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Dogs can spy on coronavirus with impressive accuracy

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dogs can spy on coronavirus with impressive accuracy

Many long for a return to a “normal” after the pandemic that can bring about some concerts, trips and large gatherings. But how can one be sure, given these potential public health risks?

One possibility, according to a new study, is dogs. A proof-of-concept study published today in the journal PLOS ONE suggests that specially trained detection dogs can spy out COVID-19 positive samples with an accuracy of 96%.

“This is not a simple thing we ask of the dogs,” says Cynthia Otto, senior paper writer and director of the Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “Dogs need to be specific to recognize the smell of the infection, but they also need to generalize the background smells of different people: men and women, adults and children, people of different races and regions.”

In this first study, the researchers found that the dogs can, but training needs to be done with great care and ideally with lots of samples. The results feed into a further study, which Otto and colleagues have called the “T-Shirt Study”, in which dogs are trained to use the volatile organic compounds between the smells of COVID-positive, negative and vaccinated people to make a difference you go on a t-shirt that is worn overnight.

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“We collect a lot more samples in this study – hundreds or more – than in the first and hope that the dogs get closer to what they might encounter in a community,” says Otto.

Through the Working Dog Center, she and her colleagues have years of experience training dogs with medical detection, including those that can identify ovarian cancer. When the pandemic hit, they used that expertise to design a coronavirus detection study.

Staff Ian Frank of the Perelman School of Medicine and Audrey Odom John of the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia provided SARS-CoV-2 positive samples from adult and pediatric patients, as well as samples from patients who tested negative, to serve as experimental controls . Otto worked closely with Penn Medicine’s coronavirus expert Susan Weiss to process some of the samples in Penn’s Biosafety Level 2+ lab to inactivate the virus so the dogs can sniff safely.

Due to job stoppages due to the pandemic, researchers did not work with dogs at Penn Vet, but instead worked with Pat Nolan, a trainer with a facility in Maryland.

The study used eight Labrador Retrievers and one Belgian Malinois that had not previously performed any medical identification work. First, the researchers trained them to recognize a distinctive scent, a synthetic substance known as a Universal Detection Compound (UDC). They used a “scent wheel” in which each of the 12 ports is loaded with a different sample, and rewarded the dog for responding to the port with UDC.

When the dogs responded consistently to the UDC odor, the team began training them to respond to urine samples from SARS-CoV-2 positive patients and differentiate positive from negative samples. The negative samples were subjected to the same inactivation treatment – either heat inactivation or detergent inactivation – as the positive samples.

The team processed the results, with the assistance of Penn criminologist and statistician Richard Berk, and found that all three dogs could easily identify SARS-CoV-2 positive samples with an average accuracy of 96% after three weeks of training. However, their sensitivity or ability to avoid false negative results was sometimes lower, the researchers believe because of the strict criteria of the study: If the dogs passed a port with a positive sample even once without an answer, this was marked a “miss” .

The researchers encountered many complicating factors in their study, such as the dogs’ tendency to differentiate between actual patients rather than their SARS-CoV-2 infection status. The dogs were also shed from a sample from a patient who tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 but had recently recovered from COVID-19.

“The dogs reacted again and again to this test, and we kept telling them no,” says Otto. “But obviously there was something else in the patient’s sample that the dogs typed on.”

The key lessons learned from the study, along with confirming that there is a SARS-CoV-2 odor that dogs can detect, that future training should involve a large number of different samples, and that dogs will not repeatedly train on samples from a single person should be.

“We can drive this forward not only in our COVID training, but also in our cancer work and all other medical detection efforts that we undertake,” says Otto. “We want to ensure that all steps are in place to ensure quality, reproducibility, validity and safety for operationalizing our dogs and to begin screening them in community settings.”

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Dog Breeds

Russell is out there | The bark

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russell is out there | the bark

We buried Russell at the end of the dunes, wherever he went when he was off a leash. The digging was good, all sand, a little damp which helped avoid collapses. I brought him well and deep, far from any living thing that might dig for him and succumb to the drugs that had been used to euthanize him.

