Dogs: Man’s Best Friend with Superhero Power of Smell

Dogs’ superior olfactory capabilities register in the parts per billion vs. parts per million of modern day technology. This amazing capability is bringing them back to the oil and gas industry where, in years past, their success rate in leak detection has been as high as 99%. Combining the technology of mapping with the dogs’ superhero ability to detect scents along the length of a pipeline
right-of-way just may be the complimentary approach that provides the best leak detection solution yet.

We need to start off by acknowledging the legendary history and notability
of canine sniffers in other industries. The use of detection dogs in law enforcement dates back as far as the Middle Ages at least. Dogs in law enforcement and military agencies detect anything from drugs and mass destruction materials to missing persons or human remains. Dogs are used for environmental causes, identifying invasive and/or endangered species causing havoc in the ecosystem. Another recently publicized use of a dog’s detection abilities has been the early diagnosis of certain types of cancer in the medical world. Dogs’ sense of smell has long been proven and still leads the way in acute detection.

Their olfactory ability has warranted studies and the findings are newsworthy. In the article “Dogs’ Dazzling Sense of Smell,” written by Peter Tyson for NOVA scienceNOW, they are referred to as Olympic Sniffers. To back up this label, the writer cites a rigorously designed and oft-cited study that estimated a dog’s sense of smell to  magnificently overpower our own (being 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute). In other words, dogs can detect some odors in parts per trillion! To understand the importance of parts per trillion for detection, Alexandra Horowitz, a dog-cognition researcher at Barnard College and author of Inside a Dog, uses this analogy: “while we might notice if our coffee has had a teaspoon of sugar added to it, a dog could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, or two Olympic-sized pool’s worth. Another dog scientist likened their ability to catching a whiff of one rotten apple in two million barrels.”

Understanding this higher-level sense sheds light on how a dog’s olfactory system can be trained to detect multiple scents. Pipe Dogs Inc. dogs are trained on a proprietary odorant blend that is injected into the oil and gas lines during hydrostatic testing. After a short inoculation time, typically 24 hours or less, the dog handler takes the dogs out to walk the line. The non-water soluble chemical in the blend allows the scent to travel vertically and permeate the soil in the location of the leak. The dog picks up the scent and marks the spot with pinpoint accuracy, minimizing the need for extensive digging and disturbance. Working dogs are trained and committed to doing their jobs well. There is a relationship with man that is loyal and performance-based, a real partnership. Our team is ready and our mission is to take care of leak detection contracts like our dogs take care of us.

Richard Eckles is President and Founder of Pipe Dogs Inc., an oil & gas pipeline leak detection company. He is a retired U.S. Navy veteran. His experience as a Military Working Dog explosive/narcotic detector dog handler, trainer, and kennel master gives him firsthand knowledge of a dog’s exceptional detection capabilities. Richard knows that a dog’s ability to detect parts per trillion (PPT) make them a great choice for leak detection in the oil & gas industry. For more information, visit DP

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