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What Makes A Good Working Dog? Canine 'Aptitude Test' Might Offer Clues

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  • What Makes A Good Working Dog? Canine 'Aptitude Test' Might Offer Clues

    By Alton Parrish (Reporter)

    The canine labor market is diverse and expansive. Assistance dogs may be trained to work with the visually or hearing impaired, or with people in wheelchairs. Detection dogs may be trained to sniff out explosives, narcotics or bedbugs. Other pups even learn to jump out of helicopters on daring rescue missions.

    Despite the wide variety of working roles available for man’s best friend, those jobs can be tough to fill, since not every dog will qualify. Even among dogs specifically bred to be assistance dogs, for example, only about 50 percent that start a training program will successfully complete it, while the rest go on to be very well-trained family pets.

    As a result, the wait list for a trained assistance dog can be up to two years.

    “Suzi Q the Service Dog” in Finland. Suzi Q wears a waterproof under jacket and a brightly colored, light-reflective service jacket. “Don’t Pet Me –I’m Working” and “Service Dog” patches are emblazoned on the service jacket.

    Click image for larger version

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    Evan MacLean, director of the Arizona Canine Cognition Center at the University of Arizona, is exploring ways to identify the best dogs for different jobs – before they start the long and expensive training process – by looking at their cognitive abilities.