2021 IWDC Program (Digital)

The 2021 IWDC was held digitally.

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Day 1 (12 Oct 2021) - Genetics, Selection and Early Development

Time

12 Oct 2021

10:10 to 11:00

Presentation
A unique perspective of use of breeding strategies and advanced reproductive techniques to optimize development and production of continuously improved generations of specialized canines at the three major working dog breeding programs in New Zealand – Presented by Dr Fiona Hollinshead

Each working dog organisation has different programmatic goals and many have restrictions that must also be considered when developing specific breeding strategies to meet their breeding program objectives and requirements. Strategies developed for the three working dog programs in New Zealand (NZ) focused on production of highly desirable offspring through the use of a number of advanced breeding technologies. Although only a small country, these breeding strategies are examples of when implemented either individually or collectively ultimately facilitated the production of generations of healthier and successful specific working dogs for each of the NZ working dog breeding programs over a 12 year period. Strategies that will be discussed as part of the presentation will include dual sire matings, methods for optimizing the established trans-cervical insemination (TCI) procedure, new developments in semen freezing techniques and extenders, non-intervention whelping facilities, and other opportunities to improve program efficiency and target production numbers.

12 Oct 2021

12:30 to 12:50

Improving behaviour monitoring within a working dog programme – Presented by Becky Hunt

Various departments within working dog production programmes have different behavioural data needs. Breeding programmes require heritable temperament information while training departments require information on modifiable behaviours. To address these differing needs, Guide Dogs UK recently designed a new dog behaviour monitoring system. The system combines standardised behaviour assessments with the ability to record ad hoc behaviour incidents and behaviour development plans, and track dogs through a standardised training programme. Behavioural observations from a range of primary care givers, including staff and volunteers, ensure a wide range of data are collected on a dogs’ behaviour.

The design of the new system was informed by an extensive review of scientific literature, previous Guide Dogs’ research and in consultation with Guide Dogs’ subject matter experts. The behaviour data collected are based on up to date behavioural science and the requirements of a working dog programme. The resulting behaviour data are then available to provide temperament trait information for the breeding department. Furthermore, recording and monitoring more accurate behavioural information supports dog wellbeing; behaviour problems can be identified early, and the data can be used to ensure the correct working role is selected for dogs.

The presentation will explain the design of the system including the underpinning research and evidence used, will demonstrate the data that are collected and will highlight examples of the different data outputs available. The system has the potential revolutionise how working dog organisations consider and use their behaviour data to manage their dogs and inform their breeding programmes.

12 Oct 2021

12:50 to 13:10

Estimated Breeding Values in IWDR – Presented by Dr Eldin Leighton

The International Working Dog Registry (IWDR) is a subscription service supporting the working dog community by providing a uniform coding scheme and streamlined workflows for entering routine data. For Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherd Dogs, estimated breeding values are calculated and reported for three health traits:  (1.) an overall hip score, (2.) a measure of hip joint laxity based on the PennHIP score, and (3.) a measure of elbow quality. Hip quality scores are predominantly based on the hip extended view. Most scores are based on either an OFA-like score or an FCI-like score, with a smaller number scored using the BVA Kennel Club scheme. All extended view scores were classified into 1 of 5 mutually exclusive ordered categories from least (score 1) to most (score 5) desirable phenotype. PennHIP scores were included in the overall hip score phenotype by ordering values from least to most desirable, then classifying each quintile into the appropriate category. Elbow quality scores were also categorized into 5 mutually exclusive ordered classes. Analyses were completed using AIREMLF90 from the BLUPF90 family of programs. Variance component estimates were obtained for 3 phenotypes in each of 3 breeds. Heritability estimates for Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, and Golden Retrievers, respectively, were: 0.36, 0.51, and 0.21 for overall hip score; 0.69, 0.74, and 0.36 for PennHIP score; and 0.23, 0.26 and 0.20 for elbow quality score.

