The amazing ability of dogs to detect scent

In a recent study conducted by the University of Alberta, they determined that a dog could detect fire accelerants such as gasoline in quantities as small as one billionth of a teaspoon.

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The study was conducted to determine the effectiveness of arson detection dogs. To test this the researchers used two dog-and-handler teams. One dog was trained to detect a variety of ignitable liquids, and the other was trained with gasoline. Interestingly, the dog trained on a variety of liquids performed well detecting all accelerants, but the dog trained on gasoline could not generalize to other accelerants at extremely low concentrations.

The reason for the tests was that accelerant dogs will give an indication at a site and when the material is tested in a lab, no trace of accelerant is found.

Those of us who use dogs for various scent work will find this information helpful. The study concluded that a dog could detect odor at one billionth of a teaspoon. In previous studies by Johnson and Johnson, they determined that a dog could detect any scent at one part per trillion.

The variables that must be considered in research such as this are:

The dog’s physical ability to detect odor. Even a good dog will have off days.

The trainer’s ability to train the dog.

The air flow at the testing site.

The age of the material, in other words, how old is the scent source?

And my last comment, if the dog who was trained to detect only gasoline would not generalize to other accelerants at a low level, he was doing what he was trained to do. It does not mean that the dog could not detect the low-level scents. The question that needs to be addressed is do the non-gasoline accelerants have a gasoline chemical that evaporates quickly that the dog would identify at a higher concentration, but at low levels are there other scents or chemicals in the accelerant that are residual which the dog is not trained to find? For example, a dog taught to follow human scent will never follow animal scent. Unless the other accelerants had the chemical composition of gasoline, the dog should not indicate it.

But this is a good study and does give us an idea of the concentration of scent that a dog can detect.

 

A Dog’s personality can change

According to a study done by William Chopik a professor at Michigan State University a dog’s life changes can influence their personality. His study has confirmed that dogs have moods and personality traits that shape how they react to situations.

The way you treat your dog and the activities that you do with your dog can influence the dog’s personality. He found that the sweet spot for training and shaping a dog’s personality is around six months of age.

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Chopik plans to continue his study to see how the environment can change a dog’s personality. For example, a dog may behave one way in a shelter and if adopted into a loving home, may react differently. A previous study by Clive Wynne, professor of psychology and head of the Canine Science Collaboratory has demonstrated that letting shelter dogs do a sleepover in foster homes goes a long way to reduce their stress.

Therefore Chopik is on the right track with his planned study about how adopting a dog out of the shelter environment may change the way the dog reacts. However, canine behaviorists know that it can take three to six months for a dog to fully adjust to a new environment.

The bottom line is that this study shows that it is important to give your dog a loving home, train your dog, and properly socialize your dog to give your dog the best possible life.

Do bigger brains mean smarter dogs?

According to a study conducted by Daniel Horschler, a UA anthropology doctoral student and member of the UA’s Arizona Canine Cognition Center, dogs with bigger brains can perform certain tasks better than dogs with smaller brains. The researchers found that larger-brained breeds had better short-term memory and self-control than smaller dogs, regardless of the extent of training the dogs had received.

The tests showed that brain size did not determine a dog’s performance on tests of social intelligence such as being able to follow where a person points or with the dog’s inferential and physical reasoning ability.

What the study did not define is what is considered small and what is considered large? What the study also did not seem to take into account is the difference between the way humans relate, handle and treat small vs large dogs. As a canine behavior consultant and dog trainer I have seen a vast difference between the way owners treat and relate to large vs small dogs. For example, you do not see owners carrying their Labrador Retrievers around in backpacks or pushing them in strollers. Often small dogs are not allowed to act like dogs whereas large dogs are allowed to act like a dog should act. It is interesting to consider.

Do dogs need training to understand human cues?

Dr. Anindita Bhadra of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, India, and colleagues studied stray dogs across several Indian cities to determine if dogs can understand human cues without training.

