I wanted to let my followers know that my latest book, K9 Troubleshooting won first place in the National League of American Pen Woman’s contest and has now been nominated in the Dog Writers Association of American contest. I will not know for a month or so if it wins. Being nominated is an honor in and of itself. There are a lot of books entered.
We know that it is critical for humans to learn new things and keep their mind active as they age. It goes a long way to help our minds from deteriorating and creates positive emotions helping to stave off depression.
The same is true for our dogs and cats as they age. Unfortunately physical limitations may keep an older dog or cat from participating in physical activities or even being physically unable to learn new tricks. However, Cognitive biologists from the Messerli Research Institute at Vetmeduni Vienna have developed a form of K9 “sudoku” to help old dogs stay mentally active.
Using a computer touch screen, they have developed a reward-based brain teaser. Once the dogs learn to use the touch screen the ones tested became avid computer gamers. The success of the project in the laboratory has led researchers to hope that industry will be motivated to develop the touch screen games for home use.
In the meantime, dog owners and cat owners (cats have the same mental needs as dogs) can set up treat puzzles or interactive games for their pets. There are some on the market that work well. You can google “treat puzzles for dogs or cats” to find them.
The main thing is to keep your aging pets mentally active. It will enrich their lives and keep their normal skills sharp.
Because the malaria parasites cause people who are infected to have a distinctive odor, dogs have been trained to detect malaria from socks worn by the people infected. This study was conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the Medical Research Council Unit the Gambia at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and experts from a charity, Medical Detection Dogs.
While the use of dogs to detect malaria is not widespread, experts hope to be able to train more dogs and use them at ports of entry to detect people who are infected with malaria. It will also give health care professionals a fast and easy way to determine who has malaria in remote villages.
However, more tests need to be conducted to see if the dogs can detect different stages of malaria and also to see if the scent varies with malaria species in different parts of the world. I have no doubt that dogs will become the most useful tool to detect the early stages of malaria.
K9 Teams: Beyond the Basics of Search and Rescue and Recovery
By Vi Hummel Shaffer, ISBN:978-1-55059-762-2, Brush Education, 386 pgs.
This book was years in the making. Ms. Shaffer has compiled notes, interviews and her personal experience spanning over 26 years. Ms. Shaffer is a SAR/R dog trainer and handler specializing in forensic human remains detection. Her resume is too extensive to list here, trust me she has tons of experience.
The material in her book is well documented with notes, bibliography and additional sources. She also includes a list of suggested reading.
There are six major sections with multiple chapters in each section. All in all there are 38 sections.
The major headings are:
The Making of a TEAM: Building a Strong Foundation
Canine Abilities and Scent Detection
Instructors, Training and Certifications
Cadaver and Human Remains Detection
Disasters and Disaster Teams
Ms. Shaffer has been part of a number of high-profile cases such as the Madalyn Murray O’Hair murder and the Pentagon bombing.
K9 Teams: Beyond the Basics of Search and Rescue and Recovery is a must have for anyone who is interested in K9 SAR and forensic detective work using dogs.
I want to share with my loyal followers that my latest book, K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search Dog Problems, published by Brush Education, has won first place in the bi-annual National League of American Pen Women’s contest, in its category.
Although this book is written primarily for SAR dogs, it can help owners and trainers of other working and sport dogs solve some of the training issues that they have. If you would like an autographed copy of my book please order it directly from my web site at http://www.sbulanda.com
Giada Morelli at the University of Padua in Italy and other researchers analyzed 32 popular dog treats that could be purchased in pet shops and supermarkets. They examined 5 biscuit types, ten tender treats, three meat-based strips, five bovine skin rawhides, twelve chewable sticks and six dental care sticks.
They analyzed the ingredients based on the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines looking for the levels of minerals, starch, simple sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and the amino acid hydroxyproline (a component of collagen).
What they found were rather surprising and should be a caution to dog owners. Seventy-six percent of the treats contained 4 -9 ingredients that were not specifically listed on the label. For example, the classification “cereal” was listed but not what kind. Treats that were made of meat had “meat and animal derivatives” listed instead of which meat and what animal derivatives.