12 Oct 2021

13:25 to 14:05

Multimodal characterization of detection dog suitability: Combining behavioral, cognitive, and neurological measures for enhancing selection – Presented by Lucia Lazarowski

The growing demand for highly capable detection dogs and a lack of robust selection measures continue to pose a challenge to the industry.  The ability to predict success from an early age is critical to maximizing program efficiency. Since 2000, Auburn University has bred and raised Labrador retrievers to be employed as single-purpose detection dogs, constituting the longest continual running institutional program for producing detection dogs in the United States. Our first aim in this study was to validate a traditional standardized behavioral test for evaluating puppies’ (n= 60) future suitability as a detection dog.  Validation was achieved by demonstrating high inter-rater reliability across observers, convergence with other measures of dog behavior, and prediction of adult outcomes as early as 3 months of age. In subsequent efforts we have explored non-traditional measures to examine the bio-behavioral correlates of successful detection dog phenotypes. Utilizing a reinforcement sensitivity theory approach, we characterized approach-avoidance tendencies in n = 56 adult detection dogs. Metrics included behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and physiological measures. Additionally, neural activity will be recorded in a subset of dogs (n = 18) trained for awake and unrestrained fMRI. Patterns in responding across measures suggests that multi-modal assessments may be useful in enhancing the identification of desirable working dog phenotypes.

12 Oct 2021

14:05 to 14:25

The effect of maternal style on later puppy behavior in Canine Companions dogs – Presented by Brenda Kennedy

One potentially vital influence in working dogs’ early development is maternal care, which has been shown to exert lifelong effects on offspring phenotypes in other mammals. Previous studies of maternal style in guide dogs and military working dogs have found that levels of maternal interaction experienced during the first few weeks of life are directly linked to puppies’ adult behavior and even success in the program up to two years later. Over the past three years, we observed 60 dams and their litters from Canine Companions’ population of purpose-bred service dogs, videotaping behavior over the first three weeks of life. Then, a subset of puppies from each litter (n = 235) participated in behavioral testing around 8 weeks of age. By quantifying individual differences in maternal style experienced and skill demonstrated on a series of tasks, we were able to assess associations between maternal style and the temperament and cognitive characteristics of 8-week-old puppies. We also compared puppies reared in volunteer homes to those reared in a dedicated breeding center (two models commonly employed by working dog agencies) to assess the effect of these rearing environments on puppy development. This study provides critical new data regarding how maternal style influences offspring cognitive and temperamental development, and the effect of early rearing environment on maternal care and puppy phenotypes. Ultimately, these findings have the potential to inform best practices in breeding and rearing dogs with aptitude for working roles while optimizing dog welfare.

12 Oct 2021

14:25 to 14:45

The Domestic Breeding Consortium: Odor Detection Canine Selection, Breeding, and Early Training Techniques – Presented by Karen Meidenbauer

Odor detection canines (ODCs) continue to play a critical role in homeland security as primary detectors of potential threats and aiding first responders. As the United States’ need for ODCs continues to grow the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) has been tasked to ensure that the ODC user community has a sufficient and stable domestic source of quality working canines and advance ODC capabilities through a systems engineering approach of applying selective breeding, genetic and phenotypic evaluation, and early development. JHU/APL in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology (DHS S&T) has stood up the Domestic Breeding Consortium (DBC). The DBC is focused on establishing and expanding a domestic supply for ODCs, developing lines of canines that are suitable for the user community’s immediate needs as well as long-term demand, and to intentionally take a scientifically based approach that can endure and improve over time. Modern scientific advances in canine theriogenology, genetic selection, neuropsychology, genomics, behavior, and physiology paired with biological and systems engineering should be used to advance traditional selection, breeding and early training techniques for ODCs. A commonality amongst commercial, government, and hobbyist communities of ODC users and stakeholders is the constant need to obtain quality operational ODCs. By defining and aggregating these phenotypes JHU/APL has established the critical foundation for developing metrics that can be used for accurate and repeatable canine selection criteria.

Day 2 (13 Oct 2021) - Veterinary Care and Welfare

Time
Presentation

13 Oct 2021

10:10 to 11:00

Epilepsy in working dogs – Presented by Prof Holger Volk

Most veterinary surgeons will describe epilepsy as a pure seizure disorder. However, epilepsy is far more. Epilepsy is a brain disease(1) with seizures being the clinically most prominent sign. Most will recognise a generalised tonic-clonic convulsion, but relatively few will be able to spot focal motor or sensory seizures (ictal behaviour changes). However, apart from the seizures other clinical signs of epilepsy, which are increasingly recognised affecting the interictal period, are changes in cognition and behaviour(2-4). It is thought that there are shared pathophysiological pathways explaining the bidirectional relationship between neurobehavioural disorders and epilepsy(5); for example in human medicine, a patient with depression is more likely to develop epilepsy and a patient with epilepsy depression(6, 7). It is yet unknown if this bidirectional relationship exists in our veterinary patients.

