‘Catfish Dog’ new friend to farmers

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 2, 2004

GREENSBORO-Dogs are man’s best friends, but they’re about to become the catfish farmers’ best friend as well, after the demonstration put on by Auburn University on Thursday for some local catfish farmers from Greensboro at the Alabama Fish Farming Center.

Dr. Richard Shelby with the USDA Aquatic Animal Health Research Lab and Dr. L.J. Myers with the University of Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine presented a demonstration to 15 local catfish farmers on the use of dogs to help in the early warning against off-flavor water, thus leading to off-flavor fish.

Auburn student Rebecca Robinson was the dog handler for this event. She gave the commands to the two real stars of the show, Maggie- German Shepard mix and Rusty- Golden Labrador mix.

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“We are here today to show you the benefits of using canines for early warning devices in the fight against off-flavor water,” said Shelby.

The dogs will walk along this wall that contains five samples of water with one of them being the contaminated water and using their sense of smell will be able to point out the one that is contaminated. The dogs will make one pass through the test and then on the second pass, the dog will sit by the sample that is the off-flavored one.

“The dogs are trained in the labs at Auburn to recognized the musty, earthy smells that mean a pond has gone off-flavor,” Myers said.

With the use of these dogs, they can be trained to detect smells a lot earlier than a human can, therefore, with the proper training they can be a great benefit to the catfish farmers in America, he said. The two dogs made their passes along the wall and successfully spotted the off-flavor water within seconds.

“I normally takes about four hours a week to train these dogs, but we want to eventually be able to have a dog that can detect all the different smells involved in this business,” Myers said.