We should probably be using pugs to sniff out COVID-19

Alix Martichoux Image
ByAlix Martichoux KGO logo
Wednesday, July 7, 2021
UC Berkeley expert explains how dogs can sniff out COVID-19
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Can dogs sniff COVID-19? They can, research shows, and pugs may be surprisingly good at it.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- When you think of a dog on a mission to sniff out drugs, missing persons or even coronavirus, you probably think of a German Shepherd or maybe a Labrador. But apparently we've been overlooking the right good boy for the job: pugs.

Lucia Jacobs, an animal olfaction expert at UC Berkeley, came on ABC7 News' Getting Answers to talk about how dogs are excellent at detecting COVID-19 via smell, which can be useful in situations where it's not practical to test everyone. It only takes a few weeks to get them perfectly trained to detect the virus.

For now, we're mostly using German Shepherds for the task because they're already trained as bomb-sniffing dogs. However, Jacobs argues there's a case to be made for a much smaller, snortier breed.

"There's actually a study in 2015 that pugs outperform German Shepherds on an olfactory discrimination task," she said.

Apparently those short little snouts are really, really good at sniffing, the study found.

Jacobs added there's a benefit to using smaller, less threatening dogs, which could make crowds feel more at ease.

Watch our full interview with Jacobs in the video player above and learn how dogs are being used to help detect COVID-19 cases.