Behaviour 2019
Training dogs to sniff out antiquities
Paige G. Smith1, Jennifer L. Essler1, Annemarie DeAngelo1, Patricia Kaynaroglu1, Michael Danti2, Katherine Blanchard3, Cynthia M. Otto1. 1Penn Vet Working Dog Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, United States; 2Department of Archaeology, Boston University, Boston, MA, United States; 3Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, United States

War-torn countries often suffer an increased amount of theft from cultural heritage sites and museums. Working dogs are trained in a variety of scent detection work including narcotics, explosives, search and rescue, and more, and their acute sense of smell could be advantageous in combating this issue if dogs can work effectively. This study used trained scent detection canines on a scent wheel to test if they could learn to identify Syrian potsherds from the Bronze era. We investigated whether dogs could ignore modern Syrian items and modern pottery sherds, a vital question if they are to be used in this detection work. Once the dogs were consistently alerting on Syrian pottery, they were presented with potsherds from new Middle Eastern locations and multiple time periods. We found evidence that the dogs were able to generalize their initial training on the Syrian potsherds to recognize the new ones. Our results suggest that scent detection canines may be able to generalize the scent of ancient pottery from numerous countries, at least in one geographic location, potentially making them a viable option in this field.