A charity which trains dogs to detect Covid-19 is looking for volunteers in Colchester to help train and nurture its pawed recruits.

Medical Detection Dogs is a charity which trains dogs to detect of the odour of disease using their amazing sense of smell.

And Colchester has found itself as an unexpected hub for dogs training to become Medical Detection Dogs in the east of England region – meaning more volunteers are needed to train and look after the pups in the early stages of their development.

Sara Backhouse-Wood, who is the Medical Detection Dogs regional co-ordinator for the east of England, explained what is required of socialisers – the volunteers who look after the young dogs – before the canines undergo full training in Milton Keynes.

She said: “The dog lives with the socialiser for several weeks until they go and do their scent training.

“They go to weekly classes and our dog-trainer, Ali Charnick, will do one-to-one sessions with the dog and the socialiser.

“The volunteers put a lot of time and effort into helping the dogs, because the training is always ongoing.”

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Medical Detection Dogs require extensive training in a similar way Guide Dogs do, and need to be taught skills such as following an owner up a staircase, walking through a moving door, or travelling on public transport.

As a result, socialisers who volunteer to help train the Medical Detection Dogs will receive a free bus pass with First Bus Essex, which relieves a financial burden on the charity.

“All our volunteers can go on the buses for training free of charge – previously we’ve had to pay for that,” Mrs Backhouse-Wood explains.

“Our dogs have to be happy and comfortable on all public transport and get used to the sights and smells involved with going on a bus.

Mrs Backhouse-Wood goes explained just how dogs can be trained to use their sense of smell to detect something like Covid.

“When a disease enters your body, your cells change to get rid of it, and you get what’s called a volatile.

“That volatile has its own odour – and that’s what the dog is trained to smell,” she explained.