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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    What’s the Deal with Gluten Sniffing Dogs?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Who could say no to a warm, fuzzy dog that can take a sniff of your food and signal you when it contains gluten?


    Caption: Image: CC--David Kessler

    Celiac.com 09/20/2018 - Some people with celiac disease experience extreme symptoms when they eat gluten. These folks adopt various strategies for navigating the world. One of those strategies involves getting a gluten-sniffing service dog.

    We’ve done a few stories on gluten-sniffing dogs over the years. Dogs like Zeus and Hawkeye are famous for helping their owners sniff out gluten before they can eat it.


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    The stories are always popular. People love the stories, and people love the dogs. After all, pretty much anyone with celiac disease who has ever read about gluten-sniffing dogs would love to have one. Who could say no to a warm, fuzzy dog that can take a sniff of your food and signal you when it contains gluten?

    The stories almost always generate plenty of feedback and more than a few questions. To answer some of those questions, we’ve decided to do an article that provides some facts about gluten-sniffing dogs.

    Here are a few factors to keep in mind about gluten-sniffing service dogs:

    Gluten-free Dog Status:
    One thing to remember is that proper gluten-sniffing dogs are professionally trained service animals, much like seeing-eye dogs or hearing-ear dogs. 

    As professional service animals, the dogs must be trained and certified as service animals. The dogs may then accompany their master pretty much anywhere they go, and are available to assess all food and snacks.

    Gluten-free Dog Training:
    Proper training takes time, which equals money. Professional trainers might only train one or two dogs, and the training can take about a year. There are very few trainers for gluten-sniffing dogs, and there are also currently no official guidelines or certification.

    Gluten-free Dog Cost:
    In our recent story on the gluten-sniffing black Lab, Hawkeye, we noted that the dog cost $16,000, not including food, and vet bills. 

    Gluten-free Dog Reliability:
    Nimasensor.com notes that “[g]luten-sniffing dogs may detect gluten in amounts as small as .0025 parts per million with 95 percent to 98 percent accuracy.”

    The Mercola.com website says that Willow, a gluten-sniffing German shorthaired pointer in Michigan, can detect gluten with 95 percent to 98 percent accuracy. 

    Read more on gluten-sniffing dogs:


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    I'd like to point out a couple important facts.

    You do NOT have to have a gluten dog professionally trained. Back in the 90's I trained my first Search and Rescue dog using a book called Ready. Five years ago I was approached by a friend to train a Diabetic Alert Dog. I told her I would help her, but I'd teach her how to train one. We documented the process in a book to prove you could train a Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD )at home. People use this book just like I used the book to train my search dog.. Training a dog to do scent work is easier than successfully completing obedience classes. Lol I've been told by almost every person that the dog learn s to alert way before he masters good behavior. I've been contacted by people as far away as Canada that have successfully used my book and sold books as far away as Europe  

    Also there is no service dog registry or certification. Do not fall for online ads make these claims.

     

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    I would not want a gluten-sniffing dog.  I do not want pets or more living creatures in my household. Can't we just, please, have reasonably-priced machines that can do this for us?  (The concept of employing another non-human creature for a task like this seems... unethical.) Until machines display sentience in reasonably tangible ways--as humans and other animals do--and/or the Robot Uprising finally happens, I will continue to prefer machines over living creatures for menial tasks.    

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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