I met up with Caroline New at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center on a Friday evening. Caroline was there to pick up McBaine, whom she has been fostering since he was 9 months old. Her boyfriend Mike was nice enough to join us. McBaine is a two year old Springer Spaniel (donated by Breezy Hollow Spaniels) and perhaps one of the most well-known dogs at the Center. As part of the Working Dog Center’s Ovarian Cancer Detection program, McBaine has been featured in countless media outlets, including the New York Times, Al Jazeera America, CBS News, and NBC News. Mike said that “[McBaine] is good with the camera, he likes the attention.”
Caroline is a runner, and before fostering with the WDC, she was a volunteer with the PAWS Monster Milers program. She told me that McBaine is a great running partner. In the past two years, he has trained with Caroline for both a half and a full marathon! Both Caroline and Mike grew up with dogs, and Caroline has wanted a dog of her own for many years. “I was interested in having a dog, but my concern was what to do with the dog during the day because I work full time. And also the expense of a dog.” she says. “So as much as I love dogs, I knew that it was probably too much of a financial commitment for me to make.” A friend of Caroline’s, who works at Penn, suggested that fostering for the WDC would be the perfect solution. And so after an interview, a home visit, and a short trial run, Caroline became McBaine’s foster mom.
When I asked Caroline what the hardest part of fostering McBaine is, she said, “understanding that a working dog is not a pet dog, they are bred differently, their needs are different.” She said that for the first six months, she never saw McBaine sleep. “I put him to bed in the crate and the moment when I approached he would be ready to go.” Later that weekend, when I played back the recording of this interview, I laughed because McBaine’s incessant panting and the gentle bouncing of the tennis ball, nearly drowned out this portion of our conversation. “Believe it or not, his energy level has decreased dramatically. This is calm,” said Mike. Caroline keeps McBaine busy with daily runs and on the weekends, games of ‘two ball fetch’ and hiking with Mike and his 8 year old caramel-colored Pitbull named Fiona. Caroline said, “I’ve learned a whole lot about the trails in the area. We love camping with him and hiking with him, it’s really allowed us to discover more outdoor places in the area.”
Before we finished up our conversation, I asked Caroline and Mike about the best parts of fostering for the WDC. Caroline said, “First, I love the companionship and he’s a great dog. I couldn’t ask for a more. Second, is the impact of knowing the work that he’s doing is potentially groundbreaking…we have had the chance to watch him work, and that’s really incredible to see him in action.”
McBaine is lucky to find foster parents that are young, bright, happy, and energetic, just like him.
You can learn more about being a foster by visiting the WDC’s website.
If you are interested in fostering for the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, please contact Lauren McTiernan at firstname.lastname@example.org.]]>
The reason to take any puppy on environmental exposure field trips is simply to get them out into the world they will live, work, and play. If a puppy is exposed early and often (excluding anything overwhelming or during fear periods) they will be a more balanced dog as they mature.
Many new puppy owners worry about taking their puppy to new environments for fear they will be exposed to disease. Bob firmly believes the greater harm is done by NOT exposing the dog to the noises, shapes, and odors. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) supports this view in their article AVSAB Position Statement on Puppy Socialization.
The worst thing we can do is treat our puppies like human babies and project our human views on them. If exposed to the world safely and slowly, the dogs will have stronger nerve strength, be more curious about the world, and if they are working dogs, be better prepared for their future working environments.
In this video, if you watch Zoe’s body language you can see that just the sight of the building and door had her thinking “What the heck?” As she walks in, gets comfortable, and begins to explore, her world begins to broaden. In that particular building there are electric heaters, temperature changes, odors, slick floors, and light changes. All of these things are scary and exciting at the same time.
The question is often asked “What do I do when my puppy encounters something that makes them uncomfortable or scared?”
Many owner’s first response is to coddle their puppy. They begin talking rapidly and in a sympathetic tone trying to convince the puppy not to be scared. This response does not help your puppy become braver. Don’t force them to experience things but rather bring extra tasty treats and their favorite toys to reward them for good accomplishments. Lastly, don’t push them into an experience they just can’t handle because of their age or size. If they have a negative reaction to something in the environment, just back away to level the puppy is comfortable with and work from there.
Properly done, environmental exposure field trips will not only help build your new puppy’s confidence, but they will begin to build trust and that special bond between you and your new puppy.
