The dogs we choose for training must meet the basic requirements and must have basic cynological training skills. The breed of dog is not too important. Our pioneer dog was a Hovawart. Nowadays we train breeds such as the German shepherd, Bohemian shepherd, Australian cattle dog, labrador, border collie, Slovak cuvac and one crossbreed.
Consistency and regularity are highly important for training. We therefore generally meet once a week and each dog has a regular training plan that it has to stick to.
Thanks to the doctors and researchers we work with we have access to special samples from cancer patients and also samples from healthy people, which are used in training the dogs.
It all starts with training the dog to sniff the container with the sample in it. Once it has mastered that, we start training the dog to recognise the smell of cancer patients and that of healthy people.
The dogs are trained on a linear rack, on which there are four containers with samples, one of which is a positive sample from a cancer patient. In three consecutive rounds the dog sniffs out and marks the positive samples of cancer patients. Just as important as finding a positive sample is also recognising when it is not present in the containers. Other training procedures are also used to liven up the training and keep the dogs motivated. However, these are always methods based on the principle of play and reward.
After a certain time a trained dog should be able to undergo a competence test to determine its diagnostic performance class. The dog then takes a certification examination, which is a series of rigorous tests performed in the presence of an arbitration panel composed of experts from different areas.
Depending on its success rate in recognising the samples the dog can then be used for research work, focusing on seeking out hidden tumours in the population, for instance, which is aimed at determining and verifying the most effective training methods in cancer diagnostics.