Gluten has grown to be a huge topic in the United States in the past few years. It's now estimated that approximately 18 million Americans have non-Celiac gluten sensitivity- and around 3 million have Celiac Disease. As these numbers have grown, so has our awareness of the protein in question.
It feels like everywhere we look - in grocery stores, restaurants, and bars- there are countless gluten-free options for our friends who can't eat it. But, mislabels happen and it's hard to tell with certain products whether they contain gluten or have come into contact with gluten. Many products contain gluten that you wouldn't expect, as well, such as shampoo, lotion, makeup, and more.
So, in situations like these, can our puppers help out? Is it possible for us to train our furry friends to sniff out gluten and help us to stay healthy? YES! Scroll down to learn more.
Signs Your Dog Can Sniff Out Gluten
Our doggos use their noses to find a scent, following the scent to lead them to the desired subject, such as gluten. Their sense of smell is way beyond what we can even really comprehend. Dogs can smell about 1 million times better than us!
Because of this, we have employed our little puppers to help us in detecting a myriad of things that we just wouldn't be as good at sniffing out. Examples of these include guns, bombs, drugs, illnesses, allergies, and pests among other things. Gluten sensitivity has become such a prevalent occurrence that experts have turned to dogs for some extra help so we can avoid any gluten reactions.
Although dogs have natural sniffing abilities, they don't have natural direction to know what exactly to sniff out. This is why training is necessary for our pups to learn how to find things such as gluten or any other subject. Because of this, we can really choose how they indicate they have found gluten.
The most common way is to just have them sit and raise their paw up when something contains gluten. However, this sign is completely up to you or whoever will be training your little pup-detective. Read further to learn how to train your doggo to sniff out gluten and how it all really works.
History of Dogs and Scent Detection
Dogs have a long history of helping us out with their little sniffers. The first major employment of our furry friends in scent detection was back in the 1940's when a class of bomb-sniffing dogs was trained to find German mines in North Africa. By the 1970's, we began training our pups to sniff out illegal substances, such as heroin and cocaine.
Once private companies started seeing how successful the government has been with training dogs to use scent detection, they decided to start training puppers as well. Now, dogs are used to sniff out bed bugs, allergies and diseases, crime scenes, and - you guess it - gluten!
In terms of history, gluten sensitivity is very new to our society, so the demand for these gluten-sniffing pups will only go up from here.
Science Behind Dogs Sniffing Out Gluten
Ever wonder how your little pup has such an amazing sense of smell? Well, while we humans have approximately 5 million cells that help us smell, our pups have over 220 million! Our dogs also have a much larger sense-control area in their brain then we do, which really helps with their superb abilities. This doesn't just help with their detection abilities; it also allows them to be more refined in their scent detection.
So, our pups can not only smell way more smells than us - and smells that are much further away than we can, but they can also distinguish between smells in a much better way. Our pups are so sophisticated!
This incredible sense of smell is what aids our pups in being able to detect gluten in our food and other household products. With the proper training, your doggo can be an expert in sniffing out gluten!
Training Your Dog to Detect Gluten
In training your pup to detect gluten, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, a large part of this training includes teaching your doggo obedience. As a graduated service pup, they will be in a number of public spaces to do their job - restaurants, malls, grocery stores, friends' homes, and more. Because of this, a basic obedience training should be part of your program for your pup.
In the actual gluten-detecting training, you should first construct a gluten sense wheel. Products can contain anywhere from the smallest traces of gluten to having it be the main ingredient. Because of this, your dog needs to be able to detect these different levels of gluten. So, on your gluten sense wheel, start with small traces of gluten and work your way up to the full gluten protein.
Next, present gluten to your pup. Once they've sniffed it out, establish a signal with your pup, such as a raised paw. This will be how they tell you they have detected gluten. After this, go through the wheel one at a time, presenting a non-glutenous and glutenous product to your pup. When they sniff the gluten, give them a treat!
Other exercises you can do are hiding gluten or burying it and once your pup finds it, give them a treat for more positive reinforcement. It's important to continue training, even when your pup is fully ready for detection, so that their sniffer stays astute and ready to find gluten!
By Kelsey Bullis
Published: 04/27/2018, edited: 04/06/2020