Gluten-detection Dogs: A Celiac’s Best Friend?

Can you spot the difference between these two dogs?

Here’s a clue:

  • One eats everything he can get his snout into, and spends his time alternately getting belly rubs and snacks, sleeping, and attacking inanimate objects.
  • One is trained to sniff out even the tiniest traces of gluten and keep his very gluten-sensitive owner safe from harm.

Much as I’d love to spend today talking to you about our family pooch, the ever-hungry Jake (pictured here in full regal repose), I suspect you’d rather hear about Elias (pictured above with his owner, Hollie).

Elias is a carefully-trained wonder dog, taught in Slovenia to detect even the minutest amount of gluten.

I know, right? A gluten-detection dog. Whatever will they think of next?

USAToday reports that Elias is a 100-pound, 2-year old, award-winning Beauceron. He protects Hollie Smith, a 22-year old college student who was diagnosed about 2 years ago and has particularly virulent reactions to gluten.

When it’s time for Elias to do his job, Hollie covers the food with a lid with holes and extends it to him for sniffing. If it’s safe, he turns away. If it has gluten in it, he tries to take it from her. Hollie keeps Elias sharp by testing him daily and including some known gluten-containing foods in the roster.

I’ve been doing some research trying to find out where Elias was trained, but to no avail. I’m 100% positive that our Jake would make a terrible, terrible gluten-detection dog, but the thought is certainly intriguing.

The search continues, and if I can locate the name of the training school the first place it will go is right up here. In the meantime, some questions:

  • Have you heard of any gluten-detection dogs, aside from Elias? If so, where?
  • If you had the option of getting a gluten-detection dog of your own, would you?

51 thoughts on “Gluten-detection Dogs: A Celiac’s Best Friend?”

  1. I would be interested in a gluten detection dog. I would also be interested in a training school for gluten detection dog. This is very interesting.


  2. I would be inteested in getting a gluten-detection dog for my daughter’s family wih 2 kids – they are all celiac. Their symptoms are not life threatening, but irritating with breakouts and even emotional upheavals. Thanks.

  3. I find this intriguing. I would consider a gluten testing dog. However I also have other allergies and I need a single coated, “hypoallergenic” dog. Both of the dogs in the pictures are “fur” dogs, shed, and the special dog appears to be one that may “blow” its coat. Please continue to search for further information and keep us informed this could be a great thing for very young children. Also if the dogs are qualified as service dogs, in many states they would be allowed to enter restaurants with their people. A great service since many chefs are not aware of the invasiveness of Gluten.

  4. I would be very interested in getting a gluten detective dog since Ii am so highly sensitive to gluten. At times, no matter how careful I am to be safe, there will be a food item that does contain gluten and the end result for me can be not one, but several days of pain and uncontrolable diarrhea. Thank you for this information. I will begin my own searching and share if I can find anything.

  5. What a great idea. I would love one. When I ingest gluten I am ill for 6-8 weeks so I would definitely like a dog like this. Please keep us posted

  6. I would love to have 3! I have celiac and also 2 of my children. So any help with food and children would be great. Also would help with my children who struggle with not being able to eat what most NORMAL kids get to eat. A dog would be cool for them plus a way to keep them protected when i am not around. Is there more info on these type dogs?

  7. This is an amazing story! I love animals, especially dogs and tend to really spoil them because I think they are such magnificent creatures. I would love to know how and where these dogs are trained. Thank you for sharing your story!

  8. I emailed the author of this article about a month ago. She responded to me saying that she had forwarded my email onto Hollie Smith, in the hopes that she would respond to me and let me know about the dog training. My understanding is that Elias was trained in Slevania. I have yet to receive any reply from Ms. Smith. Maybe if more people were to write to Sharon at USA Today then she would either further investigate this for us or continue to forward our emails to Ms Smith and hopefully she will be so generous as to share the details with us. Like all of u, this would be an amazing gift in my life!!!!
    Bobbi Jo Quick

  9. Yes, please keep us posted. Just got a new pup and I have been wondering if there was any way to train him to identify Gluten – what a companion that would make!

