Category Archives: special dogs and awards

War Memorial pays tribute to animals that served in conflicts – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Soldiers with their dogs stand at the Australian War Memorial (photo by Siobhan Heanue, ABC)

Soldiers with their dogs stand at the Australian War Memorial (photo by Siobhan Heanue, ABC)

On the eve of Anzac Day, here’s a special story about service animals honoured recently at the Australiam War Memorial.

War Memorial pays tribute to animals that served in conflicts – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Golden Retrievers Bring Joy, Healing to Boston

DoggyMom.com:

The Golden Retriever comfort dogs are returning to Boston, one year on…great story!

See last year’s story in this blog post:  Luther and Ruthie go to Boston

Originally posted on The Daily Golden:

6 Golden Retrievers from the Lutheran Church Charities K9 Comfort Dogs will be in Boston to help bring joy and comfort to the thousands of people attending the area for the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 21st.  2 of the comfort dogs,  Addie and Maggie are already in Boston.  They also plan to visit hospitals and first responders.

lcc3Luther, Ruthie, Hannah and Rufus will arrive in Boston tomorrow and will be stationed at the First Lutheran Church of Boston, 299 Berkley St.- just a few blocks away from where the bombings occurred last year.  The dogs work for about 3 hours at a time and then are given a break.

Here they are with LCC president Tim Hetzner and their wonderful handlers, preparing to leave.

Photo - LCC Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs - Facebook

Photo – LCC Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs – Facebook

President of LCC Charities Tim Hetzner says

Our goal is to bring mercy…

View original 105 more words

Royal visit to New Zealand – the dog connection

Today was the last day in New Zealand for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka Will and Kate).  And finally, we have something dog-related from this visit!

The Duke and Duchess visited the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua this morning.  There, they met puppies, dogs in training, and fully-fledged police dogs.

William and Kate cuddle with police dog puppies (photo by Getty)

William and Kate cuddle with police dog puppies (photo by Getty)

A soft toy police dog was a gift to Kate, presumably for Prince George (photo by Getty)

A soft toy police dog was a gift to Kate, presumably for Prince George (photo by Getty)

And after this doggy (and soggy) visit, the Royals are now off to their next stop on the Royal Tour – Australia.   I hope Australia’s dogs will also be able to participate in their visit!

 

The dog on the Hindenburg

HindenburgWhen the German airship Hindenburg exploded over Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6,1937, there was a single dog on board.

Joseph Späh, a German acrobatic performer, was bringing the German shepherd named Ulla to the United States as a surprise for his children.  Ulla was kept in a restricted freight area of the ship and she did not survive the fire.

German Shepherd

At one stage of the investigation into the disaster, Mr Späh was considered a possible saboteur because he had made trips into the restricted area on a regular basis (to feed Ulla).  These allegations were never proven.

 

The Washington mudslide tests dogs and handlers

A search dog works at the Oso, Washington mudslide.  Photo by David Ryder, Getty

A search dog works at the Oso, Washington mudslide. Photo by David Ryder, Getty

Search and recovery efforts at the site of the massive mudslide in Oso, Washington are hampered regularly by tough ground conditions.

In this National Geographic article, a handler explains about how a search in these conditions is undertaken and describes the challenges posed by cold and rainy conditions, tons of mud, and lots of water.

Scent of my human

The functional MRI research team led by Gregory Berns have done it again.  In research published in the journal Behavioural Processes, they show that an area of the canine brain associated with reward responds more strongly to the scents of familiar humans than it does to the scents of other humans, or even to those of familiar dogs.

Kady, a lab involved in the study, shown training for the experiment in a mock-up fMRI scanner.  Photo by Helen Berns

Kady, a lab involved in the study, shown training for the experiment in a mock-up fMRI scanner. Photo by Helen Berns

“In our experiment, the scent donors were not physically present. That means the canine brain responses were being triggered by something distant in space and time. It shows that dogs’ brains have these mental representations of us that persist when we’re not there.”

When humans smell the perfume or cologne of someone they love, they may have an immediate, emotional reaction that’s not necessarily cognitive, Berns notes. “Our experiment may be showing the same process in dogs. But since dogs are so much more olfactory than humans, their responses would likely be even more powerful than the ones we might have.”

The experiment involved 12 dogs of various breeds. The animals had all undergone training to hold perfectly still while undergoing an fMRI scan. As they were being scanned, the subjects were presented with five different scents that had been collected on sterile gauze pads that morning and sealed in Mylar envelopes. The scent samples came from the subject itself, a dog the subject had never met, a dog that lived in the subject’s household, a human the dog had never met, and a human that lived in the subject’s household.

The familiar human scent samples were taken from someone else from the house other than the handlers during the experiment, so that none of the scent donors were physically present.

The dog scents were swabbed from the rear/genital area and the human scents were taken from armpits.

The results showed that all five scents elicited a similar response in parts of the dogs’ brains involved in detecting smells, the olfactory bulb and peduncle. The caudate responses, however, were significantly stronger for the scents of familiar humans, followed by that of familiar dogs.

“The stronger caudate activation suggested that not only did the dogs discriminate the familiar human scent from the others, they had a positive association with it,” Berns says. “While we might expect that dogs should be highly tuned to the smell of other dogs, it seems that the ‘reward response’ is reserved for their humans. Whether this is based on food, play, innate genetic predisposition or something else remains an area for future investigation.”

