Charity engineers a way to help sniffer dogs’ work

DEMAND engineer Malcolm Brown and student designer Luke Denby with detection dog trainers
DEMAND engineer Malcolm Brown and student designer Luke Denby with detection dog trainers

A partnership with a Hertfordshire charity is helping Medical Detection Dogs to further its pioneering work in cancer detection.

Great Horwood-based Medical Detection Dogs trains dogs to reliably detect the odour of cancer in a urine sample, using their incredible sense of smell.

DEMAND is a charity that creates custom-engineered products to improve the day-to-day lives of disabled people.

The team’s design and engineering skills made them ideally placed to work with Medical Detection Dogs to create the testing apparatus that is key to the dogs’ training and ongoing scientific trials.

The charities have been working together since 2008, when the first bio-detection testing carousel was devised.

In DEMAND’s engineering workshop, the team created a carousel with eight sample sniffing ‘stations’.

The dog sniffs each sample in turn until it detects a cancer-positive urine sample and indicates this to the handler.

This year, with Medical Detection Dogs’ research quickly progressing, DEMAND created a new and improved carousel to help further the charity’s research.

Design considerations included the fact that a range of dog breeds are involved in the work, so the carousel needed to be adjustable in height.

Each sample station on the carousel is numbered so the handlers can be sure where any positive samples are.

A consideration for the most recent design was the concern that the intelligent dogs may be able to recognise the numbers at each station, which could influence their actions. To eliminate this possibility, DEMAND’s engineers had to devise a way of labelling each sample station that would not be visible from a dog’s eye view.

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