Month: June 2017

A new device to help train explosives detection dogs

We depend upon bomb dogs to help protect us from terrorist attacks. Training them can be tricky. To help trainers and handlers, researchers have developed a real-time vapor analysis device called a Vapor Analysis Mass Spectrometer to help trainers and handlers understand what a dog detects when searching for explosive materials. When training a dog for any kind of scent work, it is important to hide items that are not scented as well as items with the target scent on them. Bomb dog trainers and handlers found that in some cases the dogs were indicating scent on the non-scented items. What the Vapor Analysis Mass Spectrometer showed in these cases that the dogs were correct because the non-scented items had picked up scent that drifted from the scented items.

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By using the Vapor Analysis Mass Spectrometer during training, handlers and trainers will better be able to determine how accurate the dogs are in detecting explosive material.

The lesson from this research applies to all types of scent work with dogs. It shows us that items handlers think are not contaminated may be contaminated. Ultimately, it means that whoever handles scented items and non-scented items for training must take extra precautions to ensure that non-scented items are not contaminated. This can be especially tricky when training dogs in search and rescue where the handler has no control over the elements (weather, etc.) that can cause scent to drift.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170628131349.htm

Why do dogs chase their tail?

Seeing a dog chase his tail can be very funny. But why do they do it? There are a couple of theories, although until dogs can talk and tell us, we will never know for sure.

Puppies most often are the ones who chase their tail. It is almost as if they see it for the first time realize it is there and decide it is a toy to be caught. If their tail is long enough, they may catch it, but if it is short they will whirl around until they are tired, never actually catching their tail. When a puppy realizes that the tail is theirs, or they cannot catch it, they will often give up the game. In some cases, they will chase the tail of other puppies. This can be a way for them to expend their energy.

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If a dog has never chased his tail and suddenly starts to and does not have a playful attitude, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. A dog may chase their tail due to skin problems, eye problems or neurological issues.

Some dogs chase their tail because the owners think it is funny and laugh. Dogs know when you are laughing at or with them, and yes, dog do laugh. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/200911/do-dogs-laugh

A happy response from an owner is a form of reward or encouragement for a dog and a dog will use what works to get attention from the owner. An example of this is a young Collie pup who was deaf and used to get underfoot. Family members would accidently step on her front paw. When this happened the person who stepped on the dog’s foot would bend down and fuss over the dog, rubbing her foot. After a while the dog learned to limp to get people to rub her foot, even though no one stepped on her.

It is possible that a dog will chase his tail because he is anxious. Physical exertion does relieve anxiety and chasing a tail may be one way a dog deals with anxiety. If this is a possibility the owner should look for other signs that the dog is anxious, such as trembling, panting, hiding, or looking generally upset. Owners are good at reading their dogs and can tell when the dog is happy or not.

Although it is not that common, some dogs suffer from a form of compulsive disorder which is really compulsive behavior http://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/evr_dog_behavior_compulsive_disorder

and may chase their tail until they are exhausted. If this is the case the owner must consult a certified animal behavior consultant to help cure or control the problem. Left untreated the behavior can escalate and become a danger to the dog. To find a good behavior consultant go to: www.iaabc.org

The best thing a dog owner can do is to provide enough exercise for their dog so that they expend their energy in a healthy manner. Some dog owners have difficulty determining how much is enough. This depends on the type and breed of dog. Little dogs do not need as much room to run to satisfy their needs. The larger the dog the more room they need. Dogs that are bred to work typically need to cover a few miles in order to have enough exercise. The age and health of the dog is a factor as well. For a healthy dog, enough exercise is when they flop down and want to sleep. They may need this type of exercise a few times a day. Typically, the morning and evening are the times of day most dogs want to be active. With some planning and research, we can keep our dogs happy and healthy.

Dog Bites

All dogs bite at one time or another. However, most people do not realize that there are different types of bites. Unfortunately, many dogs have lost their homes, lives or been restricted due to the misunderstanding and misinformation about dog bites.

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Dogs used their mouths the same as we use our hands. Puppies mouth the same way that human babies will put everything in their mouths. The mouth is a very sensitive part of the body, perhaps the most sensitive. The mouth can taste, feel texture, heat, cold, size and shape. The mouth and tongue are so sensitive that the smallest bump or lump in a person’s mouth often feels like a boulder or a cracked tooth feels like a canyon. We have to assume that dogs have the same or similar capabilities. However, dogs do not have the same capability to taste as humans do. They have about 1,706 taste buds compared to a human’s 9,000. A dog’s taste buds are located at the tip of their tongue. They can taste bitter, sweet, sour and salty. Their choice of what they eat depends more on their sense of smell than taste.

