These dogs can tell if you have COVID-19 by smelling your sweat

These good boys are using their noses in the battle against Covid-19
These good boys are using their noses in the battle against Covid-19 Copyright AFP
By Hannah Brown with AFP
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El Salvador is a nose ahead of the rest in the battle against COVID-19 - with sniffer dogs.


Sniffer dogs in El Salvador have added COVID-19 to their sniffing repertoire.

A canine training programme in El Salvador, led by Spanish firefighter Jaime Parejo is training sniffer dogs to be able to identify COVID-19.

It is hoped that these dogs will be able to be put to work in the real world to identify humans with the virus and help reduce it spreading.

How can you train a dog to sniff out COVID-19?

As part of the training five samples are placed in a room, each containing an absorbent cloth, but only one containing the sweat of a person with coronavirus. The disease has an odour and, although humans cannot smell it, these dogs can.

When instructed, the dogs sniff and stop in front of the virus-infected sample. To signal that they’ve identified the COVID-19 sample they either wag their tails or sit down.

The method used to train these dogs is called The Arcon Method which was created by Jaime Parejo in 1994. Each dog is studied to understand their personality traits in three categories, autonomy, motivation and concentration. The training then seeks to optimise their personal characteristics to make them successful in their role.

It’s the same technique used to train dogs to sniff out mines, explosives and buried, missing or deceased persons.

“Using these parameters, the dog has been made more effective in being able to locate certain types of odour, either in debris from a possible earthquake or explosions, or also COVID-19 or other diseases whether cancer, malaria or dengue. The effectiveness of these dogs is unlike other methodologies in that these dogs can pick up the slightest smell very quickly,” Willian Cordova, a firefighter involved in the training explains.

Can dogs catch COVID-19?

Recent studies by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that dogs are able to contract COVID-19 if they have prolonged contact with someone with the virus but often show little to no symptoms.

The number of cases of dogs contracting the virus are very low and the CDC says “there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading COVID-19 to people”.

With vaccines being rolled out across the world, let’s hope these good boys won’t have to be sniffing COVID-19 sweat for much longer!

Watch the video above to see the dogs in action.

Video editor • Christophe Pitiot

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