Now accepting applications for a summer research internship at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center funded by the Ovarian Cancer Symptom Awareness Organization. This is a paid summer internship for a 1st or 2nd year veterinary student who is interested in learning more about medical detection and the role of detection dogs. The internship will run for 12 weeks (dates flexible) during the summer of 2015. Interns will be responsible for data entry and analysis, project planning, and assisting in the day to day aspects of performing the study.
• 1st or 2nd year veterinary student
• Comprehensive understanding of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center’s medical detection program and ovarian detection research
• Attention to detail and ability to work well with others are essential
• Dog handling experience is helpful but not necessary
To apply, submit the following documents for review
• Cover letter which should include your understanding of our program, describe the value your experience and knowledge will bring to our research and training program, and how this experience will impact your career goals
• One letter of reference (minimum)
All applications will be reviewed by our research and training team and finalists will be invited for an interview.
Please submit your application to email@example.com.
DEADLINE Monday, March 16th at 12:00 pm Eastern Time
To say I am enamored with Sirius might be an adequate description of our relationship. To say that he appreciates when I throw the ball for him, or when I sit near his crate, would probably be true. More importantly though is what Sirius means to all of us. His unquestioning devotion, unapologetic love, and sheer enthusiasm are a sustaining and comforting constant in an uncertain and turbulent world. Sirius, true to his name, carries a comforting light in his questioning and insistent brown eyes.
Sirius is a greyhoundish yellow lab. His stomach rises up into his hips and he stands in a prancing and ready manner. His frame is muscular and sinewy. When Sirius is frustrated, he barks throatily, almost wailing. When he peers out from his crate with his deep set and roguish eyes, he seems to constantly ask “Why am I not involved in ALL THE ACTION?” When he is excited, auburn hollow hackles will stand along his back like a ridgeline bracing against another sunset. When Sirius is happy he will sprawl out on his belly, back legs straight out, and pull himself with his front legs like a soldier crawling. He is unique. He is beautiful.
To play ball with Sirius is not like to play ball with any other dog at the Working Dog Center. Pacy is faster. Tsunami is more agile. Sirius in comparison unapologetically demands all of you in the game. He needs all your love. He seems as if through vibration to say “I can’t be this wonderful without you being a sparkling version of yourself in our time together.” He is an elite athlete with the endurance and tenacity inherent in his well-breed genetics.
The difference between Sirius in a game of throwing and retrieving is subtle and undefinable. He doesn’t have brakes, he returns to you with a happy momentum of such strength and gentleness. I truly wish that the feeling of Sirius crashing into your upper thighs and midsection could be saved. It is a sensation of pure acceptance, a feeling of safety. Sirius has a wonderful tenacity of spirt. This will serve him well as one of the new members of New Mexico Task Force One where he will save lives as a search and rescue dog. That exuberant love will not be exhibited in mock searches or games of fetch; Sirius will be a beacon of hope for a lost and thirsty hiker, he will do what he was trained to do.
Sirius doesn’t care what clothes you wear or whether you missed that spot below your ear shaving. He doesn’t care if when you throw the ball it is a deep throw or a short one. The effort is what is important. That you echo his enthusiasm with your own love. I did not want to go through the formalities of saying goodbye to my friend, so on Friday, February 27 I arrived at the center well after he was to have left. As I was walking onto the South Bank Campus I saw a silver van pulling away. Maybe it was the exotic license plates or the unfamiliarity of the vehicle, but I knew that this was Sirius and his ride to work. New Mexico Task Force One kindly let me stick half of my unapologetic frame into their van to hug Sirius and convey the adoration all of us at the Center have for this eccentric, loving, and mischievous animal.
That was it. But, as I walked into the Center, past our beautiful pack of yellow puppies, I thought happily he’s gone and he is taking that glowing, trembling, irreplaceable love off to find someone else who needs him.
There is a dog version of Facebook. Probably anyone who has taken a dog on a potty walk can figure out where I’m going with this – Facebush. It’s a funny notion, but also one which is pretty amazing when you stop and think about it, which is exactly what I was doing last weekend… I was taking Packer for a walk and thinking about how dogs leave messages for each other. We were walking and suddenly Packer stopped – he got a message from his sister.
“Hey Packer, its Pierce. Just wanted you to know that I stopped by.”
“Cool,” nods Packer. “Good to know”.
Then we went a few more steps and Packer got another message.
“Packer, its. Pinto. I was looking for you. Last night I had the usual chicken kibble for dinner but I also had some cheese, drank some water, played with the tennis balls, and watched TV.”
