Texas Tech University to train rescue dogs to help farmers detect pests, invasive species

Updated: Feb. 22, 2021 at 4:22 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Dogs have long been used to sniff out everything from drugs to bombs. Now some of our four-legged friends will be trained to help farmers.

“What our group does is really focused on: what can the dogs smell? What can they detect? What are their capabilities for a wide variety of applications,” said Nathan Hall, Assistant Professor of Companion Animal Science.

Nathan Hall, Assistant Professor of Companion Animal Science at Texas Tech University.
Nathan Hall, Assistant Professor of Companion Animal Science at Texas Tech University.(Ashley Rodgers | KCBD Photo)

Hall said trained dogs will help protect crops across the South Plains.

“This project is going to be moving into a new sector for us, which is sort of agricultural pests and invasive species detection.”

“We’ll have the sort of capabilities to actually measure how sensitive the dog is. How early within the disease stage can they detect something? As well as how well can they discriminate from related but non-consequential types of pathogens and see, is a dog detecting a diseased plant, are they detecting a particular pathogen presence on the plant,” Hall said.

Hall says the research received a $475,000 grant from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service.

He said this is something new for Texas Tech and the first group of dogs in training will actually be rescue dogs.

“We run a train-to-adopt program with the canine olfaction lab, between ‘The Haven’ and ‘Lubbock Animal Services’, where the dogs come in, they work on it on a training program with us,” said Hall. “They also work on basic obedience; sit down, stay. and then go out for adoption after their training program.”

Hall said they haven’t started training any dogs on campus just yet.

For more information on the Canine Olfaction Lab, click here.

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