4 Paws has added the training and placement of allergen detection dogs to their growing list of types of service dogs trained. As more and more parents asked about training dogs to detect peanuts in their child’s environment, 4 Paws began last year providing this skill for several of our families. Yet, peanuts are not the only life-threatening allergy our children face. At the current time 4 Paws is working on the training and placement of a gluten sniffing dog and hope that this may be an added benefit for many future families whose children have Celiac’s Disease or may otherwise respond negatively to gluten in their diet. To date, we have only seen this done by a facility in Slovenia.
Our goal in training these dogs is the same as any scent detection trained dogs. Dogs have been trained to detect and alert handlers to a wide variety of scents for years with bomb and drug detection being the most commonly known. Scent detection is already a skill that 4 Paws has been training their dogs in for 15 years from finding a lost child with Autism to alerting parents that their child will have a seizure or that their child’s blood sugar is high or low. It was an easy transition to add new scent based tasks to the program.
So what exactly do detection trained dogs alert to? The answer is simple – scent! The dogs are not out there actually sniffing for drugs, bombs, or lost people; they are looking for the presence of their odor in the immediate environment. Our dogs trained in food allergy alert are sniffing out the odor left by the presence of the food in the environment. If there is scent to be found, a dog trained to respond to that scent will find it. Our dogs are thus trained to recognize a certain scent, such as peanuts, and alert either the child or the caregiver to the presence of that scent in the immediate environment.
As with all of our scent based training, no scent trained dog will ever be 100% accurate. There are many reasons for this including but not limited to; the item may be so old it has simply lost its scent; the item may be concealed in a storage system that blocks the odor yet if your child opens it, it would be too late for a reaction from the dog to make a difference; the dog may even just miss the scent. Dogs, like people, can be not up to par on a certain day or may even choose not to work.
This is a new and exciting field of work for service dogs. If your child has a food allergy feel free to contact us to see if we can work with you to train a dog to “sniff out” what your child is allergic to.