I took off his collar to rescue him on his journey, but replaced it with his chase collar. I don’t know why I did this. I don’t think clearly all the time. When my parents died and the house we grew up in was sold, I thought about calling the old number, only with the possibility that mom or dad would pick up wherever they were out in the void. I never did. I guess I put the tracking collar on Russell for the same reason I considered calling my old number: just to see what might happen.

Nothing happened for a few days and then I got a ping from the hand-tracking unit. It was late at night and I could clearly see the illuminated topo map of Russell’s trail moving on a dirt road along the Mad River. He traveled an hour or two hanging out by our favorite pool, then the track disappeared. I fell back into bed with my mouth open. Russell was out there somewhere, just like I had always hoped it would be!

It got interesting when I followed Russell on his travels. One day I got a hit and found that it was out in the stars. This is not a feature I thought the tracker could perform. I was amazed and excited! It was moving quickly and not always in a straight line. It seemed to be bouncing from point to point like a pinball machine. When he finally stopped, the topographical map of the tracker zoomed in on a watery planet. The topo map on this planet was all blue; There were no islands or land masses. Russell’s trail snaked here and there, and I knew he had the time of his life, swimming with the same expression of deep joy on his face that he always had when he did one of his long swimming exercises.

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I started preparing a selection of gear for the various trips we’d taken with Russell and Bella, our lean pit bull mix. I had a daypack with snacks and juice for a possible trip up the Mad River, and my backpack was loaded with gear for three days for a trip to a secret location I had stumbled upon in the Trinity Alps. Or if he drove to his favorite dune spot, we could just load them all into the car and chase them out of there.

These were Russell’s favorite places. I thought the next time Russell rang the doorbell near home, I would try to meet with him. I knew this was going to be a long way as his visits seemed to vary from hours to days and if I found him he might just be a glimmer or even invisible

A day later I got my chance when my unit called that Russell was at Dragonfly Camp, our secret location on the North Fork of the Trinity, a place he just loved. It was early morning and still dark, which was good. I could get to the trailhead around 10am, pack up, and have plenty of time to set up camp and look for Russell.

On game trails, I climbed the ridge and straight down the other side, then took a side course to get to my hiding place. It’s a beautiful place with deep pools and no human footprints, just animal prints and a few old mining machines here and there.

I leaned my backpack on a rock and went to Russell. His favorite spot was right around the great rock wall that ran into the river. A rock shelf angled over the water on the back of the great rock. It was a good place to see everywhere and far down the river.

When I turned the corner, Russell was there – or at least most of him. It seemed to shimmer out of focus and out of focus. He was very happy to see me and I was very happy to see him. We sat down together in his place, the sun warmed us, the green moss softly below us on the warm rock. It was wonderful. Sometimes he snuggled into a hug and I could feel his snout against me and the soft fur on his head.

We did a few things before it got dark – walked down the river and crossed it to get to his favorite meadow, swam in the river and shared oysters and whiskey next to the fire in the evening. I was glad he had spent the hours there and hoped it would take a little longer.

When I got into the tent, Russell followed and we crouched. I was very lucky to have any time with Russell at all. As I nodded off with my arm around him, I inhaled the Zen that Russell had taught me. His nightly breathing was a quick inhalation and then a slow escape of air through his closed mouth. It sounded like humming or purring. When I did, Russell did, too, and then slipped forward and pressed his grizzled snout against my face as we both purred into the night.

Some time later, I knew Russell was gone. It was heartbreaking, but it was okay too. He was out there. My dog ​​hadn’t disappeared into nothing. All of my dogs were out there and with me, not just in my dreams.

It is a difficult concept when I look at the sky at night and try to figure out what it is all about. This tiny blue world in the middle of an eternity of stars, all the creatures here on earth, all the things that must be in all universes. It’s complex and absolutely wonderful.

