Dogs are well known for their elite olfactory abilities, however their olfactory threshold and the use of their olfactory capabilities as a diagnostic tool are largely uncharted waters.
The Penn Vet Working Dog Center has several groundbreaking research studies in both of these areas of interest. Over the past five years the PVWDC, we have demonstrated the value of dogs in medical research and immersed ourselves in discovering the science of “what makes a working dog”.
Through these research projects, we have discovered that one of our big challenges is having enough dogs to participate in the research studies. Thus, the PVWDC is opening our doors for collaboration through citizen science.
Citizen science is “the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists.” The PVWDC is striving to utilize citizens who currently compete in odor work with their dogs.
The goal of the citizen science program is that after completing this introductory course (Level 1) to the research odor used at the PVWDC (Universal Detection Compound; UDC), we will be able to identify dog/handler teams who have the capacity to participate in ongoing research studies at the PVWDC.
UDC is a proprietary synthetic volatile compound that was created by research scientists at Florida International University for use by the PVWDC. The odor resembles no other odor, meaning handlers of odor working dogs will not have to worry about it impacting their dog in odor detection competition or real life work. The PVWDC uses UDC to train working dogs how to search for odor independently from the handler. This allows the dog to learn to search rooms, vehicles, and other simulated real live odor locations, preparing them for career work.
Individuals who chose to participate in this initial course will have the opportunity to complete Level 2 and Level 3 courses, each of which will teach the handler and dog new or improved skills for working odor. All dogs and handlers will be taught with the PVWDC philosophy of positive reinforcement and learn how to work a 12 port odor wheel. Through participation in our citizen science program, you and your dog will help shape the working dog world through research and education, while learning techniques that will enhance your dog’s odor detection skills for sport or work.
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