PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Local dog trainers are looking for dogs and their owners to train the dogs on how to detect COVID-19 in people.
A dog, named Kona, is learning to detect a scent at a facility in Imperial. It could be any scent right now, but soon, it will be the scent of COVID-19, once the urine or saliva samples arrive from the University of Pennsylvania.
“The research at the University of Pennsylvania is very promising,” says professional dog trainer Paul Anthony.
“This could be years before we could have a vaccine, but these dogs should be able to be ready a lot faster,” says Elissa Weimer, head dog trainer for this COVID detection task force. “It’s going to be a lot cheaper to get these dogs up and running and actually find the virus before we even know, so it’ll stop the spread of the virus.”
Weimer and Anthony showed KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen how they train dogs to detect a specific scent hidden in scent tubes.
A dog named Zera is already trained to find narcotics. “She gets to play once she finds the scent. That is her reward. That’s how we’re going to train,” Weimer says, as Zera finds the scent.
Once the dogs are trained in an eight-week course, they plan to use them at hospitals and stadiums, so the dogs need to be socially and environmentally trained as well.
“I’m looking for dogs that will fight these other distractions, like noises and people walking by, and focus on the task at hand. (We need) dogs that can problem-solve without their owners telling them every little bit,” Weimer adds.
Weimer and Anthony already selected 13 dogs in a “speed dating” type of test, but they’re looking for more dogs and their handlers to detect COVID. If your dog has a strong food drive or ball drive and good work ethic, you can get the application and also donate here.