Dogs outdo humans at detecting rare noxious weed

Jun 23, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A field test in Montana pitted dog against human in an effort to identify and eradicate spotted knapweed. This weed threatens the survival of native species and can bring about both economic and ecosystem damage. Finding plants in order to eradicate them before they can spread creates a challenge for human eyes, but not for dog noses.

An article in the June issue of the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management reports that trained detection dogs can locate spotted knapweed more accurately and at a greater distance than humans. While dogs and humans were comparable in finding large- and medium-sized plants, the dogs had an edge in locating small plants.

have been successfully trained to search for specific odors. Their unique capabilities have been used in search-and-rescue efforts and to detect land mines and other buried items. They have the ability to thoroughly search over large areas and to accurately distinguish odors.

In this test, three dogs—one a mixed-breed Shepherd and two German Shepherds—and twelve humans surveyed a field for spotted knapweed during four sets of seasonal trials. The dogs, Nightmare, Tsavo, and Rio, had an overall success rate of 81% while the humans were successful 59% of the time. With small infestations, the dogs registered a 67% success rate versus 35% for the humans.

Humans did rate higher in precision than the dogs, with 100% for humans and 94% for the dogs. And Tsavo gave more false alerts than either of the other two dogs or the humans. A ground squirrel and Tsavo’s desire to give chase created an understandable distraction.

Explore further: Noted researchers warn that biomedical research system in US is unsustainable

More information: Invasive Plant Science and Management, 2010; Vol. 3(2): 113-121

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Computer savvy canines

Nov 28, 2007

Like us, our canine friends are able to form abstract concepts. Friederike Range and colleagues from the University of Vienna in Austria have shown for the first time that dogs can classify complex color photographs and ...

Human-dog communication -- breed as important as species

Jul 24, 2009

Dog breeds selected to work in visual contact with humans, such as sheep dogs and gun dogs, are better able to comprehend a pointing gesture than those breeds that usually work without direct supervision. A series of tests, ...

Ovarian cancer's specific scent detected by dogs

Jun 26, 2008

Ground-breaking research in the June issue of Integrative Cancer Therapies published by SAGE explored whether ovarian cancer has a scent different from other cancers and whether working dogs could be taught to distinguish it in ...

Dog 'laugh' silences other dogs

Dec 05, 2005

Washington state researchers report discovering what might be the sound of dog laughter. The scientists say the long, loud pant they recorded has a calming or soothing effect on the behavior of other dogs, ABC News reported.

Recommended for you

Japan lawmakers demand continued whaling

18 minutes ago

Japanese lawmakers on Wednesday demanded the government redesign its "research" whaling programme to circumvent an international court ruling that described the programme as a commercial hunt dressed up as ...

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

1 hour ago

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

EU must take urgent action on invasive species

3 hours ago

The EU must take urgent action to halt the spread of invasive species that are threatening native plants and animals across Europe, according to a scientist from Queen's University Belfast.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Japan lawmakers demand continued whaling

Japanese lawmakers on Wednesday demanded the government redesign its "research" whaling programme to circumvent an international court ruling that described the programme as a commercial hunt dressed up as ...

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. ...

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

(Phys.org) —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...