Knotweed Detection Dogs Q&A with Kat Janczur
Dogs are highly intelligent animals, and they have amazing senses that are far more acute than humans. Dogs are said to have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses compared to about 6 million in humans. The part of the brain that is devoted to analysing the smell is up to 40 times greater than ours.
Due to their amazing senses and brains, dogs are used to detect things – including explosives, drugs and other contraband. These working dogs are known as Detection dogs or Sniffer Dogs.
In the world of Japanese knotweed, detection dogs are used to track down and locate Japanese knotweed infestations. We spent some time chatting with Kat Janczur – a detection dog trainer and handler who works with Japanese knotweed sniffer dogs to find out more.
Q. Our first question must be; How did you get into this line of work, training sniffer dogs?
A. I’ve worked with detection dogs for years training them to detect all sorts of scents from cadaver to bed bugs or narcotics. About 3 years ago friend suggested I train dogs to search for Japanese knotweed and that’s how it all started.
Q. Have you been doing this long and is there a lot of demand for detection dogs?
A. Our most experienced dog has been operational since February 2020. The demand has been steadily growing since we started.
Q. Why would you use a sniffer dog instead of using some sort of machinery or carrying out a survey?
A. We work alongside human surveys, so dogs are an addition to already existing solutions. One of the great advantages they have over people is the fact that they use their nose and not their eyes plus they are not bias by expectations. This has meant they’ve found knotweed in places where humans haven’t expected to find it.
Q. What areas do Knotweed sniffer dogs excel in and when would you want to use one?
A. They are very useful anywhere where Japanese knotweed might be invisible over the ground, covered by vegetation, submerged in water or more often than not where someone is trying to hide it. We have had few situations where people could have gotten away with rhizomes being ‘misplaced’ if it wasn’t for the dogs.
Our dogs have also been successful finding knotweed that have been dormant for years and not visible over the ground and this meant surveyors knew where to start digging which saved time.
Q. Can my dog find Japanese knotweed or is some sort of special training needed?
A. There is a lot of training that goes into it and you need a dog with a good predisposition for work. Working dogs would usually be a nightmare in a pet home as they are always on the go looking for a job to find.
Q. How do you go about teaching a sniffer dog to find Japanese knotweed?
A. It the same as for any other substance. We start with teaching dog to use their nose to find their most favourite toy and later pair the scent of the toy with knotweed scent.
Q. The dogs look like they’re having a lot of fun when they’re working, but is it stressful or hard for them?
A. If the training was done correctly working shouldn’t be stressful for them, they truly love what they do. However, some jobs can be definitely harder than others and require more physical stamina. That’s why our dogs are trained few days a week to keep them in the best shape.
About Kat Janczur
At Canine Detection Solutions (www.k9detectionsolutions.co.uk) we offer a service of Japanese knotweed detection dogs. We work nationwide and often collaborate with Japanese knotweed eradication companies. Our dogs work all year long and are especially busy in winter since they can find knotweed in a dormant state. We cover everything from small garden searches to large construction sites.