Training of dogs for detection of oestrus specific scent in saliva of cows
Efficient oestrus detection is a permanent challenge for successful reproductive performance in dairy cattle. Heat detection is time consuming and expensive. Dogs have been trained to identify oestrus specific odour in vaginal fluid, milk, urine and blood samples under laboratory conditions with accuracy of more than 80 %. Also dogs could be trained to work as heat detection dogs direct on farm. Therefore it would be beneficial in terms of hygiene and safety, to have the dog working on the feed alley with cows fixed in head lockers. The objective of this study was to test if dogs can be trained to detect oestrus specific scent in saliva of cows. Saliva samples were collected from cows in oestrus (n = 46) and dioestrus (n = 68). Thirteen dogs were trained in this experiment. In the test and training situation dogs had to detect one positive out of four samples. A false indication was ignored and documented in the test situation. For determination the accuracy dog handlers were blinded regarding the position of the positive sample. The overall percentage of correct positive indications was 58.8 % (n = 316) with a range from 40 (1 dog) to 75 % (3 dogs). To our knowledge this is the first report that dogs are able to detect oestrus specific scent in saliva of cows. Although the accuracy of detection was lower as for vaginal fluid, a dog should be able to identify cows in oestrus sniffing at the mouth and nose.