Can Dogs Detect Gas Leaks?

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Introduction

Detector dogs are the bad guy’s worst enemy as they sniff out their stash of drugs or find firearms in the boot of their car. The insatiable sniffing powers of dogs have given them a permanent job detecting everything from cancer to banknotes and diabetes to bed bugs.  

Would you believe there are dogs trained to search miles of gas pipes looking for leaks? It seems dogs and their supernatural sense of smell are in demand, with the big oil and gas companies who have found dogs to be legends at finding the smallest of leaks, saving huge amounts of dollars. Our Sherlock sleuths are outsmarting technology with their nifty noses.

Introduction of Can Dogs Detect Gas Leaks?

Signs a Dog Can Sense Gas Leaks

Meet Hunter, a youthful Husky mix who detected a gas leak and saved his new family from harm. According to NY Daily News, this clever canine had been adopted from a local Humane Society and was sleeping on his pet parents' bed when they awoke to hear him whining. His new pet-mom opened the door thinking he needed to go out, but Hunter just kept crying. 

The couple tried to go back to sleep but Hunter was not happy and gently bit his pet-mom, trying to get her attention. He then jumped off the bed and started spinning around, then took off into the kitchen. His guardians followed and found a burner on the stove was turned on and gas was leaking everywhere. Seems like it had been on for some time and Hunters owners could not smell the gas as they both had colds. Hunter’s ability to smell the gas and sense that it was dangerous, saved the day.

Dogs are supreme detectors on the job checking out pipelines for leaky gas. They can walk for miles with their handlers and once a whiff is detected, the dog on duty digs and scratches at the ground to alert their handler. Canine co-workers on the hunt for gas or oil leaks save a company money, time, and manpower. A special chemical mix dogs are trained to detect is fed through the pipes and rises up through the earth when there is a gas leak. The dog detects the smell and the repairs begin.

Natural Gas measures one-fourth of all energy used in the USA and Pipeline 101 tells us there are around 2 million miles of pipelines transporting gas into homes and businesses throughout the nation. One gas leak could shut down services in an area until the dogs are sent in to quickly detect the problem. When they find the leak, their reward could be a treat or toy as they play-bow ready to have some fun.

Body Language

Signs a dog can detect a gas leak are:
  • Digging
  • Whining
  • Scratching
  • Sniffing
  • Biting
  • Spinning
  • Play bowing

Other Signs

More signs a dog can tell gas is leaking include:
  • Trying to get their owner's attention
  • Digging and scratching at the ground
  • Alerting their handler

History of Dogs Detecting Gas and Oil Leaks

History of Can Dogs Detect Gas Leaks?

In the late 90’s, Eon Chemical Co got interested in dogs and how they could detect leaks in gas and oil pipelines under the ground. Understanding that woofers could be trained to find a specific scent, the researchers created a chemical called Teckscent.

This was clever thinking, as they incorporated this dog-sniffing odor into the gas and oil that gets pumped through the pipes. When a leak occurred, the smell of Teckscent would rise up through the ground and be quickly detected by dogs they had trained. OK News sniffed out this story and the ingenious idea by an offshoot of the mega Exxon Oil Company, looking to minimize the damage, environmentally and financially a leak can cause.

Taking a leaf from police K9 and military sniffer dogs, researchers were positive dogs could sniff a pre-designed scent. At the time, Labradors were the dog of choice, renowned for their loyal, steadfast nature and eager ability to retrieve and learn. This Canadian canine is also one of the most popular family mutts on the planet.

The success rate for dogs sniffing Teckscent has been super-high, with sniffer dogs finding the scent up to 12 feet under the earth and in territories with clay, soil, and permanently frozen terrain. These tenacious woofers often work in all kinds of weather and temperatures. After intensive testing, researchers found dogs could seek out a leak better than a gas chromatograph.

Looks like floppy ears, 4-legs, and a nose that could dig up the dirt on a politician is helping humans detect the tiniest of gas leaks all over the US and Canada.

The Science of a Dog's Detector-Nose

Science of Can Dogs Detect Gas Leaks?

Dogs have been recognized for their exquisite smelling machine that makes light of detection work and puts expensive equipment in many industries on the shelf.

Walking long stretches through some rugged territory is no sweat for the dog and his handler looking for a gas leak in the pipeline. Some of the pipes have been in the ground for a long time and small leaks can arise, needing a dog that can smell fragments of gas 1-2 parts per trillion. State-of-the-art equipment is no match for the gas-sniffing mutt who has a natural ability inherited from their ancestral wolf.

A dog's brain may be smaller than a human's, but the capability to smell stinky things is Titanic compared to ours. Larger woofer noses have more scent receptors than a dog like a Pug or Dachshund, with the canine star of the show being the scent-happy Bloodhound that has a whopping 300 million smelling receptors!

When that learned odor comes wafting up from below, it's all systems go as a pooch soaks up the scent creating a eureka moment in their brain. Then, they start digging to confirm their find.

Training Gas-Leak Dogs

Training of Can Dogs Detect Gas Leaks?

Dogs have a celebrity sense of smell gifted to them by wolves thousands of years ago. Nature manufactured the perfect smelling engine so the predatory wolf could sense prey well into the distance. The dual effect was a high-tech system that could detect those wanting to dine on a member of the pack.

Nature can be cruel, so the wolf was equipped with incredible senses to stay safe and put food on the table for their offspring. Our whiffing woofers may have lost much of their predatory instincts, but not their insane sense of hearing and smell.

Our nose-to-the-ground pooches have been sniffing for their fellow man since the Middle Ages when the local constable used Bloodhounds to hunt down criminals. In the late 1800’s, a Bloodhound was employed to track the notorious “Jack the Ripper.”

Step into the 21st century and detector dogs have literally taken over the planet. They are on duty at the airports, borders, and schools sniffing for illegal substances while using their superior shnozzes to find gas leaks.

The reality is a dog can sniff anything and learn quickly to identify a particular scent. We teach them to sit, stay, and come plus perform in agility trials that require them to fly over jumps and squirrel through tunnels. Our willing woofers have a degree in learning human ways and are relatively easy to train. That’s why the police have top dogs like the Belgian Malinois tracking the guy who just committed a crime or the fun-loving Beagle on termite patrol.

Detector Dogs Services Limited is a Canadian-based company run by an ex-police officer who served in Bosnia training dogs to detect landmines. Ron Mistafa saw the potential for dogs to find the gas leaks that fancy equipment couldn’t. He sources dogs from the SPCA or Lab rescue organizations like Duke, a yellow Labrador and a German Shepherd called Max. He also looks for pups with the stamina to walk the pipelines.

A canine's ability to single out a certain scent is why they make such amazing detector sleuths. When the smell of dirt, plants, and the handler's after-shave are being blown around in a desert wind, these doggy detectives are able to recognise the gas leak above all the other scents.

How to React if Your Dog Detects a Gas Leak at Home:

  • Praise them for keeping you safe.
  • Reward your pooch with a toy or treat.
  • Read articles to see if your pooch could be a detector dog.
  • Share your story.
  • Take note if your dog is acting a little crazy.