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Dogs’ contribution to the project

KDOG
04/05/2018
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Dogs’ sense of smell is about 1,000 to 10,000,000 times more sensitive than a human’s. They can distinguish and memorize specific odors in tiny quantity of matter. When trained to scent detection, dogs can find the tumor’s smell within human body fluids such as sweat. KDOG trains dogs to detect breast cancer by sniffing a compress that was previously in contact with the skin.
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Dogs’ contribution to the project

Thanks to crowdfunding, two 18-months Belgian Shepherds, Thor and Nykios, were bought for the research during April 2016. Belgian Shepherds are particularly fit for this work due to their high learning and concentration skills, their stamina and playful nature. Other pedigrees are a priori also able to pursue cancer detection. Recently, a young Springer has also joined KDOG and is trained following the same protocol.

Every dog is to be trained between its 14 and 18 months and can work on average until its 9 years old. Training lasts between 3 to 6 months, from acquisition of primary olfaction memorization up to the detection of infected cells at a very low threshold. The goal of this training is to enable dogs to detect cancer by progressively lowering the perception threshold and consequently, to make them identify the odor even in tiny quantities of matter. Dogs are trained by proficient dog-experts and followed regularly by veterinarians and ethologists.

The training of sniffer dogs

In August 2016, 130 women participated to the first phase of the study by providing « healthy » and « cancer » samples. These samples were sent to a lab in Magnac-Laval (Haute-Vienne, France) where Thor and Nykios started their training. Different steps in dogs’ education were required to improve their skills:

  1. Firstly, the dog expert proceeds to the recognition of the odor, teaching the animals what they should be searching for, and then to the « deep » memorization of it. After they have memorized it, dogs are put in the situation of research. During exercises, one “cancer” sample was put amidst three other “healthy” samples. The dog should identify and signal the “cancer” one.
  2. Secondly, dogs should directly recognize the « cancer » sample among the others without having memorized it before.
  3. Dogs should equally signify when no cancer sample is present among the line.
  4. Dogs are now working off the leash in complete autonomy from their dog handler.