I also wonder about the Big Bang, which may or may not be real, and then I think, “Well, what was there before the Big Bang?” Or for those who believe in God (or gods), what was before God? How can there be something where there was nothing before? The only thing that makes sense to me is when the time isn’t real. Then right now there is no before or after. That doesn’t really help and it also makes my head ache.

A week later we got a final ping from Russell. He was out on our dune. Regina, Bella, and I jumped in the car and took off, hoping he’d stay long enough so we could get out of there and see him. It’s a beautiful place with interesting plants and hawks and traces of foxes, rabbits and small critters everywhere. Russell was there jumping through the dune grass and Bella stormed after him. She missed him so much.

We followed their frenzy and were allowed to give Russell lots of hugs along the way. As Russell led us to his grave, it got darker and darker. Then, a hundred yards from his resting place, Russell was gone. We could all feel it. Bella lifted her head and sniffed the air.

We climbed the low ridge on which Russell was buried and found his chase collar in the sand. Russell had given me a reassuring glimpse of his new life through the chase collar for a few weeks. Now we both knew we no longer needed it.

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Dog Breeds

How to talk to your dog – according to science

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how to talk to your dog according to science

Dogs are special. Every dog ​​owner knows this. And most dog owners feel that their dog understands every word they say and every move they make. Research over the past two decades has shown that dogs can truly understand human communication in a way that no other species can. However, a new study confirms that if you want to train your new pup there is a certain way you should talk to him or her to maximize the likelihood that he will follow what you say.

There is already a lot of research showing that the way we communicate with dogs is different from the way we communicate with other people. When we talk to dogs, we use what is known as “dog-driven speech”. This means that we change the structure of our sentences, shorten and simplify them. We also tend to speak at a higher pitch in our voices. We also do this when we are unsure whether we are understood or when we are talking to very young infants.

A new study showed that we use an even higher pitch when talking to puppies and that this tactic really helps the animals pay more attention. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, showed that speaking to puppies with dog-controlled speech made them responsive and caring more about their human instructor than regular speaking.

To test this, the researchers use so-called “playback” experiments. They took pictures of people and repeated the phrase “Hi! Hey sweetie! Who is a good boy Come here! Good boy! Yes! Come here honey What a good boy! “Each time the speaker was asked to look at photos of puppies, adult dogs, old dogs, or no photos. Analysis of the recordings revealed that the volunteers changed the way they talk to dogs of different ages.

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The researchers then played the recordings to several puppies and adult dogs and recorded the animals’ behavior in response. They found that the pups reacted more strongly to the footage while the speakers looked at pictures of dogs (the dog-driven speech).

The study did not find the same effect in adult dogs. However, other studies that recorded dogs’ responses to human voice in live interactions, including the work I did, have suggested that speaking to dogs can be useful for communicating with dogs of all ages.

Follow the point

It has also been proven (and most dog owners will tell you) that we can communicate with dogs through physical gestures. From puppy age, dogs respond to human gestures, such as pointing, in ways that other species cannot. The test is very simple. Place two identical cups in front of your dog, covering small pieces of food, and make sure that he cannot see the food and has no information about the contents of the cups. Now point to one of the two cups while you make eye contact with your dog. Your dog will follow your gesture to the mug you pointed at and explore the mug, expecting to find something underneath.

This is because your dog understands that your act is an attempt to communicate. This is fascinating as not even man’s closest living relatives, chimpanzees, seem to understand that humans are communicating intentions in this situation. Wolves – the dog’s closest living relatives – also not, even when raised like dogs in a human environment.

This has led to the idea that dogs’ abilities and behaviors in this area are actually adaptations to the human environment. This means that dogs have lived in close contact with humans for over 30,000 years and have developed communication skills that effectively match those of human children.

However, there are significant differences in how dogs understand our communication and how children do it. The theory is that, unlike children, dogs regard pointing people as a kind of mild commandment telling them where to go rather than conveying information. On the other hand, when you point to a child, they think you are telling them something.

