Smelling-Nose Dog?
January 29, 2009 1:19 PM   Subscribe

My fiancee and I are both anosmic. We've joked about needing a smelling-nose dog, but is that possible? Could you train a dog to recognize and alert you to certain smells? If so, how?

Some examples: Dirty diapers; gas from a gas stove; sour milk; expired foods such as deli meat; smoke from a fire; clothes that are past a certain threshold of BO-saturation...

I ask this knowing relatively little about smell or dog-training.
posted by Robson to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Absolutely. Dogs are smell-trained all the time. Drug dogs, for example. I don't know how available service dogs for the olfactory-impaired actually are, but I do know from experience that dogs are highly trainable, especially when it comes to smell.
posted by katillathehun at 1:24 PM on January 29, 2009

Seems like the difficulty would be in training the dog to alert the owner to so many smells, since they're usually trained to detect one very specific thing (bombs, drugs, frozen people).
posted by mudpuppie at 1:35 PM on January 29, 2009

You might try contacting someone at Assistance Dogs International to see what resources are available.
posted by phunniemee at 1:37 PM on January 29, 2009

Such dogs seem to already exisit for diabetes:

So it should be possible...
posted by tiamat at 2:47 PM on January 29, 2009

I've definitely seen this on some Discovery Channel program or something. Dogs that are trained to alert the owner to the smells of smoke, natural gas, etc. The ones I saw were only trained for immediate emergency-type smells, though, not BO or spoiled food.

Hmm. Can you imagine a dog that goes bonkers if it smells BO? That could be a problem out in public.
posted by vytae at 2:48 PM on January 29, 2009

Best answer: I have a friend who trains dogs to detect incipient epileptic fits in those who suffer from bad ones. The trained reaction might be that the dog would sit down and bark while looking at you when it works out what is happening. Some dogs can be trained to get the person's meds from the fridge.

However, as mudpuppie point out, each trained reaction takes quite a while to get right. You need to pick a dog which is suited to being trained in this kind of way (and finding the right one is apparently half the battle). For a professional trainer there is also quite an element of having to train you, the owner, so that you and the dog can work well together.

If you are looking for something like a seeing eye dog they are relatively easy to find because people have worked out a standard for what they want them to do. If you are looking for a bit of one off training then you will need more effort - on your part or somebody else's.
posted by rongorongo at 2:52 PM on January 29, 2009

Best answer: Most dogs will "alert" in their own fashion to anything that smells different or interesting. They will tell you clear as day, you just need to pay attention to them and learn their signs. Diaper needs changing? They will "greet" the baby. Something weird coming from the kitchen? Watch their ears perk up, and they may go to investigate. Most likely, you could go to the pound, get a random Lab, and he or she will tell you everything you want to know about stuff that smells. Just don't ever punish them for "investigating".

But don't expect too much. Bad meat will be just as interesting to a dog as good meat. The other stuff you might want to use visual cues for or just keep to a strict schedule. Get a fire and gas detector. Your dog will probably bark or come see you whenever anything "different" happens, but I would not bet my life on it.
posted by txvtchick at 4:43 PM on January 29, 2009

Absolutely get in touch with assistance dogs groups - local and otherwise. You might also get in touch with some local sniffer dogs people. Although they train for crime and illegal bacon imports, they are going to be aware of the nose-hound trainers in your area. Same deal with search and rescue - the goals aren't the same, but the training is close enough for government work.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:44 PM on January 29, 2009

I would think this would be very important for certain safety reasons. A dog trained to alert you to smoke or gas or chemical would almost be essential. I know this can be done and is done.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:31 PM on January 29, 2009

« Older what do you wish you would have known when you...   |   Security clearance in the UK? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.