Tag Archives: detection dogs

How the opioid crisis is affecting dogs

The USA is the midst of an opioid crisis – large numbers of people are misusing and becoming addicted to opioids, which can include heroin, prescription pain medications and fentanyl (a synthetic).  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that an average of 91 Americans die each day due to opioid overdose.

Veterinarians treating companion animals have to be aware of the symptoms of opioid overdose because, unfortunately, there are cases of accidental ingestion.  Sometimes the pet owners are unwilling to admit that their pet may have eaten opioid drugs, which of course is admission that they may be an addict themselves.

Drugs are, of course, big business and it’s up to law enforcement to help catch dealers who are making and selling the drugs.  Police dogs and detection dogs are part of that fight and they are often exposed to opioids in the course of detection work.

This video is for veterinarians and dog handlers to understand how to catch the signs of an opioid overdose in a dog and the treatment with reversal drugs like Narcan which are needed to save them.

and this is some of the news coverage about police dog handlers carrying reversal kits along with other first aid supplies.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Bear’s best friends

Detection dog for bears

Camas, of Working Dogs for Conservation, on the job in the Centennial Mountains.  Photo credit:  Julie Larsen Maher

A recently released study from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) details a new method using  “detection dogs,” genetic analysis, and scientific models to assess habitat suitability for bears in an area linking the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) to the northern U.S. Rockies.

The method, according to the authors, offers an effective, non-invasive approach to the collection of data that could play a vital role in the further recovery of grizzly bears during the coming decades.

“The use of detection dogs allowed us to quantify and map key areas of habitat for black bears in the Centennial Mountains located along the Idaho-Montana border west of Yellowstone National Park,” said Jon Beckmann, WCS Scientist and lead author of the study. “Black bears are a proxy species useful for predicting likely grizzly bear habitat. With recovery, a larger grizzly bear population needs room to roam and to reconnect with other populations. The Centennial Mountains region of the U.S. northern Rockies can provide room and safe linkages— critical to connecting the bear population in the GYE area to others further north and west”. 

During the study, two Labrador retrievers and two German shepherds owned and trained by Working Dogs for Conservation, located 616 scat samples of black bears and 24 of grizzly bears (identified by DNA extraction and analysis) in the 2500 square kilometer (965 square mile) study area.

“Dogs excel at searching for multiple scents at once, even if one is far more common than the other,” according to Aimee Hurt, Working Dogs for Conservation co-founder. “In this case, the dogs easily alerted us to a multitude of black bear scat, while also readily locating the rare grizzly bear scat, resulting in a multitude of data points and a robust model.”

“We recognize that black bears do not always utilize the landscape in precisely the same manner as grizzly bears,” said Beckmann. “But given the paucity of grizzly bears in the study area—especially  during the years of our study—our  approach, data, and model have value to grizzly bear conservation and management. This is especially true given that black bears and grizzly bears in the GYE are known to utilize very similar habitats spatially, but at different times.” 

Plugging the scat sample location data into their scientific model, the scientists examined the landscape with respect to habitat parameters, private lands, public land management and human activity in the area. Results of modeling provided insight into bear habitat use and resource selection patterns.

Among the findings it was determined that distance to roads matters; bears use habitat that is farther from roads, and when road density increased within 4 kilometers of a location bears used that habitat less. Bears also used a habitat less if it were high elevation, or privately owned. With this information land managers, land trusts, and others will be better informed to make bear habitat management and conservation decisions. This study may also inform human-bear conflict avoidance, and so help people and bears better co-exist.

“Using Detection Dogs and RSPF Models to Assess Habitat Suitability for Bears in Greater Yellowstone,” appears in the current edition of Western North American Naturalist. Co-authors include: Jon P. Beckmann of WCS; Lisette P. Waits of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, University of Idaho; Aimee Hurt and Alice Whitelaw of Working Dogs for Conservation; and Scott Bergen of Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

WCS’s work in this region is supported by the Turner Foundation, Wilburforce Foundation, Brainerd Foundation, The New York Community Trust, and the Bureau of Land Management–Dillon, Montana office.

Source:  Wildlife Conservation Society media release

 

 

New products to help train dogs for explosive detection

The Department of Homeland Security (USA) has been conducting independent assessments and developing products to assist canine explosive teams.

An explosive detection dog in action. Photo courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security

An explosive detection dog in action. Photo courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security

One of the biggest challenges in the training and testing of canine teams results from the explosives materials themselves – especially new homemade explosives. Due to the potential safety risks of explosives, only specially trained federal explosive technicians can provide the material for training and testing. This not only limits training times and opportunities, but also increases the costs since the technicians must travel to a central location for multi-day training events.

