work of dogs
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Replicating Superstar Working Dogs
Korean Customs Service clones drug-sniffing canines.

The Korean Customs Service has long bred and trained their own drug sniffing canines to work at airports throughout the country, but it has proved to be a costly endeavor. Typically only 10-15 percent of puppies even pass the behavior test just to qualify to begin training. Of those dogs, only 30 percent graduate from the program, an investment of over $40,000 per pup, an expensive operation that produces mostly dogs that are adopted out as pets.

South Korean scientists now believe they’ve found a way to boost the success rate to 90 percent by cloning. Their first experiment, a litter of seven puppies cloned from Chase, a talented drug-sniffing Labrador Retriever, in 2007 are already showing tremendous potential.

As puppies, all seven passed the initial behavior test and six of the seven graduated from the training program and are now working at airports throughout South Korea. The seventh dog dropped out of the program due to an injury.

On top of the prodigy litter’s extraordinary passing rate, the Korean Customs Service has reported that the dogs, like Chase, have shown superior performance compared to other working canines.

I’m still unsure about the ethical implication of cloning dogs but I certainly see the positives. Besides saving money, higher passing rates means less dogs need to be adopted out, opening those homes to other pups. In addition, if the Korean Customs Service's success can be replicated, cloning could have a huge impact on other working canines, like guide dogs.

Check out New Tang Dynasty Television's coverage of the puppies:

What are your thoughts on cloning working dogs?

News: Guest Posts
Good Advice for Cubicle Pups
Contest winner Stacy Dubuc takes her dog to work.

Stacy Dubuc of Carmel, Calif., has won The Bark’s Take Your Dog to Work advice contest with six Ginger-tested tips. (Ginger is Dubuc’s four-year-old Pit Bull.) Dubuc works at the SPCA of Monterey County. (A photo of her co-worker’s dog, Red, was included in our Dogs @ Work slideshow.)
If you plan on taking your dog to the office, consider printing out a copy of Dubuc’s smart suggestions and tacking it to the wall of your cubicle.
1. Make sure your dog is well behaved even when you are not around. Some dogs may be quiet angels with you near their side but become whiners or barkers when you step away from your office.

2. Your dog should be social and like all sorts of people. If your dog is scared of and as a result barks at men, delivery people, etc., work with a trainer to resolve these issues before bringing them to the office.

3. Watch their diet. Even if you are somewhat immune, no one appreciates gassy dogs! Also, let your co-workers know what treats are appropriate for your dog. If they all decide Fido should have their   leftovers when you are not looking, you might have some issues.

4. Set up a bed, crate, etc., so they have a “spot” in your office, which could come if handy if you have visitors.

5. Get a covered trashcan, even a well-behaved dog may be tempted by your luncheon discards.

6. Enjoy having your dog around for the day! I am so relaxed (and perhaps a little jealous) when my dog is curled up by my desk snoring away.

News: Guest Posts
Taco Bell’s Spokesdog Dies
Who's your favorite pitchpup?

Dogs are the perfect pitchpups. Consumers find them cute and compelling to watch, whether they’re hawking toilet paper or soda pop. Sadly, Taco Bell’s popular spokesdog, Gidget, recently passed away. The charming little Chihuahua was 15 years old. She starred in numerous print and television ads from 1997 to 2000 (beginning with her debut above.) Who's your favorite spokesdog?

News: Guest Posts
A Job for Eager Shelter Dogs
The country’s first hearing dog training program turns 30.

We’ve become so accustomed to service dogs, it’s almost hard to imagine a time before dogs vetted crosswalks, retrieved phones and listened for doorbells. But in many arenas, the phenomenon of the furry helper in a harness has been around for less than a generation.

In the 1960s, Elva Janke of Minnesota lived with a pup who alerted her to sounds—alarms, bells, that sort of thing—she could not hear. He hadn’t been trained (there was no established training program at the time); he just figured out that she needed help. When that dog died, Janke realized how much she had relied on his special gift. Through the intervention of the Minnesota Humane Society, she found a dog trainer named Agnes McGrath to teach a new dog these same skills.