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They found that stray dogs that were not timid or shy, would respond to a strange human pointing to a bowl. If the dog was friendlier and less anxious, they approached the bowls that the tester pointed to about 80% of the time. This shows that the dogs not only recognized human body language but are able to understand complex gestures.

What the researchers were unable to tell is how much experience the stray dogs had with humans and was it positive or negative. Also unknown is if people had fed the dogs in the past, using a pointing motion to indicate that there was food available.

The study does mention that more research is needed to determine if the personality of the dog is a factor in their response to human pointing. But all in all, it is another piece of information that gives us insight into the mind of the dog.

Susan Bulanda’s Books

Hi loyal followers. Earlier this month I posted about the books I have written. However, I did not realize that my website (www.sbulanda.com) was not working. It is fixed, so if you tried to order any of my books and could not, you should be able to do so now. Sorry for any inconvenience. Please note that you cannot order my WWI book, Soldiers in Fur and Feathers from my website. This is because I only have a few copies left. If you would like a copy of that book email me at sbulanda@gmail.com to see if I still have some. It is a collectible since it is a signed first edition. Also note that Scenting on the Wind and Ready to Serve, Ready to Save are on sale for $6.00 each. These area also signed first editions that are now out of print. Go to my previous blog to see my books.

Thanks, Sue

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How animals detect odor

Prof. Nowotny, Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange in the University of Sussex’s School of Engineering and Informatics had determined that animals may not single out a specific odor when they look for a substance. He has found that animals may find it easier to detect a collection of odors instead of a single substance. If this is true, then most of the detection dog training that focuses on teaching a dog to look for one odor rather than a scent picture, may not be the best way to train a dog.

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Scout following scent

One single odor does not exist in a natural environment, rather there are a collection of odors. When you consider that it is impossible to isolate a single odor in a natural environment, this discovery makes sense. Of course it is possible and often likely that a single odor is stronger than the surrounding odors, but still it is not the only odor present.

Professor Nowotny suggests that animal and human olfactory systems may not be made to do analytic smelling of pure odors. He uses the example of how an animal will give off pheromones, a complex set of odors, as a form of communication and that it is important that an animal recognize the entire chemical message and not a single element in the chemical message.

For years I have maintained that when teaching a dog scent work that there is no such thing as an uncontaminated scent article. Professor Nowotny has confirmed this with his latest research. Although more studies need to be done, and we should still train our dogs as we have in the past, it does open the door for a less narrow view of what dogs detect and how they detect it and may lead to new training methods. It is always good to “think outside the box.”

Sue Bulanda’s books

With the holidays fast approaching I thought I would post a list of the books that I have written. All but two of my books can be ordered from my website (www.sbuland.com) by clicking on the “books” tab. If you want a book shipped outside of the USA please email me for the correct postage. If you order my listed books you will get an autographed copy. I only have a few copies of Soldiers in Fur and Feathers so if you want that please email me first to see if I have any more. This book is out-of-print, so do not order it from my website.

K9 Obedience Training: Teaching Pets and Working Dogs to be Reliable and Free-Thinking.  This book shows you how to teach a dog the basic obedience that is the foundation for all other training. The methods used in this book allow the dog the freedom to think for themselves rather than perform in a robotic method where creativity is discouraged. Free-Thinking is necessary for all working dogs who cannot be trained for every situation that they encourage. Obedient disobedience is also covered. The book also explains what not to do and why. It includes basic handling and grooming techniques that are necessary for a well socialized dog. Some fun tricks are included.

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K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search-Dog Training Problems – explains the typical training problems and offers solutions that SAR dog handlers encounter when training their dogs. The solutions apply to all disciplines in canine search and rescue. It explains how the puppy stages of development can have lasting effects on the behavior and training of a dog. Often people adopt an older dog to train and do not understand why the dog behaves the way it does, this book gives insight to those issues. Although K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search-Dog Training Problems is written for the SAR dog handler, the information contained in it applies to many training issues that are not related to SAR.

