Flint, a nine-week-old fox red Labrador puppy has become the latest addition to the canine team at the headquarters of UK charity Medical Detection Dogs in Milton Keynes.
Flint will spend the next twelve to fourteen months undergoing training to become a Cancer Detection Dog, in the footsteps of his aunt, Daisy, who is the centre’s most accurate detector of cancer.
The Cancer Detection dogs work by recognising the odour of volatiles in the urine of patients with prostate, renal and bladder cancer.
In the first stage of his training, handlers will teach Flint to associate the smell of urine with receiving a reward.
Once this association has been learnt, the rewards will be limited to urine sample which contain cancer volatiles. He will thereby learn to search for the odour of cancer when presented with a range of samples.
The final stage of training will teach Flint how to alert confidently and clearly, by imposing a time delay of a few crucial seconds to encourage him to insist on his choice by prodding the sample with his nose.
His training will then be complete and he will begin to work with samples where the presence of cancer is not known by the handler. All his initial detections will be cross-checked by more experienced dogs to confirm the results.
“We are delighted to have Flint join our team,” said Dr Claire Guest, CEO of Medical Detection Dogs.
“He is extremely focused and has tremendous potential.”
“It is incredible what these dogs can achieve in a relatively short space of time. How we failed to recognise their capacity to detect disease all these years that we have lived and worked alongside them is a wonder to me.”
“As for Flint, we hope he will become as accurate a detector of cancer volatiles as his aunt, Daisy, who has done much to advance our research.”