This dog sniffs for a living
For kids: Mold can hide behind walls where it can't be seen, but specially trained dogs can sniff it out.
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Dogs are also tested with a spinning contraption that consists of six arms attached to a rotating wheel. Each arm holds a plastic container with a variety of items inside. Only one container holds mold.Skip to next paragraph
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"This is Duke's favorite part of the training," says Mrs. Flinton. Once every three months the academy sends a test, which consists of several sealed containers. These are attached to the wheel. Duke sniffs out the mold, then points, and the packets are sent back to the academy to be scored.
"So far," Mrs. Flinton says, "he's 97 percent accurate." This rating puts him slightly ahead of average compared with his canine colleagues.
"The dogs aren't foolproof," says Mr. Whitstine, "but they're very rarely wrong." They certainly do better than people. Studies show that a visual inspection by humans is accurate only 30 percent of the time.
"There are tests that can actually detect mold in the air, but you don't know where it's coming from. A properly trained dog can take you right to the source of the problem," says Mr. Whitstine.
Mr. and Mrs. Flinton also received training. They spent time at the Florida academy learning how to work with Duke and how to continue training him on their own. Once they returned home, Duke was eager to get started.
Let's follow in Duke's footsteps as he cracks a typical case: Duke arrives at the customer's home, and Mr. or Mrs. Flinton gives the command, "Seek." Nose to the ground, Duke sniffs his way around the house. When he finds mold, he sits down and points with his nose. If the mold is up high, he looks up. He's rewarded with hugs, a "Good boy!" and a treat. Next, the Flintons take samples and send them to a lab to be tested. When they know exactly what type of mold they're dealing with, they call in a specialist who knows how to clean it up and make the house a pleasant place to live again.
The Flintons feel good about the unusual service their furry friend provides. "Duke is a dog who definitely breaks the mold," they say.
Here are some more ways that dogs help humans:
Drug- and bomb-sniffing dogs make their way to the places where illegal drugs or weapons are hidden. They may work in airports and war zones. They also help police keep drugs out of our communities.
Hearing dogs are ears for their owners who can't hear. People who are deaf don't hear when the alarm clock buzzes, the doorbell chimes, or the telephone rings. Hearing dogs listen for these sounds, alert their owners by tugging on their clothes, and then take them to the source of the sound.
Rescue dogs are called in after a disaster such as an earthquake or a hurricane. They find people who are buried in the rubble from collapsed buildings and track those who are lost. Rescue dogs may be required to ride in helicopters or on ski lifts, and often go into dangerous places.
Seeing Eye dogs help people who have vision problems. They lead their owners through crowds and across busy streets, and also know to watch for curbs and unexpected bumps in the sidewalk.
Therapy dogs visit people to comfort them and cheer them up. They spend time with people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, or special-needs centers.
Dogs also herd sheep, pull sleds, carry and fetch things for people, and help police track down criminals.