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Soldiers in Fur and Feathers: The Animals That Served in WWI – Allied Forces: A unique, collection of accounts about many different animals that served in WWI. There are many rare photos. What is especially interesting about this book is that it includes many of the mascots that the soldiers kept. Some went into the trenches with the men. For example, there is an account about how a cat saved the life of a soldier, how a pair of geese slated to be Christmas dinner wound up being kept as mascots, and one soldier had a huge Golden Eagle as a pet. WWI was a transitional war from animal power to mechanization, therefore many species of animals served, such as oxen, horses, mules, camels, pigeons, and dogs in many capacities.

2012: Second Place Winner Non-Fiction, National League of American Pen Women; Finalist for the Alliance of Purebred Dog Writers Arthur Award, Certificate of Excellence for the Cat Writers Association of America.

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Faithful Friends: Holocaust Survivors Stories of the Pets Who Gave Them Comfort, Suffered Alongside Them and Waited for Their Return: This is the only book written about the animals of the Holocaust victims, recording a part of history that has been overlooked. Some of the stories are sad and some joyous, but all are a part of history. Learn about Nicholas the French Bulldog owned by a woman who was part of the French resistance, and how he came to tour with the German army. Also, the dogs who somehow survived the war and were reunited with their owners and many other stories about dogs and cats.

2012: Dog Writers Association of America, Maxwell Award.

Certificate of Excellence Cat Writers Association, 2012; National League of American Pen Woman 2nd place non-fiction, 2012.

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God’s Creatures: A Biblical View of Animals: explains the role that animals play in the Bible and how God uses them. It explores the nature of animals and miracles that involve them. The book explores many of the miracles that involve animals. It answers questions such as, do animals go to heaven, do they know and obey God, can they be evil?

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Boston Terriers, a book all about this wonderful breed of dog. Learn about their care, training and personality. The book has fun sidebars that give personal accounts of Boston terriers.

First Place Maxwell Award for the Dog Writers Association of America, 2002. (only available on-line)

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Ready: The Training of the Search and Rescue Dog: Adopted worldwide as the training book for SAR dogs. This book has been in print since 1994 and is in its second edition. It gives the SAR dog handler a training plan for all disciplines of canine search and rescue.

First place for the National League of American Pen Woman’s biannual contest, 1996. Also nominated best book of the year, 1994 Dog Writers Association.

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Ready to Serve, Ready to Save: Strategies of Real-Life Search and Rescue Missions: is about actual search and rescue missions giving the reader inside information about how searches work. It is useful as a tabletop training exercise for SAR units.

2000 Award winner for the National League of American Pen Women contest.

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Scenting on the Wind: Scent Work for Hunting Dogs: helps the hunting enthusiast understand how weather, wind and terrain features affect scent. It is a great aid for people who compete in field trials or who do any kind of scent work with dogs.

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Real Estate Today, Seller Beware! – is how to save money when selling your house. Available on Amazon

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Canine genetics and behavior

Dog owners and breeders know that certain behaviors dominate certain breeds. For example herding dogs have the instinct to herd. Hounds have the instinct to hunt with their nose, some breeds are better guard dogs and the list goes on. This is what makes breed traits what they are. But it has been somewhat of a mystery about how this happens genetically because not all dogs in a particular breed have the same strength of the trait for that breed and some lack it entirely.

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In a new study, James A Serpell of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues Evan L. MacLean of the University of Arizona, Noah Snyder-Mackler of the University of Washington, and Bridgett M. vonHoldt of Princeton University conducted a study to try to unravel how genetics affect breed trait behavior.

Their study concluded that genes do play a large part in breed behavior, and those gene most affect the brain rather than other bodily tissues. However, they stressed that there is a large margin to allow for the differences between individual animals.

What this means to the dog owner, and especially the potential dog owner, is that getting a dog from a reliable, ethical and trusted breeder is critical to your dog’s behavior. The genetic tendencies can and do vary from line to line. It also means that if you adopt a mixed breed or purebred dog, you will have no idea what it’s genetically controlled behavior will be.