Like most good ideas, this one gathered steam—with more dogs trained to help people who are deaf and hard of hearing, followed by a four year pilot program. By 1979, Hearing Dog, Inc. (now International Hearing Dog, Inc. or IHDI) was established in Henderson, Colo., becoming the first program of its kind in the country. By the end of the year, IHDI will have trained and placed 1,100 shelter dogs throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Here’s one of the things I love about the group: They train shelter dogs. And it’s not some new PR move; it’s in the charter. Bob Cooley, IHDI assistant director and field representative, explained to me that they don’t breed, in part, because they aren’t looking for a breed but a personality. And that personality—energetic, curious, going a little crazy when someone knocks on the door—is the sort of personality that drives some folks to surrender young dogs to a shelter. In other words, one family’s pain in the neck is another family’s eager, helpful assistance dog.

Join the folks at IHDI in celebrating three decades of making a difference on Saturday, July 25, at their headquarters north of Denver (directions & contact information). There will be tours, a chance to meet some dogs-in-training, an Italian supper, a silent auction, live music and a magic show. Tickets can be purchased by phone (303-287-3277) or email (ihdi@aol.com). IHDI provides dogs free-of-charge to qualified applicants, and pays for its efforts through private contributions, individual donations and grants. Learn how you can help.

News: Guest Posts
Other People’s Dogs
The view from my desk

It wasn’t until Kip climbed onto my lap and gave me a big, up-close grin that I realized I hadn’t laughed in a while. It was the first month at my new job, working forty hours a week in a real office. I was trying to get used to this serious adult lifestyle, but, to be honest, it was freaking me out a bit. As I sat at my desk one Tuesday afternoon tapping my fingers on my keyboard, Kip moseyed into my cubicle and gave me his paw. I smiled and accepted. Before I knew it, he’d secured his other paw on my lap and hefted his snout up to the level of my nose, shoving his goofy, freckled face two inches from mine. I burst into laughter.

I should have known that this job wouldn’t be all that bad--when I first came in for an interview, Kip (a black and white Australian Shepherd) and a giant Golden Retriever warmed my feet under the conference table as I met everyone. Two years later, I’ve melded into my work at our video production company, and feel so lucky to have dogs in the office. My tiny apartment could never house a happy pup, so I get my puppy love from coworkers’ dogs, who have plenty of affection to go around. As I fetch documents from the copier or visit the video editor in the back room, I navigate the lumps of sleeping dogs in the middle of the hallway. The tiny Tibetan Spaniel curls in a drop of sunlight streaming through a skylight near the front door. The big Golden sprawls out near the treat jar, exposing his belly to passersby. In hot weather, Kip splays his limbs up against the wall of the boss’s (his owner’s) office, positioned as though he fell asleep sideways in mid-flight. 

Playful moods from the four-leggeds usually coincide with, or incite, equally silly moods from the two-leggeds. We throw a ball down the hallway for the freaky little Labradoodle, or chase him around a few corners on our way to a meeting. Zoey, a female Golden who is tiny and well formed, enters the office a few mornings a week with a high-pitched whine, bursting with excitement. Her whine song doesn’t end until she’s visited every person, shaking and shimmying her way through the office.  If only we could all feel so excited about arriving at work!

By cleverly turning a “favor” for the boss (taking Kip out to pee) into my daily stretch breaks, I’ve watched the subtle changes of the New England seasons through the years. The crispy tan grass of March morphs into lush green weeds as Kip leaps and bounds across the open expanse of the field behind our office building. In the humid August air, he does acrobatics in pursuit of sticks, twisting himself into pretzel-like positions in the air. We’re out there in the fall, when the grass becomes brittle once again and turns to black mush after the first frost. When the plants are only skeletons of seedpods, embossed with ice, we race around the perimeter of the field, white breath gushing from our lungs. Soon, a thick layer of snow tucks the plants back into the earth and Kip and I frolic, myself on snowshoes and he stubbornly making his own path alongside.

Kip comes up to me during Friday afternoon meetings, emulating my antsy-ness by wiggling his bum and shoving his head against my leg. Before I know it, he’s trying to climb on my lap, grinning his big grin and acting just as silly as I feel after forty hours of work. I find myself stifling bouts of uncontrollable laughter when he starts these antics, and I’m reminded again why I love having furry friends around. If it weren’t for Kip, I still wouldn’t have laughed this hard – or frolicked - at work. Thank goodness for dogs in the office!

News: Guest Posts
Pup Perks at Work
Allowing dogs at work can be a real morale boost.

Did your company cancel its annual holiday party? Or insist on more hours for less pay? Employers are finding it tougher than ever to keep up employee morale when everyone worries that the next cut might be their job. So kudos to businesses like Marcus Thomas marketing agency in Ohio for allowing dogs at work. Employees and customers alike benefit from the relaxation of petting a pup and it costs the company nothing.