Neurobehavioural comorbidities are been taken more and more serious in human patient, as they can have a bigger impact on health related QoL (HRQoL) than seizures. This is the case especially for inter-ictal anxiety and depression(8). Only few studies have studied interictal behaviour changes in dogs with epilepsy. In the first study, around two-thirds of dogs developed a behaviour change during the course of their idiopathic epilepsy(9).  Drug-resistant dogs were found to have greater amount of unfavourable behavioural changes than drug responders in the same study(9), a finding also been seen in rodent models of epilepsy, where drug-resistant rats had greater behaviour changes(10).  Not surprisingly, anxiety is the main behaviour change reported in dogs with IE (9, 11), and in two more recent studies changes in impulsivity and other clinical signs comparable with attention deficits hyperactivity disorder in people have been noted (12, 13). An increasing level of evidence also exists that dogs with idiopathic epilepsy might have changes in trainability, spatial memory and accelerated memory loss(3, 14, 15). As such, epilepsy management should in the future not only focus on reducing seizures, but also consider on reducing the effects of potential behavioural comorbidities(16). 

In conclusion, epilepsy is a complex disease which might not also cause seizures but also behaviour and cognition changes which might limit their use as a working do. Management needs to be tailored to the individual patient and the focus should  be not only on getting  better seizure control, but also on improving comorbidities.

12 Oct 2021

12:30 to 12:50

Incidence of enteric pathogens versus presence of gastrointestinal symptoms in a working dog training facility – Presented by Dr Nicola Cotton

Gastroenteritis is a common challenge in kennel facilities, and test results can be spurious in their correlation to the underlying cause of the symptoms. Gastroenteritis symptoms can be interruptive to training, work and problematic for clients to manage.

Increasingly, research is directing treatment of gastroenteritis (specifically diarrhoea), away from firstline antibiotic use, towards more holistic approaches to addressing the underlying cause of gastrointestinal disruption.

In kennel facilities, these considerations are paramount, and traditional disease management protocols have a close interrelationship with dog mental wellbeing, and can be resource intensive for staff.

Seeing Eye Dogs has analysed faecal PCR test data from over 100 dogs, comparing the incidence of positive results in symptomatic versus asymptomatic dogs, as well as comparing the prevalence of pathogens in the population across 3 years.

From this analysis, a revision of management protocols for gastroenteritis in the kennel facility were implemented, and outcomes reviewed against the incidence of gastroenteritis symptoms.

12 Oct 2021

12:50 to 13:10

Liquid biopsy screening for early cancer detection in working dogs – Presented by Katherine M. Lytle, DVM, MPH, MS

Cancer is the leading cause of mortality in dogs, and working dogs are no exception. A novel technology called liquid biopsy may offer an effective, non-invasive screening test for safe and early detection of cancer in working dogs, maximizing the chances of a favorable clinical outcome with the goal of extending the working dog’s life and career. 

Blood samples from an all-comers cohort of 191 cancer-diagnosed dogs and 188 presumably cancer-free dogs were subjected to DNA extraction, proprietary library preparation, and next-generation sequencing. Sequencing data were analyzed using an internally developed bioinformatics pipeline to detect genomic alterations associated with the presence of cancer. 

The overall sensitivity in cancer-diagnosed subjects was 48% (92/191). Of 188 samples from presumably cancer-free dogs, 180 tested negative (putative ‘true negatives’) and 8 tested positive (‘putative false positives’, pFP). In at least 2 pFP cases, patients were diagnosed with cancer 6-7 months following blood collection and were excluded from final performance analyses, resulting in a minimum test specificity of 97%. 

A novel, multi-cancer early detection (MCED) liquid biopsy test has demonstrated performance comparable to commercially available MCED testing options in humans. This test has shown the potential for detecting genomic markers of cancer months prior to the development of clinical signs. Early detection and treatment of cancer are key determinants of optimal clinical outcomes. When employed as a screening tool in the annual workup, a liquid biopsy test has the potential to extend the working dog’s career.

