The Citrus Research Board (CRB) is looking to use specialized dogs to help with the identification of trees infected with Huanglongbing disease (HLB). The process of utilizing dogs is one of the many methods currently being implemented and evaluated as researchers continue to develop more effective means of early identification methods for HLB.
“My role is to help manage a process that was already started. There are 19 dogs that have been trained through an HLB-MAC grant in Florida currently and CRB is considering bringing them out,” said Lisa Finke, Canine Project Manager with CRB. “We’re in the middle of that strategic planning, so I am the one hired to be the canine expert and manager of the process.”
Finke noted that one of the most critical steps in using dogs for detection purposes is finding the right individual dogs. There are certain attributes that are necessary for this type of specialized purpose, including who is determined and driven to find whatever it is they are looking for. Once a dog exhibits the appropriate qualities it still requires significant training to focus those attributes into what it needed.
“After you’ve selected the right dog then you take the target odor whatever it is you want them to find, whether it be bed bugs, or a diseased tree, or an insect, and you pair that with something that they love. Then you go through a process of scent imprinting,” said Finke. “That stage can go from two weeks to two months and then training the dog to find it in the environment that you want them to can take another month to two months to perfect that.”