As a freelance writer and part-time agility trainer, my dogs are constant companions. Occasionally, this can be a bit of a distraction, but for the most part, they remind me to take a break from the computer to rest my eyes, stretch, and throw the ball a few times. When I wrote about this subject for Bark last year (“Dogs @ Work,” May/June 2008), it was surprising how many workplaces allowed dogs and how well everyone got along. Even employees who weren't necessarily "dog people" didn't object to a pup presence.


Do you bring your dog to work? If so, how has the experience affected you and your co-workers’ productivity? If not, would you like to and do you think your boss would be open to it?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Rip the Dog Has His Day
War hero’s medal fetches big money.

The prestigious Dickin Medal awarded to a British dog in the 1940s has sold at auction for $35,700 (or to be more accurate 24,250 British pounds), which was £10,000 pounds more than expected. The medal had been awarded to Rip, a wiry-haired stray, for his search and rescue work during World War II. He found more than 100 survivors who were trapped in the wreckage resulting from the German bombs of The Blitz.

Prior to his heroics, Rip himself apparently survived a bombing. After losing his home, he was adopted by an air raid warden. He is usually described as “coming from a complex ancestry,” which seems a fancy way of saying that he was a mutt.

The Dickin Medal was established during World War II to recognize the work of animals in war. More pigeons have won the award than any other species, followed by dogs, though one cat and several horses have also received the honor. The medal itself reads “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve.” Rip wore the medal on his collar for the rest of his life, and the phrase “We Also Serve” appears on his tombstone.

The fact that Rip’s medal sold for an amount that exceeded expectations is yet more tangible evidence of the ever-increasing value people are placing on animals, especially dogs. Sixty years after he won the award, Rip’s accomplishment is still highly valued, and the proof of his recognition is treasured.

News: Guest Posts
Dog Helps Cats
And not just any cats, Asian tigers!

You heard that right. Last year, camera traps and field surveys failed to yield a single tiger sighting in one of Cambodia’s largest wildlife reserves. In 2007, a mere paw print was the only sign of life. Time to call in a pro: Maggie. The German wirehaired pointer, trained to track down wild cat scat, is being called the best hope for finding tigers. And not a moment too soon, the tiger population in Asia has dropped from 100,000 to only 5,000 over the past century. Go Maggie go!


News: Guest Posts
Chicago’s Crimefighting Pit Bull
Elliott Ness crosses the blue line

When you think of police dogs, don't German shepherds or Belgian Malinois come to mind? Chicago's Cook County K9 Unit recently introduced its two newest recruits, one of whom is a four-year-old pit bull. Officer Deborah Thedos rescued the handsome brindle dog -- now known as Elliott Ness -- from a local shelter and trained him to locate cadavers. To see Elliott Ness and his colleague, a young Bloodhound named Melanie who has already saved one man's life, click here for their public debut.

News: Guest Posts
Dog Food Can Be Life Changing
FBI working dogs must earn their meals and are hand-fed every morsel.

So here's the difference between my companion dogs and FBI working dogs. My dogs must sit politely and make eye contact with me before I put down their food bowls. FBI dogs must detect one of 19,000 possible explosives combinations and before their handler feeds them their meal by hand. This simple act reinforces their will to work and strengthens the bond with their handler. In fact, these working dogs never eat out of a bowl until their retirement! To see these brave, brilliant dogs in action, check out this fascinating video. As a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, I'm thrilled that the FBI uses food to teach, motivate and reward its working canine partners. The APDT also emphasizes reward-based training, which I personally find to be the most fun way to teach dogs of all ages, sizes and personalities. The use of food helps FBI dogs save people's lives. Four years ago, I used food to save a dog's life. I was a volunteer with a German shepherd rescue and received a call from the Louisiana SPCA that a very scared German shepherd had been found as a stray and needed help. No one was going to want to adopt a large, fearful adult dog. I went to the shelter on my lunch hour and found a frightened, dark sable girl named Jetta. She huddled in the corner of her concrete kennel. Every day for a week, I visited Jetta and offered her food. At first, I gently tossed the treats to her. She responded as if I were throwing stones -- more cowering and shaking. On day three, she took a step or two toward them and then she began to eat them in front of me. The most magical day was when Jetta ate the food out of my hand. Two weeks later, I still hadn't found a foster home for her. My husband agreed that we could take her in temporarily. She soon blossomed into the beautiful, confident girl I knew she could be and was soon adopted by a wonderful person who continues to cherish Jetta as a close companion. What is your dogs' relationship to their food?