[Video] Guide dogs retrain as Covid-19 detection dogs

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Training to detect covid
Spencer. Photo by Lenscraft Photography.

All around the globe, dogs are being trained as potential Covid-19 detection dogs. UK charity Guide Dogs has now donated three withdrawn guide dogs – Ivan, Maple and Spencer – to Medical Detection Dogs, so that they can join an elite canine team working to detect Covid-19.

The three dogs were bred and raised to aid people with sight loss, but Guide Dogs found them unsuitable and decided to give them a career change. Full of energy and with a great nose, Labrador-golden retriever crosses Ivan and Spencer and black Labradoodle Maple have passed the first four-week trial with Medical Detection Dogs, and will start official training today.

You can see them in action in the video below:

If successful, these new recruits could be deployed as part of a trial to see if Covid-19 detection dogs could be used in public places to assist with rapid, non-invasive screening of people by identifying the odour of Covid-19, even when the person displays no symptoms. The Covid-19 detection dogs project is a collaboration between Medical Detection Dogs, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Durham University.

Chris Allen, Medical Detection Dogs’ Dog Supply and Training Manager at the charity’s head office near Milton Keynes, says, “We’re incredibly grateful to Guide Dogs for giving us these three fantastic dogs. Growing up as guide dog puppies, they’ve already had lots of experience being out and about in busy public places and meeting lots of different people – a huge benefit for us.

“The dogs thoroughly enjoy working – it’s a big game. We’re using their willingness to please, their drive, their wanting to use their nose, and shaping and redirecting it in a positive way.”

Ivan. Photo by Neil Pollock.

Tim Stafford, Director of Canine Affairs at Guide Dogs, adds, “Guide Dogs is delighted to be able to support Medical Detection Dogs, and collaborate in the fight against Covid-19 with this ground-breaking work.

“Although Ivan, Maple and Spencer were originally bred to be guide dogs, we always closely monitor the development and individual personalities of our dogs to ensure they are on the path in life that is right for them.

“Medical Detection Dogs has given these dogs a new career that suits their high energy and search drive, and everyone at Guide Dogs is excited to watch them go on to do amazing things.”

Maple. Photo by Lenscraft Photography.

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