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Developing Superior Noses
UPenn to find out what makes up a superstar sniffer dog
Bretagne is one of the dogs in the first study group.

Working canines use their amazing noses to help us do everything from finding explosives to detecting cancer. Raising and training these dogs takes a lot of time and money, so people are always looking for ways to increase the likelihood of successful dogs.

In Korea, the Customs Service started cloning star drug detection dogs due to their costly breeding program. Only 10-15 percent of puppies pass the behavior test just to quality for training, and only 30 percent of those dogs graduate from the program.

In the United States, the University of Pennsylvania’s Vet Working Dog Center is now setting out to study genetics and behavior in a program designed to develop superior scent dogs.

Seven puppies were donated by breeders-- two Chocolate Labradors, Thunder and Papa Bear; three Yellow Labradors, Socks, Sirius and Morgan; a Golden Retriever, Bretagne, and a female Dutch Shepherd, Kaiserin. They’re all named after brave 9/11 search dogs and will live with foster families when they’re not at the Center.

For the next two years, researchers will collect and analyze genetic, behavioral, and physical data to understand what makes a successful scent dog. The information will be used to build a breeding program to produce superstars--better search and rescue canines, better drug sniffing pups, and even better cancer detection dogs!

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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