by Iris Goldsztajn
It’s not a secret: Dogs make life better. But they’re not just the fluffy companions you know and love — they also have a range of talents, including a hypersensitive sense of smell. This amazing talent could smooth the ride for us as we learn to navigate the world in the age of coronavirus. Here’s how man’s best friend can help get us through the pandemic.
Dogs Can Be Trained To Sniff Out COVID-19
Thanks to their super sophisticated noses, (armed with 220 million scent receptors compared to humans’ 5 million), dogs are often employed to sniff out a range of diseases. Now researchers in Helsinki, Finland have succeeded in training a fleet of dogs to detect COVID-19 from the sweat on human skin — and they only need a small amount of the virus to accurately identify it. That’s why Helsinki Airport is hiring four dogs to help screen passengers for COVID-19 when they use the airport — a much more reliable solution than the simple temperature checks in place at other airports and public venues. However, the test itself is a bit more involved than just letting a dog sniff you.
Passengers being tested will swipe their skin with a wipe, which they then drop into a cup to be passed onto the dog for a smell test. This ensures that the dog handler doesn’t come into contact with the virus and that the test is carried out anonymously. This is just the beginning of the canine COVID test, the future looks promising when it comes to testing using the natural talents of dogs instead of technology.
Dogs Can Help You Destress
If you own a dog, you’ve probably noticed that caring for it makes you feel generally calmer and happier. Many studies prove what dog lovers may know intuitively — dogs can help relieve stress, improve your mood, lower your heart rate and reduce fear and anxiety.
They’re really good for your mental health, which is why they are often deployed to help college students relax in the thick of finals, as well as in hospitals to help instil a sense of well-being in patients going through a difficult time. During this stressful and taxing time in all of our lives, owning a dog — or visiting one regularly — can make all the difference and allow you to cope when everything seems scary and impossible.
Dogs Help Relieve Loneliness
Another difficult hurdle brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns is isolation. For older people, those who live alone, those who are used to an active social life, and pretty much everyone else for that matter, the lack of connection can be one of the toughest challenges to get through. Dogs can alleviate that loneliness by their simple presence, providing much-needed companionship. Being able to pet a dog can also have a wide range of beneficial effects in a time when we’re not able to hug friends and family like we might have in the past.
Finally, taking your dog for a walk provides a great opportunity for socially distanced encounters with other pet owners and dog enthusiasts, which can help you feel more connected to your community. If you do venture out with your dog, have Skout’s Honor Paw + Hand Sanitizer handy before you re-enter your car and home. It’s a pet-safe sanitizer and the first of its kind.
Dogs Give You Purpose
The uncertainty of everything right now can cause us to feel down, unproductive and unmotivated — but that’s where dogs come in. When you own a dog, you need to make sure it’s well fed, exercised, washed, healthy and of course loved. All of this can give you a sense of purpose because another being is counting on you. It can make you feel like you’re doing a good job and that you’re contributing to your pet’s well-being, as well as your own.
Not only can dogs detect COVID-19, which can then help curb the spread of the virus, they can also help bring us happiness, connection and a sense of purpose in a time when we need these things more than ever. What did we ever do to deserve them?
Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based writer and editor with six years of experience creating content for various outlets. Her work has appeared in InStyle, Stylist, SheKnows, Cosmopolitan, Alma, Her Campus and more.