  10. As it only takes a few short peptide molecules to make a celiac patient sick, a few major questions remain:
    1) sensitivity: does the dog detect the low PPM contamination that can make one sick?
    2) hopefully the dog is trained on wheat, malt and barley as I doubt it can detect the actual (sub-protein) peptide sequence?
    3) can the gluten be masked by other smells (squirrel) or hidden in liquids?

  11. I would love to get a dog like this both myself and my 13 year old daughter have celiac and my 18 year old son does not so he would eat food all the time with gluten in it while we do not so always a chance that it may get in our food and i get very bad reactions when i eat any kind of gluten. would love to know where i can get a dog like that!

  12. I would love a dog like that!! I can’t tell you how many people think cross contamination won’t hurt you!! I’m the one living in the bathroom!!

  13. What dogs can do never ceases to surprise me. My daughter & I are Celiacs but it bothers my daughter way more than it does me. I would be very interested in finding out about how to train a dog. I have a rescued abandoned dog who is very sensitive to smell. She has to smell everything & I wonder if she could be trained.

  14. Yes, please let us know if you find out where we can get training for a dog to become a gluten-detecting dog. I, too, e-mailed the author and she was kind enough to pass my e-mail on but I haven’t heard back. I am also highly sensitive and suffer greatly from accidental exposures.

  15. I haven’t heard of a dog that sniffs gluten before it’s consumed, but there was a dog profiled on Dogs 101 that could detect when its owner had been glutened. (Technically, I think the dog could just detect when the owner was about to get a seizure, which happened to be how this particular Celiac reacted to gluten ingestion, but still – pretty awesome!) I would love a gluten sniffing dog!

  16. I have a hearing dog (dog for the deaf) that was trained to tell me when someone comes up behind me, or when the telephone, door bell, microwave, etc… ring. I also have diabeties and she picked up one her own when my blood sugar gets too low or too high, and will now alert me to that also. I was just diagnosed with Celiacs, and it has a very bad affect not just on my gut, but also my brain. I will ask her trainer if she can also be trained for gluten, it might be hard because my dog is gluten intollerant. I know this would help me alot, because I still have not gotten the hang of eating out.

  17. I’ve needed an excuse to get a dog since my eldery mother lives with me, now I have one! I would love one that could help to keep me healthy!

  18. I hate to burst the happy bubble, but the cost of training these kinds of specialty service dogs is extremely high. It takes a particular temperament in a dog to be a service dog and then even more specific traits again to be a detection dog. Trainers screen and train many many potential dogs to find the ones who fit the bill. It’s not unusual for these dogs to cost in the vicinity of $10,000 or more because of the amount of time invested in the training.

  19. If they can train dogs to sniff out colon cancer, I see know reason why there can’t be dogs to sniff out gluten. Please keep us informed. I worry about what will happen when my 3yr old daughter goes to school. Certainly things are improving every day, but it would be nice to feel comforted when she is out of my watch. And to be able to go out to eat as a family – what a treat that would be!

  20. We contacted the trainer soon after this story came out in January, and now are “fostering” a Beauceron puppy. Our Dora is the niece of Elias. Her grandmother is Elias’s sister. We are very excited to have this wonderful puppy here with us. Our goal is to socialize her so that she can become a gluten-sniffing dog later on. And yes, we plan to keep her but don’t know yet how the gluten sniffing training will begin or what will be involved. I will post more about her as she gets older. Where can I post her photo?

  21. I talked to my dog’s trainer and she said it was possible. It would be like training drug sniffing dogs. Because I already have a service dog, it would just adding more to the training she already has. The dog training school where we go isn’t very expensive, and they train you to train your dog. That gives you a nice bond with the dog. She also mentioned a bood that can give you more information “Fun Nose Games for Dogs”. The book is just a start but it will let you know what you are letting yourself in for. Having a service dog is not all fun and games. There is a lot involved in owning a service dog, but for me the pros out weigh the cons. We plan on starting my service dog on her new “trick”, sniffing out gluten! I’ll keep you posted on how the process is going.

  22. Also forgot to mention that service dogs are tax deductable, so whatever you spend on their training and up keep can be deducted as a medical expense. So you can get back the cost of your training classes, even gas going back and forth to training class. The key is finding a good training class.

