Sniffer dogs will identify covid-19 carriers at Moscow airports

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Starting next year, 15 Shalaika dogs will be used to sniff passengers in transit through the Russian capital. The training has already started.

At Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport, dog handlers hired by Russian airline Aeroflot have already started training 15 Shalaikas to detect covid-19 carriers by smell. The announcement was made by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova in early October.

“We have a schedule, our main institutes have the necessary biological samples and there is a team of volunteers to train the dogs. We are halfway there so far, using several biomaterials, ”said Golikova.

Shalaika is a breed created in Russia of jackal-type hybrid sniffer dogs. It was developed by biologist Klim Sulimov from the initial crossbreeding of two Finnish Lapland herders and two golden Turkic jackals.

According to the deputy prime minister, some of the dogs are already able to detect people carrying explosives or even cancer patients based on smell alone.

Shalaika dog training, belonging to the canine patrol unit, at Sheremetievo International Airport

“Reducing the time that covid-19 carriers spend in public areas and boarding and disembarking aircraft will reduce the risks for those around,” says Anna Popova, head of Rospotrebnadzor, a Russian agency equivalent to Anvisa.

One of the service dogs of the Shalaika breed during training in the canine division of Aeroflot airline at Sheremetievo Airport

Each standard training session lasts 30 minutes, after which the Shalaikas must rest for an hour.

During training, dogs are introduced to a new smell and then instructed to find it among the biomaterials of healthy donors; when identifying them, it should bark or wag its tail, as explained in a report by TV channel Rossiya 1.

Aeroflot employees photograph Shalaika dogs from the canine division at Sheremetievo Airport

How dogs will sniff passengers at airports in practice is still uncertain. “We are currently discussing with our partners how it will work. It may be due to the masks worn by passengers or saliva samples through which the dogs will identify the infected parts ”, explains Aeroflot CEO Vitáli Saveliev.

Handler with one of the service dogs of the Shalaika breed

Dog training at Sheremetievo Airport will be completed in December, and the canine unit is expected to start operating in January 2021.

READ ALSO: The 10 most popular dog breeds among Russians

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