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Animal Behaviour student secures role training dogs for cutting edge coronavirus detection project

Posted 29 April

A young woman and a labrador/golden retriever cross in a field under a blue sky

Liv James and Spencer - one of the covid detection dogs she will be helping to train.

An Animal Behaviour student who is pursuing a career as a working-dog trainer has secured a role at the cutting edge of coronavirus detection research. 

Olivia James, from Sutton Coldfield, landed the role after a placement year training working dogs helped to convince her to follow her ambition to develop a career in the industry. 

She is currently combining the final year of her BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Science (Clinical Route) degree at Harper Adams University with her new role with Medical Detection Dogs, based in Milton Keynes. The work will see Olivia – more commonly known as Liv - spend a year on the charity’s ground-breaking coronavirus research, looking into whether dogs can be trained to passively screen people for coronavirus.  

The passive screening – which does not involve physical contact – would then be checked by a medical test. The charity hopes that, if successful, the project – which could see a single dog screen up to 250 people an hour – could be used to help monitor for possible cases in places such as transport hubs or sporting events. 

Liv said: “I saw the role come up on a website. I am always looking because I’m interested in roles like this. It was a short-term role for the first 12 months. I thought I might as well go for it and applied – I am very much for taking every opportunity.” 

The new role is the latest step into a career with working dogs for Liv, whose placement year was spent working for a private company that trains dogs for roles within the police service. 

She added: “I asked for that placement because of my interest and after it, I decided I definitely wanted to work with working dogs. 

“I knew I wanted to train dogs – that was always the goal. I was a pet dog trainer and used my degree to add to the experience I had there. 

“I have become more confident in my time at Harper Adams and it has really helped to develop the skills I need to relate to all kinds of people in different communities.” 

“I am completing my final year right now, while also working for the charity. I started work in early March and have actually moved down to Milton Keynes for this job, so the current remote learning set up has worked really well for me!” 

Liv is now helping the charity’s  covid-19 detection dog team as a Bio-Trainer Trainee. 

She added: “The thought of this job is exciting – and that is one of the things I like about the role. I’m not just interested and happy to be going into work, I am excited to be going there too.”  

Chris Allen, Puppy Supply and Trainer Manager at Medical Detection Dogs, added: “We are always delighted to welcome the next generation of trainers and are really pleased to have Liv on board. She will be given the perfect scenario to learn and develop with world leaders - and play an important role in using a dog’s sense of smell to help save lives.”

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