Colchester dogs trained to catch Covid

A charity that trains dogs to detect Covid-19 is looking for volunteers in Colchester to help train and feed its legged recruits.

Medical Detection Dogs is a charity that teaches dogs how to smell disease using their incredible sense of smell.

And Colchester has found itself as an unexpected hub for training dogs to be medical detection dogs in the East of England region – meaning more volunteers are needed to train and care for puppies in the early stages of their development.

Sara Backhouse-Wood, who is the regional medical detection dog coordinator for the east of England, explained what is required of socializers – the volunteers who care for young dogs – before dogs undergo a full training in Milton Keynes.

She said: “The dog lives with the socializer for several weeks until he goes to learn to smell.

“They go to weekly classes and our dog trainer, Ali Charnick, will be doing one-on-one sessions with the dog and the socializer.

“Volunteers spend a lot of time and effort helping the dogs because the training is always ongoing. ”

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Medical detection dogs require extensive training in the same way as guide dogs, and must learn skills such as following an owner up stairs, going through a moving door, or traveling on public transportation.

As a result, socializers who volunteer to help train medical detection dogs will receive a free bus pass with First Bus Essex, easing the financial burden on the association.

“All of our volunteers can get on the buses for training for free – previously we had to pay for it,” says Backhouse-Wood.

“Our dogs need to be happy and comfortable in all public transport and get used to the sights and smells associated with the bus.

Ms Backhouse-Wood explains how dogs can be trained to use their sense of smell to detect something like Covid.

“When disease enters your body, your cells change to get rid of it, and you get what’s called a bird.

“This bird has its own scent – and that’s what the dog is trained to smell,” she explained.

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