“Ok, Bean. Got it,” responded Packer.
He looks at me. “Sisters!” As we continued walking, Packer seemed to be “logged in” to the dog social network in our neighborhood. He has only been to my neighborhood once before. I watch him look around and sniff. I am pretty sure that he recognizes the houses on our street but he also knows the smells. Then Packer stopped. He shoots out a message to our neighbor, Rosie, the Cocker Spaniel next door.
“Hey, Rosie. It’s Packer. Sorry I missed you on this visit. Catch you next time.”
Packer, Pierce, Rosie and Pinto are all on the same canine communication network. Without the advantage of the internet or cell phones, these dogs have managed to provide regular updates to each other – where they’ve been, who they’re with, what they’ve eaten.
They have managed to develop a pretty sophisticated way of communicating. So advanced, in fact, that it captures rich detail-who was there and when, whether they are friend or foe, and probably lots of other details received by their noses that we, as humans, can’t possibly even think about communicating without multiple media formats… let alone with one sniff. The dog can decide whether to “friend” someone and respond to their message, or just keep on walking.
Mark Zuckerberg claims he got the idea for Facebook while a student at Harvard. I think, perhaps, he got it when he was taking his dog for a walk. Dogs see a bush, they “post their message ” and it’s out on the dog version of a social bulletin board for all to see or, er, smell. Ok so maybe their network is not exactly like Facebook but theirs does have its advantages. You will never see embarrassing photos of Packer wearing a lampshade on his head at a St. Patrick’s Day party on Facebush. As for Facebook, well I think we know that is another matter all together.
We believe the best way to accomplish this is to create an atmosphere that provides the access to current knowledge and tools and encourages our staff and volunteers to continue their own personal development.
This year we have introduced Wednesday’s Lunch & Learn, a weekly opportunity to come together as a group and explore the many facets of the working dog.
Read how the Lunch & Learn has impacted trainer Julia Gentile.
“I am the trainer I am because of the mentors, gurus, and teachers that shaped my skill, and by the grace of the dogs in my life. The Working Dog Center is the launch pad for it all. It is as if somebody whispered an operant conditioning secret in my ear and granted me superpowers. Having natural skill and engagement with an animal will only get me so far, I needed the science. And it’s the science that makes it feel like magic.
As I learn dog theory and practice techniques, my “what I know for sure box” becomes smaller.
Thus far, I can include:
At times, dog training consumes me. I spend hours buried in books, observing animals, and asking questions. A question which stands unanswered most often for me, is where do emotion, behavior, and cognition converge?
A behavior that confounds me is the “out of sight down stay”. I have taught dogs to heel backwards, climb multiple ladders, search with vigor, and recall from a steak, but I cannot get a reliable down stay. Until I joined the WDC’s Wednesday’s Lunch & Learn. While I have the principles of positive reinforcement etched in my soul, I was doing it wrong. During the Lunch & Learn we watched a video where Dr. Sophia Yin use fixed interval reinforcement to calm fearful dogs, and change the emotion of behavior. Previously, I had rewarded and released by the incremental increase of behavior. For instance, the dog stays for 10 seconds, I return, release, and reward. Next step, 15 seconds. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. This method left me without long term success, and my dog broke the stay without any predictability, sometimes at 4 minutes, others at 37 seconds. After watching the video, and discussing our observations, it dawned on me that I was using fixed and varied ratios based on behavior instead of behavior. Reward as a function of time, instead of as a function of behavior, especially for a dog which finds it almost impossible to remain still with their belly on the floor, let alone when emotion takes over and their human has disappeared. I can change the involuntary emotional response to the behavior through fixed interval reinforcement! What a difference it has made, even for our most stay challenged pups.
The profound, lasting change in my own behavior and understanding based on the experience of Wednesday’s Lunch & Learns fuels my brain. It’s those moments of joy due to unexpected results that create my brain high. None of which I would get without an open forum for learning. A free one, granted to me via my proximity to WDC Director Dr. Cindy Otto, Training Director Annemarie DeAngelo, and Training Manager Pat Kaynaroglu. The notion that all the humans are welcome to join, ask questions, share thoughts, and even make mistakes freely is one I do not take for granted. I know that when I can see it, hear it, touch it, and try it, I learn best. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from great humans, give it a try, maybe get it wrong a few times, and then be rewarded handsomely when I get it right with delight and mutual respect.”]]>
We wish Logan, Quest, Felony, Pinto, Pacy, and Jake the best in their future careers.]]>