We first tracked down allergen-detector dogs back in 2006 when we discovered PeanutDogs.com run by Sharon Perry at the Southern Star Ranch Boarding Kennels in Texas. Sharon trains her dogs not only to sniff for peanuts but for narcotics, for termites and for ‘accelerants’ thus helping fire departments and insurance companies to establish whether fire was a genuine accident or was arson.
(I am not sure whose this lovely labradoodle that I used to illustrate the original article, belongs to – so I am not sure that he/she is actually a ‘peanut dog’. However, for what it is worth, because labradoodles are a cross between a poodle and a labrador, they have a poodle’s tight curls and are therefore among the less allergenic dogs if you suffer from dog allergy.)
Then we found Bill Whitstine in Florida who runs Mold-dog.com, sniffing out sources of mould in your home. Extremely useful for anyone suffering from a mould allergy although….. Having just checked their site, I am not entirely sure that they are still operational. I have emailed them to see if I get a response.
No – take it all back!!! I have had an instant, and somewhat peeved, response to my email to Bill Whitstine – he is still very much in operation. He says:
‘We have dogs trained all over the world, we have sold 11 bedbug detection dogs between Switzerland and France, none in the UK yet, but its really not that difficult. I travel to Europe once the dog is trained and teach the company the proper use, maintaining certification, etc. Skype is a wonderful tool for us to use with the customers. We also have dogs in Japan, Spain, all over Canada and also train dogs for food allergy detection such as peanuts, tree nuts, etc.’
Three years later, in 2009, we tracked down AngelServiceDogs in Colorado who sniff out a range of allergic substances – and they are certainly very much still in operation. Indeed you can see pictures of Geo, Dotty, Brie and Molly all of whose families have started websites either to raise money to get their dogs, or to report on how they are getting on.
And now John Scott has sent me a cutting about gluten-sniffing dogs…. A report in the Lansing State Journal tells the story of super-sensitive celiac Dawn Scheu and her gluten-sniffing German short haired pointer, Willow. (In the picture.)
In a former life Dawn had trained search and rescue dogs and when eating out became too hazardous for her to contemplate, she started to wonder whether a dog could be trained to sniff gluten. A fortunate meeting with FEMA-certified master dog trainer Kathryn Watters, and the acquisition of Willow, and she was up and running.
A year later Willow has transformed Dawn’s life and she and Kathryn have started Nosey Dog Detection Partners to train dogs not only to sniff out gluten, but sugar for diabetics. They are also training dogs to work with autistic clients and with those suffering from anxiety and depression.
Back in 2009 I could not find anyone in the UK offering similar training but I am glad to say that this evening’s trawl led me to Medical Detection Dogs in Milton Keynes. Medical Detection Dogs not only train dogs to sniff out allergens but to warn of diabetic hypos, narcolepsy attacks, Addisonian crises (which can cause severe pain seizure and lead to collapse), undiagnosed cancers and to find bedbugs before their eggs hatch and they attack!
Working my way on down the Google search options I also found the Georgia K9 Academy (in Ohio, as far as I can make out) who offer straight obedience training but also train assistance and support dogs. They specialise in ‘seizure detection companion’ dogs who can sense and warn of an oncoming seizure, and autistic companion dogs, but they also train ‘peanut dogs’ such as the totally irresistible Lillybelle, seen here with her peanut allergic owner Meghan – courtesy of Parentdish who ran the story about her.
For those more interested in the bedbug issue – and this most definitely includes commercial hotels chains etc – Vermikil has another team of bedbug detecting dogs that you can hire. Alternatively you could hire dogs from Detect-a-BedbugUK….
No…. I think this investigation has gone far enough! I shall go and take refuge with my cats!