pink squirrel boner pointing at me. Perplexed and rather annoyed when my son rallied and extracted dead squirrel from our hallway. My brother is a trapper,  later explaining the boner was a result of where she broke it’s back. Yikes. Another time she presented me with a dead rat.

“Fetch” is a concept that eludes her. This game goes one of two ways – either we throw the ball and she plays “keep away” or I throw the ball and she runs to my bedroom window, dropping it outside. The first time this happened I ran outside, retrieved the ball and threw it again. Three times I ran outside until it dawned on me – she’s playing “fetch” with me!

We blame ourselves ; much like the parent of a wayward child would beat themselves up. I try not to dwell on it too much – it’s stopped raining and I have to take her for a walk.

It Wasn’t The Dog’s Fault

I know it wasn’t my dog’s fault, I should have been paying attention. She only wanted to say hello to pizza guy, and who could blame her. I know better than to turn my back on her exuberance; we had after all just left the house; she was a bundle of energy, coiled like a spring and raring to go.

I grew up with dogs; we had a Cocker Spaniel and a Saint Bernard. We lived on a farm, they had acres and acres to roam at will,not once were put on a leash, and slept outside in a dog house. It was only on the coldest of nights, after considerable pleading that my father relented, allowing them to come inside. They were well behaved, well adjusted, and part of the family.

Without question fond memories of my childhood dogs were the basis of our decision to purchase a dog for our family. My husband had similar memories, and we wanted our children to experience the same. Just one small problem – we live in a city, have busy lives, and  “off leash” rules.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my dog. She’s part of the family, and it wasn’t her fault. I thought for a few hours that my arm was broken but it feels a little better. The five bandages on my left hand are a nuisance, aside from the one  covering where the nail on my little finger was torn off, and possibly one covering grated flesh on my palm; they should be gone in a few days. It’s not her fault I wasn’t paying attention when her joy at going for a walk, and seeing pizza guy pulled me to the ground. Boxers are strong dogs – it wasn’t her fault.

A city dog is not a country dog, and it isn’t their fault.

A Few Thoughts on Stray Dogs

A few blocks from my house, a single city block has 3 dog “spas”. Even a hint of rain or snow and suddenly the side walks fill with embarrassed canines sporting expensive boots and slickers.  I gawk in disbelief as I spot dogs being pushed in custom carriages, or carried in expensive totes. The streets of my city resemble Paris, where dodging doggie doo is an art. Clearly North America has embraced this re marketed dog culture, a new badge of status and wealth.

Estimates put the worlds feral dog population at 600 million. In Bali alone there are half a million stray dogs, with   30,000  dog bite incidents last year. The WHO ( World Health Organization ) has issued a travel advisory for Bali, warning of the rabies problem.  Rabies kills 55,000 people a year, almost all a result of dog bites. In Baghdad of the estimated 1.25 million strays, 58,000 were destroyed in a three month period last year. Mauling by feral dogs are common and in some parts of the world, becoming a consideration for tourists selecting a destination.

In 2011 Americans spent over 50 billion dollars on their pets.

A pack of street dogs naps on a traffic island in Bucharest, Romania. In spite of a culling program, the animals swarm the streets—and occasionally maul residents and tourists. Photo courtesy of Flickr user cod_gabriel.