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Texas Dog Trained to Sniff Out Invasive Agricultural Species


A few years ago, Charlie — a German Shepherd and Golden Retriever Mix — was in a Texas-based animal shelter, longing for someone to finally notice him and take him home.  

Well, his wish did come true, as reported by Texas Monthly. However, Charlie’s new “home” wasn’t exactly the typical home shelter dogs go to upon adoption. That’s because the person who was behind Charlie’s “adoption” from the shelter is a scientist and the director of the Canine Olfaction Research and Education Laboratory, a research facility at Texas Tech University.  

Given how powerful dogs’ noses are, Professor Nathaniel Hall, the lab director, wanted to train Charlie to carry out a rare scent-detection task: detecting invasive agricultural species. Thankfully, his plan worked. Now, because of Hall’s training, Charlie can sniff out invasive agricultural species, hazardous pollutants, and agricultural pests.

It’s rare to find dogs trained to carry out this specific scent detection work, which makes Charlie’s new ability unique. 

Every semester, Hall and his team typically recruit eight dogs from the Haven Animal Care Shelter in Texas. They then house the canines in their facility while training them on various scent detection work. 

When the semester ends, they hold an adoption event, where local families or a staff member at the olfaction lab can adopt a trained scent-detection dog.  

Success rate of Texas dog’s ability to sniff out invasive species

Among the common yet extremely harmful invasive species researcher Hall trained Charlie to sniff out is Powdery Mildew. According to Hall, this fungal species is capable of wreaking havoc on an entire vineyard. 

In particular, powdery mildew infestations are a major problem in Texas vineyards. Therefore, Charlie’s specialized scent detection skills  — which enable him to sniff out the fungal species on grape leaves before they become visible to the human eye — can play a big role in boosting the Texas wine industry. 

Hall says Charlie’s accuracy in sniffing out powdery mildew nears perfection. In fact, he is currently considered the most well-trained powdery mildew detection dog worldwide. To appreciate his efforts, Charlie gets lots of kibble as a reward for every successful scent detection mission. 


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