About half of the treats listed “sugars,” and all of them had various amounts of minerals. The researchers suggested that further studies be done on a wider variety of treats and most important, that dog owners who have dogs with sensitivities or diseases should exercise extreme caution when selecting and giving their dogs treats since the ingredients could cause medical issues for those dogs.
While on the topic of treats and chews, to test if the treat or chew is safe for your dog, put a piece of it in water and if it does not dissolve in five to ten minutes, there is a good chance that it will not dissolve in your dog’s intestines and can cause bowel blockage. High on the list of items that cause bowel blockage are rawhide, bones and other hard, chew items.
Dogs who work in hot weather such as border patrol dogs, search and rescue dogs as well as military dogs often become dehydrated when they work in hot environments.
Handlers of these dogs do not agree about how to hydrate their dogs to prevent heat stroke and dehydration. There are three major ways that handlers hydrate their dogs.
- Free access to drinking water
- Subcutaneous hydration (a needle under the skin) of water and electrolytes
- Drinks containing electrolytes
Researchers studied all three methods and found that they all worked. However, they found that by using a chicken flavored electrolyte drink, even dogs who were reluctant to drink, would drink more liquid.
The researchers tested the dog’s urine and found that they passed the sodium and therefore did not have a buildup of sodium in their body which had been a concern about using electrolyte drinks. Thus, drinking a chicken flavored electrolyte drink did not have any negative effects on the dogs.
A new study by comparative psychologists at the Messerli Research Institute of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna has illustrated that both dogs and wolves understand what it means to be treated unequally.
Previously, the studies that illustrated that dogs understood and reacted negatively to inequality, assumed that this reaction was due to domestication. The current study illustrates that this is not true because wolves reacted the same way as dogs.
The tests also showed that higher ranking wolves and dogs became frustrated more quickly when they perceived favoritism. Scientists assumed this is because they are not used to receiving lower quality rewards.
What makes this interesting is that the study illustrates that the animals being tested understand and recognize what a lower quality reward consists of. This means that they observed the differences in the rewards, were able to value the reward and determine that they were not getting as much.
The most exciting information from this experiment is how it illustrates an animal’s ability to think, reason and make decisions and judgements. For pet owners, it shows us that when we train our animals, the reward needs to be something valued by the animal. After all don’t people feel the same way too?
A study by the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna showed that young hunting dogs who are trained using the same weight as adult dogs, can cause damage to the joints and tendons, especially of the front legs.
This is because the extra weight that young dogs carry causes them to tilt forward in much the same manner that a person would who was carrying a heavy load. The researchers felt that adult dogs are suited for carrying loads but young dogs that are growing should use adjusted weight instead of the same weight as adult dogs.
They suggested that young dogs in training be checked regularly by a specialist to be sure that there is no damage to joints, tendons and muscles.
It stands to reason that if a dog associates pain with an activity, he will not enjoy the job or game and may not perform to his best ability, especially if he is being trained for competition.
Although this study was conducted primarily on hunting retrievers, many breeds of dogs enjoy the game of fetch. This means that all dog owners who play fetch with their dogs should be aware of how much weight the object is and not allow young dogs to carry heavy objects.
I personally had a Border Collie who as an adult, loved to play with a bowling ball and would successfully put his canines in the holes and pick it up and carry it for a short distance. You never know what a dog will fancy and play with!
The world was amazed by the accomplishments of Chaser the Border Collie. Chaser can identify 1022 toys by their name and retrieve them by category.
She also knows common nouns such as house, ball, and tree. What is more amazing is that she can learn new words by inferential reasoning by exclusion.
This means she can pick out an object that she has not been taught the name of by eliminating all the objects she knows. She also understands sentences with multiple elements and has learned by imitation.
Border Collie “Ness”
Scientists have shown that Chaser is not unique in her ability to do these things. They have discovered that dogs understand both vocabulary and intonation of human speech using their left brain the same as people do. Prior to this research, it was thought that understanding words and intonations was something only humans could do, but that is not the case. The study also showed that dogs, like people, process words separately from intonation.
This is exciting because it shows us that our dogs (and possibly other animals) are far better able to understand what we say than many people realize. It also expands the horizon as far as how and what we can train our dogs to do.
However, does this mean that if we want to hide something from our dogs that we are talking about we will have to spell out the word? I can only imagine the conversation, “You know I made a v-e-t appointment for R-o-v-e-r for tomorrow.”