This ability of dogs to recognize “spatial guidelines” would be the perfect adaptation to living with humans. For example, dogs have been used for thousands of years as a kind of “social tool” to help herding and hunting when they had to be guided over a great distance by gestural instructions. The latest research confirms the idea that dogs have not only developed the ability to recognize gestures, but also a special sensitivity to the human voice that helps them know when to respond to what is being said.

This article is republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Dog Breeds

Should I have a second dog?

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should i have a second dog?

Dear bark: My dog ​​is getting older, he likes to play with other dogs and he doesn’t like to be left alone. I want him to have the best life possible, and I’ve heard that a dog buddy is key. Should I have a second dog? The thing is, I don’t know how I feel with two dogs.

Your goal of giving your dog the best possible life is adorableThe first thing I recommend is trying out a few ways that you can do this right away. People often wonder if I should get a second dog to keep my canine company? If your thoughts about another dog are primarily motivated by a desire to do what’s right for your current dog, there are other ways to do so.

Adding a second dog to your household is a big decision, and while I can share general suggestions and points to consider, only you can decide if this is the right thing for you. The best advice I can give you is this: only greet another dog in your life if you want one. The responsibility for caring for a new dog is yours and the decision should be based on what you honestly believe is ready and able.

As you know, dogs require a lot of time, money, and emotion. It is important for the entire household to agree on having a second dog, and reasons for adopting another dog should include more than a desire to make your current dog happy, even if they are well-intentioned and from the heart is. That said, don’t do it if your primary purpose is to fix a problem your current dog is having or to fill an absence in their life.

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If you’ve decided that you really want a different dog, here are a few factors to consider.

Are Dogs Happier With Another Dog?

Some dogs, including some older dogs, are happy to have a new dog in the family. I’ve seen older dogs enjoy new dogs many times, whether the new dog is an adult, a teenager, or a puppy. Sometimes the addition of a younger, more playful dog revitalizes an older dog. They get happier, more alive, and somehow more alive in their golden years, which is a beautiful thing.

On the other hand, I’ve also seen a lot of older dogs not happy to share their place and people with a new dog. They end up irritated, and what should be a peaceful time in their life may be less calm because of too much harassment bothering them.

This is where looking at your dog’s perspective comes into play. How do you know what category your dog would be in? There’s no way you can know for sure, but there are clues to help you make your best guesses.

In general, if your dog enjoys playing with other dogs, likes to see them on walks, and has met many dogs that they have had positive encounters with, they are more likely to welcome a new dog. If he can easily get along with other dogs around his food and toys, that is also a good sign that he is enjoying a new dog.

If your dog briefly likes dogs and then is ready to get away, he may not have a different dog around the house all day every day. If he has arthritis or other chronic pain, it can also be physically uncomfortable for him to have a play partner all the time. If he objects to other dogs walking up to you, seeking your attention, or being petted by you, he may have trouble having another dog in the family. These potential problems aren’t deal breakers, but they do mean that once you’ve brought a new dog into the house, you’ll likely have more work to do. This can also mean that the dogs need to be separated in certain situations or for part of each day.

If you do decide to adopt a dog, choosing a dog that is compatible with your dog increases the chances of the addition to being beneficial. Two characteristics to consider are activity levels and play style. If your dog wants to play for five minutes a few times a day and the new dog wants to play when he’s not sleeping, this is a challenge to their relationship. If your dog likes to wrestle and the new dog is all about chase games, it will require more compromise and teamwork than if both of them like to pull, for example.

Age and height play a role in some cases, but they are not necessarily as important as other characteristics. Dogs of different ages and sizes can be best friends, but similarities in these categories can make it easier for them to build strong friendships.

And then there is gender. Millions of people have two female or two male dogs, but adopting a dog of the opposite sex is often recommended as it reduces the risk of fighting. While there is no clear evidence of how important gender might be in this situation, many behaviorists (including myself) anecdotally report that most of the worst cases of domestic fights tend to involve dogs of the same sex. When all things are the same, you should adopt a woman since you already have a man.

Your dog is lucky enough to have someone who cares so much about their happiness!

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