Dogs use their mouths to manipulate objects, carry objects, groom themselves and/or companions, to show affection, to play, as a means of correcting another dog, as a way to get another animal or person away from them (distance increasing), and to vocalize. One of the most affectionate things a dog may do is nibble the object of their affection. This is a very gentle nibbling using the small front teeth.

Sometimes dogs will grab a person to try and lead them somewhere, such as a door if they have to go out. This is like a person taking another person by the hand to guide them.

Bites often happen in a few seconds. It may be difficult for an untrained person to analyze a bite because you must consider the rest of the dog’s body language and the circumstances that happened just before and after the bite as well as the breed or type of dog. Dogs also can give mixed signals. For example, a dog can act aggressively and at the same time fearfully. The dog’s life experience including training will influence what and how they bite. However, below is a general explanation of dog bites.

Dog bites follow a progression if, as a puppy, the dog has been allowed to learn how to properly act socially with other dogs. An adult dog will first give the puppy, other animal or person warning looks. If that does not work, next are warning growls or vocalizations. (Never correct a dog for growling, you will remove an important warning, forcing the dog to go directly to a bite.) If a puppy does not heed the body language and then the vocal warning of an older dog, the dog may give the puppy an open mouth correction. This is when the older dog will “hit” the puppy with his mouth open but does not bite.

The next level of bite is the nip. In human terms, it would be equal to a pinch. It is typically done with the little front teeth. It is a corrective measure used to stop the unwanted behavior or to communicate the message to get away or back off.

If the nip does not work the next bite will be a full mouth bite but a quick release and often not bearing down hard. This type of bite may result in a bruise or small puncture. This is also a request to back off or get away. The dog is trying to increase the distance between himself and who he bit. It is also the type of bite that a fearful dog may employ. It could also be a defensive or corrective bite.

If that does no work the next bite may have increased pressure resulting in a deeper puncture or larger bruise. It is also a distance increasing bite or a fear bite.

The aggressive bite that the enraged dog or the dog who is aggressive will use is a bite and hold or a bite, hold and shake. These are the bites that are dangerous where the dog typically intends to hurt.

A dog that has developed strong bite inhibition, may put his mouth on a person if he is in pain. Often that is a reflex and when the dog realizes that his mouth is on a person will either stop before making contact or not put any pressure in the bite. Other times a dog who is in pain may bite. This should not be held against the dog. Also, a dog that is enraged or upset about something may do what is called redirected aggression. This also a reflex where the dog will bite whatever is near him when he cannot get to the object of his anger. The other situation where a dog will bite because of reflex is if the dog is engaged in a fight with another animal and a person tries to grab the dog to pull him away. The dog will bite not realizing that it is not the animal he is fighting but a person. This also should not be held against the dog. In these cases of reflex biting, the humans that are working with the dog should expect it and take precautions to avoid being bitten. The only breed of dog that has been bred not to bite a human when engaged in a fight are the bully breeds, such as Pitbull Terriers.

How likely a dog will bite depends on the breed (or mix) of the dog, the lines of the breed, how well the breeder and then the owner socialized the dog and the dog’s training. Some breeds of dog are less tolerant and quicker to bite than others.

Children are often bitten in the face because they are at face level with dogs. Children of all ages should be taught how to interact with dogs and carefully monitored, always. A dog that bites a child due to a reflex action is rarely forgiven even though in most cases the dog is not an aggressive dog by nature.

It would do the dogs and dog owners a great service if dog owners studied canine body language and learned to understand their dogs. Children should be taught how to interact with dogs. Studies have shown that children can recognize when a dog is angry but not when they are fearful.

There are two excellent resources that help the dog owner learn how to read dog body language.

  1. What is My Dog Saying? By Carol A. Byrnes, diamonsintheruff.com
  2. The Language of Dogs by Sarah Kalnajs bluedogtraining.com

On Kitten Creek: Searching for the Sacred

On Kitten Creek: Searching for the Sacred, A Memoir by Nancy Swihart, Cladach Publishing, 185 pgs., $13.49, ISBN: 978-1-945099-02-1.

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On Kitten Creek was a very pleasant and surprising read for me. I found that I could relate to many of the author’s feelings and experiences. Ms. Swihart tells us how she had visions and plans about what she wanted to do, her job, ministry, and even the house she wanted as she and her family moved from California to Kansas. But God had other plans for her and her family, and of course God’s plans turned out to be much better. Her experiences are a testimony to all young people to have faith through life.

As Ms. Swihart shows us, it is hard to see the vision while you are young and traveling down the path of life. But the lesson is clear as one looks back, have faith and trust. On Kitten Creek is a good book for all ages, and an inspiration for those who might be struggling with life’s situations. Although it is a Christian book, it is not preachy and I found it a delight to read, more like a novel then a memoir.  Ms. Swihart is a gifted writer and the book is easy to read.