Nose for the job: N.B. dog trainer teaches canines to sniff out stress
They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but one Maritime dog trainer is teaching dogs how to sniff out stress and improve the life of their humans.
Bill Grimmer, an experienced dog trainer in Shediac, N.B., has worked across the globe, training dogs to detect scents during cadaver recovery, to find explosives and narcotics.
Recently, Grimmer has been teaching three canines how to sniff out cortisol, also known as the stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands.
"We've learned the cortisol level can be reduced by many things from petting something, going on a walk, to meditation, things like that," said Grimmer. "The dog performs a function by coming over when it smells the cortisol and pushes for a reward, for touch or for a treat."
With help from a lab, Grimmer is able to use samples of cortisol to assist in their training. He puts the cortisol on a popsicle stick or a cotton ball, then hides it in rounded tubes. The dogs are then told to find the hidden sample and are rewarded after.
"I use the cortisol to see if the dog would actually detect it and then we taught the two dogs that when they detect it they can immediately get a reward of petting and treats" explains Grimmer.
He says the goal is to get the dog into a habit, so the next time it smells the cortisol in the breath it will then be trained to go to the person to help calm them down.
As their training develops, Grimmer's canines could have the opportunity to put their noses to the test.
"Many police officers said they would love to have a dog that was trained like that because it will help when we're interviewing a person that has gone through a traumatic incident," says Grimmer.
With dogs now being trained to detect more scents including COVID-19, he believes there's no limit to the things a canine can do.
"I just think that other trainers could develop this and use this across Canada or worldwide to bridge the gap from an emotional support dog to a service dog," says Grimmer.
Dogs with a real nose for the job of providing comfort and ease for people in need.