canine cancer detection

requirements and considerations

requirements and qualifications

established commands

This is not a venue to work on improving obedience commands/skills or rehabilitate problem behaviour.  Your dog may have an excellent nose, however, if they are uncomfortable or noisy in a crate, or have issues being unsupervised in a room with other loose dogs, for example, then those challenges need to be addressed first.  You can speak with one of our amazing clevercanines team members to discuss what training program or service would support you in reaching your goal of having your dog audition for the cancer detection team at a future date.

Dogs who are selected will participate in a trial period and assessment before starting their cancer detection training.


We recruit for new dogs approximately two times a year.  Your dog must be available to attend at least one of the audition dates to be considered.

Here are our next audition dates:

During the audition, your dog will be tested on several skills and attributes to determine if they have the foundation for joining the cancer detection team.  You will be required to drop your dog off at our clevercanines laboratory and leave him or her with our team for up to three hours.  The testing will take place in your absence.  Your dog will only progress to the next stage of testing if they pass the one before it.  A pass is anything 75% or better.  You may be called to pick up your dog earlier if they are eliminated before making it through all stages of testing.

Stage one testing | Obedience

Stage two testing | Functional

Stage three testing | Scenting

Final results are reviewed and compared among other successful applicants prior to the team making the final decision on who joins the cancer detection team.

If your dog does not succeed, you are welcome to work on the requirements and re-audition at a future date.

successful candidates

Chosen dogs will participate on a trial basis and begin the first phase of cancer detection training.  Your dog will be tested at the end of each phase, and based on success, will progress to the next phase of training.  It can take seven to twelve months to achieve the stage where the dog can detect cancer, among healthy and high-risk controls, with an accuracy of 90% or better.  Dogs may be released from the program any time if they are not able to pass testing in their phase of training.

Statistically only 20% to 40% of dogs who start the program will finish successfully and be able to detect cancer with at least 90% accuracy.  As dog owners, we are proud of our dogs, and we also often have high expectations for them. Every effort will be made to help your dog succeed, however not all dogs will be able to continuously meet the growing demands and develop their skills in the limited time-frame provided by this study.  The decision will be at the discretion of the handler and could be made at any point throughout the study.


There is no doubt this opportunity is really cool, and would be neat if your dog could do it.  However it’s critical to note that the job your dog would be doing is very serious, as people’s lives would depend on it.

There are four important facts that you need to know, and agree to, before considering to move forward in the recruiting process, including the seriousness of this position.  Please weigh these points heavily and discuss them with your family.  This is a very extensive and expensive program, and your consideration and respect for the nature of the work is greatly appreciated.

time commitment

If your dog is selected, they will in essence have a job. This job will require them to go to work from Monday to Friday and vary between the hours of 8:00am and 6:00pm. You will need to be flexible to work with the training requirements.

Your dog will be set up as an ’employee’ in our scheduling software.  We use this software as a communication tool so you know when your dog will be working, or when they have day’s off.  Just like an employee, you will need to submit a time-off request should there be vacation or another reason you’d like your dog not to go to work.  Based on the stage of their training, their time-off request may or may not be approved.  If you travel frequently with your dog, this is a big consideration!  (Dog’s will always have statutory holidays off.)

Although your dog will still be your pet, they will also be more than that. They may have an ongoing job where they will be required to work on a possible daily basis.  Should they pass all their training, your dog will be qualified to start doing clinical work, where they will actually be providing feedback for paying customers who wish to be screened by our cancer detection dogs.

So the question becomes, are you comfortable with your dog continuing this lifestyle until he or she reaches their age of retirement?

at home restrictions

You will need to forgo certain activities with your dog based on what their reward mechanism is.  The most desired form of reward in the study, or in any clinical settings afterwards, will be play.  We want your dog to love coming to work and have a lot of fun doing it.  If your dog loves a particular toy or type of play, it will become a valuable form of currency to “pay” your dog for a job well done.  Therefore, if your dog loves to play with a ball, for example, it will be very likely that you (and your family or friends) will no longer be able to play ball with your dog (unless approved or suggested by the handler).  If the only time your dog gets to play their favourite game is when they do a good job at work, they will be highly motivated to work hard to do so.  If the dog can play ball outside of work, then as the challenge increases, they may decide not to work, and instead just wait to get home where playing with their ball is easy.

The job of a cancer detection dog is mentally strenuous.  Your dog will come home tired and need his or her rest so their mind is sharp for their next day of training.  Being a cancer detection dog needs to come above all else, therefore, other activities may need to be suspended, such as agility, fly-ball, herding, nose-work, or other extracurricular activities.  It’s critical that when your dog comes to work, they don’t want to just sleep!  If your dog currently participates in such activities, you will need to make a choice as to if this program is what you prefer to have your dog focus on.  A conversation with the lead research facilitator can help narrow in what activities would be too much for your dog, and what your dog can handle.

For similar reasons, the handler may be required to place other restrictions on your dog in addition or instead of what’s noted above.  This is a big consideration, will you be able to support these restrictions 100%?

additional training may be required

Your dogs success is not solely achieved by the work they do with the handler; their success will be directly related to what happens at home too. You will be required to maintain or improve basic commands or other skills as recommended by the handler. This means that you will be expected to support the work the handler is doing by including specific guidelines and protocols into your daily routine with your dog. These specifics are meant to support the handler in reaching the training objective easily and quickly, and to avoid the confusion of mixed messages between what the dog does at work and what they do at home. The handler may recommend that you attend a group class or have a private session with a qualified instructor. You may also need to report progression so you and the handler can work together to help your dog advance.


Transportation for your dog will be provided within a large proximity of the clevercanines laboratory.  Your treasured working dog will ride in our designated van that is low rise, climate controlled, and dog’s are harnessed in for safety.  If your dog is selected for the program, and you fall outside of our area, you will be expected to ensure your dog arrives to work on time, and pick them up when their day is done.  We may be able to coordinate a drop-off and pick-up point that is convenient for both parties.