12 Oct 2021

13:25 to 14:05

Penn Vet Working Dog Center Fit To Work program foundational fitness development and training – Presented by Meghan Ramos

The implementation of a data driven, clinically based, and time efficient working dog fitness program has been a goal within the community for several years. The Penn Vet Working Dog Center Fit To Work (PVWDC FTW) program is a foundational fitness program designed to combine scientific merit and practical training efficiency. The PVWDC FTW program is a formalized circuit training program performed for twenty minutes three times a week to complement a working dog’s career specific training. The program consists of posture development, warm-up and cool-down routines, and two circuits of Squats, Planks, Pivots, and Back-up exercises. The foundational PVWDC FTW exercises target the abdominal, spinal, and hindlimb musculature that are frequently underdeveloped and contribute to  premature career altering injuries. The quantifiable FTW program enhances individualized monitoring for progression, early injury recognition, and return from injury rehabilitation.  The PVWDC FTW program has been implemented with greater than one hundred dogs across three working dog disciplines producing quantifiable data that will be used to establish standards for working dog physical fitness. Handler reported subjective FTW benefits include improved canine confidence and performance during training such as ladder climbing, rubble navigation, prolonged apprehension times, and stronger initial decoy engagement. Ongoing research is focused on validation of training methods, career skill set specific progressions, and correlation of physical fitness with career performance.

12 Oct 2021

14:05 to 14:25

Investigation of tail injury at Lackland Air Force Base Training Kennels for Military Working Dogs – Presented by Marty G. Roache & Karen L. Overall

Tail injuries have been reported as an important cause of removing Military Working Dogs (MWDs) from operational work or training due to the need for medical treatment. Such removals adversely affect resource use and operational schedules.  The aim of this study was twofold.  Our first goal was to retrospectively identify demographic factors associated with tail injury in MWDs. Our second focus was  a prospective clinical study investigating the association between the presence of tail injury, the stage of training and kennel location.  Results of the retrospective study showed a significant correlation between purpose-bred dogs, sex, and breed with increased occurrence of tail injury. Results of the prospective study demonstrated a significant correlation between purpose-bred dogs and stage of training and tail injury. These findings are intended to be used to guide for future management to help prevent tail injury, reduce treatment time, and improve overall health and welfare of the entire MWD population, and other types of kennelled dogs, such as shelter and research dogs.

Day 3 (14 Oct 2021) - Training and Deployment

Time
Presentation

13 Oct 2021

10:10 to 11:00

Pandemic or pandemonium? Creating standards for medical detection dogs – Presented by Dr Cynthia Otto

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic lead to an international effort to employ odor detection dogs for the screening of individuals for COVID-19. It was documented across many platforms that the dogs were capable of discriminating odor of people that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 from those that tested negative. The rapid nature of canine screening and urgency of the pandemic led to multiple organizations training dogs, with some dogs being deployed into operational settings. One of the key components of a valid test is to have documentation of training and testing standards. The process of standards development relies on scientific data and expert opinion to generate recommended methods for training, testing and operational usage. In the US, the National Institute of Standards and Technology supports the development of standards relevant to forensic science. This presentation will address the rationale for and the process of standards development as it relates to medical detection dogs for conditions like COVID-19 that impact biosecurity.

13 Oct 2021

12:30 to 12:50

Scent dog identification of SARS-CoV-2-infections- a double blind study – Presented by Esther Schalke

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly spread across the globe. Rapid testing remains one of the main strategies to contain the spread. Scent dogs are capable of detecting disease-specific volatile organic compounds emanated from infected body cells and could support current testing strategies.

Methods – Results:

In a pilot study ten dogs were trained to detect SARS-CoV-2 infections in beta-propiolactone inactivated saliva samples. They were able to discriminate between samples from infected patients and negative controls. The cognitive transfer performance for the recognition of non-inactivated sample material and detection accuracy were tested on three different non-inactivated body fluids (saliva, urine, sweat) in a randomised, double-blind controlled study.

Dogs were tested on a total of 5242 randomised samples. Dogs detected non-inactivated saliva samples with an average sensitivity of 84% (95% CI: 62·5–94·44%) and specificity of 95% (95% CI: 93·4–96·0%). In a subsequent experiment to compare the scent recognition between the three non-inactivated body fluids, diagnostic sensitivity and specificity were 95% (95% CI: 66·67–100%)   and 98% (95% CI: 94·87–100%) for urine, 91% (95% CI: 71·43–100%) and 94% (95% CI: 90·91–97·78%) for sweat, 82% (95% CI: 64·29–95·24%), and 96% (95% CI: 94·95–98·9% ) for saliva respectively.

