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Using Scent Detection Dogs in Conservation Settings: A Review of Scientific Literature Regarding Their Selection

By Sarah C. Beebe, Tiffani J. Howell, Pauleen C. Bennett

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Dogs are widely used for scent detection work, assisting in searches for, among other things, missing persons, explosives, and even cancers. They are also increasingly used in conservation settings, being deployed for a range of diverse purposes. Although scent detecting dogs have been used in conservation roles for over 100 years, it is only recently that the scientific literature has begun to document their effectiveness and, importantly, how suitable dogs should initially be selected by organizations wanting to develop a detection program. In this paper, we review this literature, with the aim of extracting information that might be of value to conservation groups considering whether to invest in the use of dogs. We conclude that selection of appropriate dogs is no easy task. While olfactory ability is critical, so also are a range of other characteristics. These include biological, psychological, and social traits. At present, no validated selection tools have been published. Existing organizations have adapted selection instruments from other contexts for their use, but very little published information is available regarding the effectiveness of these instruments in a conservation setting. In the absence of clear guidelines, we urge those wanting to invest in one or more dogs for conservation purposes to proceed with extreme caution and, preferably, under the watchful eyes of an experienced professional.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2016
Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume 3
Issue 96
Publisher Frontiers
DOI 10.3389/fvets.2016.00096
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animals in culture
  4. Canine scent detection
  5. Conservation
  6. Dogs
  7. Mammals
  8. odors
  9. olfaction
  10. Pets and companion animals
  11. Physical environment
  12. Selection
  13. Service animals
  14. Social Environments
  15. wildlife
  16. Working animals