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: Polyethylene mulch, glazing create optimal conditions for soil solarization

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

How photosynthesis changed the planet

Nov 20, 2014

Two and a half billion years ago, single-celled organisms called cyanobacteria harnessed sunlight to split water molecules, producing energy to power their cells and releasing oxygen into an atmosphere that ...

From dried cod to tissue sample preservation

Nov 19, 2014

Could human tissue samples be dried for storage, instead of being frozen? Researchers are looking at the salt cod industry for a potential tissue sample drying technology that could save money without sacrificing tissue quality.

Riding a food fad to an opportunity

Nov 18, 2014

Until a couple years ago, Shaun Paul's knowledge of chia was limited to the kitschy terracotta Chia Pet figurines. But recently, chia seeds, promoted as a nutritional powerhouse, have earned a growing consumer ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.