Conclusions

Detection dogs were able to transfer the conditioned scent detection of inactivated saliva samples to non-inactivated saliva, urine and sweat samples, with a sensitivity >80% and specificity >94%. All three fluids were equally suited for SARS-CoV-2 detection by dogs and could be used for disease specific recognition. Detection dogs may provide a reliable screening method for SARS-CoV-2 infections.

13 Oct 2021

12:50 to 13:10

Discrimination between SARS-CoV-2 infection and other viral respiratory infections by working dogs – Presented by Nele ten Hagen

In the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic testing of symptomatic and especially asymptomatic individuals is one of the main strategies to stop infection chains. Because of their outstanding sense of smell, dogs could be an essential asset in mass screening testing strategies. Previous research demonstrated dogs’ ability to detect SARS-CoV-2- infections but has not investigated whether dogs can distinguish between SARS-CoV-2 and other viral infections. To address this question, a study was performed with swab from individuals and samples from cell culture, each infected with one of 15 viruses causing acute respiratory symptoms. We trained twelve dogs to detect SARS-CoV-2 positive samples. In the first test (scenario I) swabs from individuals with a variety of viral respiratory tract infections were presented and the dogs achieved a mean diagnostic sensitivity of 73.8% (95% CI: 66.0–81.7%) and a specificity of 95.5% (95% CI: 92.6–97.7%). When using cell culture supernatant from different coronavirus infections (scenario II and III) the dogs detected SARS-CoV-2 samples with a mean diagnostic sensitivity of 61.2% (95% CI: 50.7–71.6%) and 75.8% (95% CI: 53.0–98.5%), respectively. The specificities were 90.9% (95% CI: 87.3–94.6%) and 90.2% (95% CI: 81.1–99.4%), respectively. The results demonstrate dogs’ ability to differentiate viral respiratory tract infections by their odor. Nevertheless, compared to earlier studies the diagnostic sensitivities were found subpar. To deploy COVID-19 detection dogs, as a reliable screening method, a variety of samples from different viral respiratory tract infections should be included in dog training to ensure a successful discrimination process.

13 Oct 2021

13:25 to 14:05

Implementation of a plan to decrease arousal and increase motivation – Presented by Robert Dougherty Jr

The Penn Vet Working Dog Center raises and trains dogs for Law Enforcement (LE) and Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) careers. High motivation for work is critical for success. Dr. Esther Schalke at the 2019 IWDC presented the difference between arousal, (high emotional alert) and motivation (controlled desire).

For patrol dogs, over-arousal can result in redirected aggression, difficult or impossible for suspects to hear warning announcements leading to missed opportunity of surrender, decreasing use of force.  Dogs that work from a state of arousal are more difficult to control, exert valuable energy prior to working, are less controlled, less clear-minded and focused on the task, and can be a liability to their handlers.

In a group of young dogs (15-20) training for LE or USAR, we controlled arousal by requiring a calm response from the dog prior to work or reward was introduced. The dogs were evaluated for any reduction in motivation to perform a task. In our experience, implementing a calm response in various phases of training did not decrease their ability to perform a task at a high level of training expectations and carried over to operational expectations.  We also discovered that by establishing controlled motivation early in the dogs’ training, we were able to increase external stimuli that heightened arousal levels yet still maintain motivation and control of the dog through clearly communicating to the dog what was expected of them. Concerns that reducing the level of arousal would reduce motivation to work were unfounded.

13 Oct 2021

14:05 to 14:25

Learning to Smell: Impacts of Training and Experience on Detection Dog Performance – Presented by Nathaniel Hall

Odor detection and perception is often considered a static and/or innate canine capability with a set capacity, This view promotes that detection dog training largely involves communication of which odor to detect. In this talk, I will review the scientific literature across a variety of species, and detection dogs, that indicates that olfactory perception is fluid and dependent on experience and learning.  I will argue that training influences both the “what” and “how” a dog perceives target odorants and that purposeful planning and training with target odor variations can have important and consequential impacts on detection dog performance.