Researchers have been developing a new training aid that matches the scent of explosive materials but poses no danger to the trainers, the canines or the environment. It is currently undergoing field testing within federal, state and local canine detection teams. A key objective was to for the canines to react to the non-hazardous, non-explosive training aid the same way they would actual explosive material.

“It doesn’t go boom if you drop it, hit it or light it on fire,” said Canine Program Manager, Don Roberts. “That allows teams to take the training from the very controlled environment we currently have to train in for safety reasons and put it in a real-world scenario – for example putting the odor in a cinderblock and seeing if the dog can find it. We can put this new training aid in car wheel wells, airports etc., without fear that they’ll explode.”

S&T’s partner, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, developed the new training aid, Roberts said. After a number of trials, they’re ready to transfer the technology to the Transportation Security Administration, the primary customer for the aid. The bigger news, according to Roberts, is that the product was also designed to fit first responders’ needs as well.

“The design price point and usability factor has been geared to the first responder community – state and local explosive detection dogs who don’t have the regular training support TSA has. They are the ones who really need these products,” said Roberts.

The training aids are made to be thrown away after being used. These aids can last for over eight hours and can be stored up to two years. The scent can be dissolved in water, as opposed to the previous explosive training materials, which required special handling, transport and had to be stored in a bunker.

Next steps for this program include developing a second scent for training the dogs, and licensing so that the products can be produced outside of the federal government.

Source:  Department of Homeland Security media release

Read my other blog posts about explosives detector dogs:

Canine remote control?

Just how far will technology take us in interacting with dogs?

Jeff Miller and David Bevly of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, have devised a system to issue cues by remote control.  They’ve published their results in an issue of the International Journal of Modelling, Identification and Control which is due out soon.

Their system provides guidance to the dog using an embedded command module with vibration and tone generation capabilities. Tests in a structured and non-structured environment show obedience accuracy up to almost 98%.

The system is designed with serious uses in mind – it’s not being designed for the lazy dog owner who doesn’t want to spend time or interact with their dog.

The team has demonstrated that a search & rescue or other working dog can be trained to respond “virtually flawlessly” to remote control tones and vibrations as if they were immediate commands from a human handler.

A detector dog in action

A detector dog in action

Directing detection dogs in areas where human handlers cannot access is one such serious application of the technology.

Source:  EurekAlert! press release

Training dogs for bomb detection

Unfortunately, we live in a world where people still build bombs to kill and maim.  Dogs have traditionally been trained to detect explosive devices by learning to detect specific odours and then to signal their handler.

A detection dog in action

A detection dog in action

The process of training a bomb detection dog is slow because the dog is trained to identify each scent individually.  In countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, homemade devices are made using mixtures of explosives.

With a grant from the Office of Naval Research, researchers at the University of Lincoln (UK) will investigate whether explosive detection dogs are capable of learning by categorisation, a cognitive process that is thought to play a major role in the way humans and animals naturally process new information.

The study will explore whether dogs can be trained to recognise the significance of a group of odours, rather than having to learn each scent individually.

Researcher Helen Zulch says, “In this study we will be testing whether a dog can be taught a general rule for a group of odours and then apply that knowledge to a new situation, involving scents it has never encountered. We know dogs can categorise visual stimuli, so the aim of this study is to find out whether dogs are able to categorise odours in a similar manner.”

If successful, the research will underpin new training approaches that will accelerate the process of training detector dogs.

Source:  University of Lincoln media release

Announcing the National Fire Dog Monument

The winning design features a firefighter looking upon his detection dog, who is ready for duty

The non-profit organisation National Fire Dog Monument has been successful in its fundraising to build a monument to Certified Accelerant Detection Dogs.  The bronze statue is entitled “From Ashes to Answers” and will be permanently displayed in front of a fire station in Washington, DC.

The inspiration for the dog in the sculpture is Erin, Colorado’s first arson dog who died from cancer.

As the statue is transported to its final home, there will be a roadshow from June 21 to 28, 2012 stopping in 12 cities starting in Denver, Colorado and ending in Washington, with other stops in Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.   The full schedule of stops  can be found here.

Arson dogs are trained to detect hydrocarbons and other accelerants that are used to deliberately light fires.  The use of dogs in this service is yet another way that working dogs are used to benefit communities and the new monument is a fitting tribute to their contribution.