This is important to understand because if behavior issues arise, you will have to allow for the possibility that it is genetically influenced. The method that you use to alter any unwanted behavior that is genetically influence will be different than simple training methods. Always consult a certified behavior consultant. You can find one at www.iaabc.org.

Also keep in mind that genetically influenced behavior is not limited to dogs but is a part of the makeup of all living beings. Yes, environment and learning also comes into play.

Another canine therapy job

Dogs have proven themselves over and over again as a benefit to humans who are stressed or ill. Yet scientists have found another way that dogs can help people.

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Often military personnel must be transported by air to distant facilities for treatment. These people are often in a state of chronic and acute stress as well as requiring medical care.

Cheryl A. Krause-Parello, Ph.D., R.N. who is a researcher at the Florida Atlantic University in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing has determined that therapy dogs have drastically helped these patients, especially those with PDST.

What is awesome is that the study was assisted by researchers from the University of Maryland School of Nursing; the Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing, Uniformed Services University; TriService Nursing Research Program, Uniformed Services University; and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

This research is supported by The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) is the awarding and administering office (award number HT9404-12-1-TS06, N12-011). This research is sponsored by the TriService Nursing Research Program, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

It is a real plus that so many organizations supported this study and hopefully therapy dogs will be assigned to help the soldiers that need them.

K9 Obedience Training: Teaching Pets and Working Dogs to be Reliable and Free-Thinking by Susan Bulanda

I am very excited to announce that my latest book is now available. If you would like an autographed copy please go to my website and order one, http://www.sbulanda.com.

If you live outside of the USA the postage may cost more than the book, but if you still want a copy please email me at: sbulanda@gmail.com and I will check how much the postage will cost. The book is also available as an Ebook. Below is a summary of what is in the book. As always, if after you read the book you can email me with any questions that you may have.

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Obedience is the foundation for any reliable, well-trained dog. Without obedience, working dogs are ineffective in operations and pet dogs can be annoying and possibly a danger to themselves or others.

In K9 Obedience Training, you will learn the techniques that I have developed during my career as a dog trainer and then certified animal behavior consultant. The methods outlined in my book will let your dog be free-thinking as well as obedient. I also cover the latest research about how a dog thinks, what they understand and what they are capable of solving.

What is free-thinking? This is when a dog can apply what he has been taught to situations that he has not encountered before. His training allows him to solve problems and even perform obedient disobedience. An example of obedient disobedience is when a person directs a dog to do something, but the dog knows that it is not safe to do it. For example, if you toss a ball and it drops over a ledge that is unsafe, the dog will not retrieve it even though you have told him to “fetch.” This allows the dog to make decisions. It does not undo the training that the dog has had.

In my book I cover many topics that are part of obedience but not part of the basic obedience exercises. This includes teaching your dog to allow you to groom him, handle his body parts for things such as nail clipping, brushing the coat and teeth.

The book also covers basic manners such as not jumping, bolting in and out of doors and other safety exercises.

What is also very important is the discussion about who should train the dog and the rules that you must follow to successfully train the dog. Everything is explained in detail so that you can understand the purposes behind the rules.

I also cover food and how it affects your dog’s behavior. There is so much more in this book including some fun tricks to teach your dog. And for fun, at the end of the book is a photo gallery of some of the animals that have shared my life.

Here is a list of major topics. Many of these have sub-topics as well.

Part I Training Your Dog to Think Freely

  1. What is a Free-Thinking Dog?
  2. A Positive Training Philosophy

Part II Pre-Training Basics for The Free-Thinking Dog Trainer

  1. Talking to Your Dog
  2. Questions to Ask Before You Start Training
  3. House Training and Crate Training
  4. Handling Your Dog’s Body for Grooming and Hygiene

Part III

  1. The Equipment
  2. Setting Up for Success
  3. Basic Obedience Training
  4. Advanced Obedience for Safe Work, Sport and Play
  5. Exercises for Common Behavioral Challenges
  6. Tricks