  23. If this is true, I would like to know how I can get one. I have been having really bad attacks lately and everyone I live with can eat gluten. So far I am the only one in my family diagnosed. This would help me out tremendously. Plus it would give me a better argument for my parents to get me a dog.

  24. I, too, would love a gluten-sniffing dog. Too many times I’ve been hoodwinked by being told the chef would prepare something gluten-free, but they keep forgetting about cross-contamination. Unfortunately, I’m also dairy intolerant, and there are a number of other things, like garlic, onions, citrus, tomatos that actually hurt my tongue as well as upset my system. I guess it would be too much to hope for a dog that could sniff all that…I doubt a restaurant would let me bring in a pack of dogs that could sniff out everything. Right now I’m going on my 6th week of “horrible” because of a product my doctor told me to get for fiber, and I took it without reading all the fine, fine print…and it turned out that it had wheat in it. And she KNEW I was diagnosed as being Celiac because she sent me to the specialist. I’m learning that I’m the only one who is responsible for what I ingest and have to take my chances with dealing with restaurants.

  25. I’d love a Gluten sniffing dog ! I have been diagnosed for almost a year and the learning curve has been enormous. In the beginning it was easy to pick out obvious gluten cotaining foods- and eliminating those foods has been another story. At this point the gluten wreaks havoc on my entire being. No cupcake is worth it. Acceptance has come.
    What hasn’t come is the knowledge of which preservatives ( ingredients I cannot pronounce) are good / bad. Even something like lotion is a nightmare waiting to happen. Toothpaste and deodorant too.
    A dog would be fantastic at a restaurant too!
    Plus I’d feel safe with a big dog.

  26. I have trained a dog in the past as a Handi dog. It was not costly, just time consuming. It takes commitment. It is a fantastic Idea. And I would love to learn more about this, as well as getting one trained for my son.

  27. I would absolutely want a gluten detection dog for my 19 yr old daughter. She is hyper-sensitive and even the slightest contamination sends her into stomache fits and migranes for 3-4 days! She was diagnosed exactly one year ago and we had hoped she would balance off (wishful thinking) but this would help her. Even gluten free menus at restaurants she still gets some cross contaimination at times. A dog would be wonders for her AND she is an extreme pet lover to boot!

  28. Would be wonderful if a small dog that fit in your purse (and doesn’t shed) could be trained…very restaurant friendly. Maybe a Bichon Frise?

  29. I would so love a dog like this for my kids. They are totally asymptomatic which sounds great, but is horrible because we never know if they are accidentally glutened at a restaurant or someone’s home. The endoscopy showed the damage to their intestines was extensive so it’s important for their long term health that they avoid gluten.

  30. I would love one of these dogs. What I think would also help this cause is one voice. What i mean is that AARP has influence. Do Celiacs have a registry? Why not make our one percent work? I would like to document my need for a service dog. Just feels like we are going in many different directions.

  31. I would like to have a gluten detecting dog ihave a husky puppy of nine months and I would like to know if some one could train my puppy or find one that could be trained or a trainer who could contact me

  32. I’m so intolerant to gluten that I can’t be in the house if someone boils spaghetti.
    I own a dog that was part of a search and rescue team at one time until health prevented my daughter from working with him any longer.
    He has an amazing nose and a natural willingness to learn.
    How can we train him to search for gluten?
    Are there any recommended cd’s or books on how to do this?

    Please email me if you know of anything.

  33. I have a almost 2 yr old Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever & Poodle) that lives to please and is very attached to me. I have a terrible time with cross contamination & as hard as I try I still get fooled. I with follow up with to see about training and if I can train her I would open a reasonably priced training school or instruction book to share the wealth. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Scottsdale AZ

  34. I also would be interested in a Gluten Sniffing trained facility, anyone who finds out ANYTHING please post as I’ve run into road blocks myself in trying to find a facility. Boy, maybe I need to start this facility………..

    ps: live in Illinois

  35. I too have a particually virulent reaction. I get violently sick and am sick for about a month unable to function. My doctor pointed me to this articual and thinks its a wonderful idea since more and more people are getting diagnosed every day. Sign me up. I hope they keep training these wonderful dogs and make them affordable to those who needs them.

  36. It has been a while since anyone has posted an update. Any news? I would be very interested in a gluten sniffing dog!!!

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