An interesting twist: The dogs in the experiment that had received training as service/therapy dogs showed greater caudate activation for the scent of a familiar human compared with the other dogs. It is unclear whether this difference was due to genetics or had simply been fostered through the service/therapy training.

“We plan to do further research to determine whether we can use brain-imaging techniques to better identify dogs that are optimal to serve as companion animals for the disabled,” Berns says.

The training of service dogs is time-consuming and expensive, he says, and only about one-third of the animals that begin the process successfully complete it. Meanwhile, the waiting list for service dogs is long, and includes many wounded veterans.

“In addition to serving as companion animals for wounded veterans, dogs play many important roles in military operations,” Berns says. “By understanding how dogs’ brains work, we hope to find better methods to select and train them for these roles.”

Source:  Emory University media release

Read my other blogs about functional MRI research:

 

 

How dogs detect explosives

Photo courtesy of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Photo courtesy of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

A research team at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) has helped determine the science behind how dogs locate explosives such as Composition C-4 (a plastic explosive used by the U.S. military). The study found the dogs react best to the actual explosive, calling into question the use of products designed to mimic the odor of C-4 for training purposes.

These findings are the culmination of a four-year contract funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

“Appropriately, dogs that are trained to find real explosives are going to find real explosives and not much else,” said John Goodpaster, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology and director for the Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program in the School of Science at IUPUI.

The effectiveness of trained detector dogs is well established, but the study sought to determine which chemical compounds cause a dog to recognize a particular explosive and alert to it. Previous studies have suggested that certain non-explosive chemicals emitted by Composition C-4 cause dogs to alert, and that these specific chemicals could be used as mimic substances to train the dogs in place of real explosives.

The research team discovered that the non-explosive chemicals given off by C-4 mimics also are present in a variety of everyday plastic objects. Objects tested included PVC pipes, electrical tape, movie tickets, a plastic grocery bag and plastic food wrapping. Several of the tested items emitted appreciable levels of a mimic compound recommended by some vendors for training dogs.

The second phase exposed 33 trained canines from the DOD, Department of Justice, Amtrak and other agencies to these vapors to see if the dogs would respond. The field trials demonstrated that the dogs failed to respond in any significant way to specific odor compounds found in C-4. The results indicate that if the dogs are trained on the full scent, they will only detect real explosives.

The study findings have been published in the March 2014 edition of the journal Forensic Science International.

Source:  IUPUI media release

The Duchess and the Wolfhound

This week, the Duchess of Cambridge visited the Irish Guards to present sprigs of shamrocks to the regiment’s members. That included Domhnall, the Guards’ mascot. Domhnall is an Irish Wolfhound (how appropriate!)

(Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Dogs give exercise new meaning for seniors

Photo courtesy of Florida State University

Bogey and his dumb bell.  Photo courtesy of Florida State University

Dogs are adding a new twist to exercise classes at the Westminster Oaks Retirement Community in Florida.  Three times each week, they accompany two doctoral students to an exercise class that is part of a study to look at whether exercising with dogs can lead to better health outcomes.

“Between each exercise, we try to leave a little bit of time so people can pet the dogs and talk to the handlers,” says Ashley Artese, a first-year doctoral student in exercise science.

Volunteers for the study at Westminster Oaks were split into two groups of seven. One exercises with dogs trained by Tallahassee Memorial Hospital’s pet therapy program. The other group exercises without them.

Walking around the room, biceps curls with light dumb bells and resistance band stretching are all a part of the routine.  When the group working with dogs lift their dumb bells,  dog Bogey picks up a plastic one. And when the seniors walk around the room, Lola, Stryker and Bogey walk in circles too.

“Exercise classes are not something I call fun, but with the dogs, it is fun,” said Mary Stevenson, a Westminster Oaks resident.  When she heard the exercise class would involve dogs, it caught her interest.

In addition to Lola, Stryker and Bogey, there are four other dogs — Cosmo, Casey, Kayla and Zachy.

For now, all of the work is on a volunteer basis, but all of the parties involved hope it will turn into a funded research study in the future.  At the end of this program, the professors and doctoral students will review the data to see how it might translate into a large-scale study.

Source:  Florida State University media release

Identification tags for Disability Assist Dogs

In the aftermath of the Christchurch 2011 earthquake, officials had difficulty identifying the status of dogs at civil defence centers.  If you were the owner of a disability assistance dog, this made things more difficult in what was already a stressful time.

Disability Assist Dog identification tag
In December 2013, the Minister of Civil Defence, the Hon Nikki Kaye, announce the production of a Disability Assist Dog tag that will be officially recognised throughout New Zealand.  The tags will be entered into the National Dog Database and provide unique identification for each dog, linking it to its owner/handler and the organisation that certified the dog.   These tags will be help match lost dogs and owners much faster and ensure that handlers and their dogs are allowed entry to official civil defence centers.

(Dogs are also micro-chipped in New Zealand; this is compulsory)

Seven organisations are authorised under the Dog Control Act 1996 to train and certify disability assist dogs. Only dogs certified through these organisations will qualify to wear the official identification tag:

  • Hearing Dogs for Deaf People NZ
  • Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust
  • New Zealand Epilepsy Assist Dogs Trust
  • Royal NZ Foundation for the Blind
  • Top Dog Companion Trust (not currently operating)
  • Assistance Dogs New Zealand Trust
  • Perfect Partners Assistance Dogs Trust

What programs are in place in your country to support owners/handlers and their assistance dogs?