Scientific Working Group on Dogs
and Orthogonal Detection Guidelines: Selection of Serviceable Dogs
Scientific Working Group on Dogs and Orthogonal Detection
This is document SWGDOG SC 3. It was posted for public comment
from 4/22/2006 to 6/22/2006 and approved by the SWGDOG membership
and Temperament | Physical and Medical
| Appendix 1 |
Appendix 2 | Appendix
Aptitude and Temperament
1. Evaluating Potential Detector Dogs
When submitting a dog for evaluation, the supplier could provide
the documentation in Paragraph 1.4 below to allow the evaluator
to carry out a basic assessment of the dog’s medical history.
It is normal for a full veterinarian test to be carried out upon
completion of a successful evaluation.
1.1. Because of the
importance of the initial selection evaluation, it should be carried
out only by a competent evaluator.
1.2. It is considered
a best practice to conduct business with suppliers equitably, fairly,
and according to appropriate legal and contractual agreements.
1.3. During evaluation
it is considered a best practice to care for all dogs in the same
manner as privately owned dogs.
1.4. Before carrying
out a temperament and evaluation test, the dog’s basic medical
condition and physical health could be assessed to eliminate those
animals that are fundamentally unsuitable for the task. This assessment
should include hip and elbow X-rays and current vaccination records.
Acceptance of a dog normally should be on a 30-day return policy,
counting from the dog’s arrival at the training center.
2.1. A potential detector
dog is one that is untrained on any specific odor, and the evaluation
is designed to establish that the dog has the essential behaviors
and temperament to be a successful detection dog.
3. Temperament Standards
3.1. A primary consideration
in selecting a detector dog is that it should have a suitable temperament
for the role. A potential detector dog should be even-tempered and
demonstrate a confident, outgoing investigative attitude. The temperament
is in direct connection with and in control of the dog’s intent,
motivation, attitude, performance, response, and reaction.
3.2. Examples of temperament
flaws include a variety of fears, poor past experiences from which
the dog has not recovered, unwarranted aggression or shyness, and
over- or underreaction to external stimuli. Dogs must be able to
tolerate a variety of working conditions appropriate to the task.
4. Evaluation Methods
4.1. In general, evaluation
of adult dogs should take place between 12 and 36 months of age
because this is when dogs are normally behaviorally and socially
4.2. Evaluation should
be conducted by the buyer or a representative and be carried out
in an environment unfamiliar to the dog but indicative of the type
in which the dog will be operating after training. The supplier
normally should not be present during the evaluation.
5. Environmental Soundness Evaluation
5.1. The environmental
soundness evaluation is designed to assess the dog’s normal
reactions to commonly encountered environments. The evaluation looks
for confidence in all of these areas or that the dog, after one
or two exposures, will start to demonstrate marked improved confidence.
The evaluation also looks for independence and continuity of focus
without constant handler reinforcement, thereby demonstrating levels
The dog should be walked through an
environmental conditioning area containing different examples of
flooring and footing (carpet, wood, ceramic, etc.), open and closed
stairs, temperatures, light values (from bright light to complete
darkness), open and confined areas, with and without obstacles,
and various noise distracters.
6. Search-and-Retrieve/Food-Drive Evaluation
6.1. This evaluation
is to assess the dog’s ability to hunt and its retrieve/food
drive in different environmental conditions. An example of this
Throwing a reward item for recovery
on grass, solid wood floor, steel decking, and open stairs. When
the throws are indoors, the evaluations should be done from full
light to complete darkness. The dog also should be evaluated as
the evaluator carries out a fake throw and the dog thinks that the
item has been thrown, but it has not. This evaluates the hunt drive.
A further evaluation of the hunt drive should be conducted outside.
The item is thrown into long grass, both upwind and downwind. The
evaluator should assess the dog’s change in behavior when
the dog can see the reward and is able to anticipate the hunt and
the speed with which the dog goes out for the reward, as well as
the speed of approach and of the strike (pickup). The dog should
be assessed for its determination to retain the reward after recovery.
This evaluation is the measurement of
the dog’s need, drive, and desire to obtain its reward under
variable conditions. The dog’s performance is graded on its
intensity to obtain the reward (speed and possession, persistence
to obtain the reward).
7. Sociability Evaluation
7.1. The purpose of
the sociability evaluation is to study the dog’s reaction
to people, dogs, and other animals as appropriate. It is to assess
abnormal aggression, submission, fear, and potential for distraction.
7.2. This evaluation
should be done both with and without the dog’s expected detection
reward (ball, KONG, towel, food).
7.3. An example of
an evaluation could be:
The dog is led by its handler between
a minimum of two people. The dog should move between the people
without overt response, without showing avoidance behavior or aggression.
Curious sniffing is evaluated as a completely natural social behavior
and therefore is considered as harmless as ignoring the passive-person
group. An excessive avoidance behavior and an excessive aggressive
response are considered negative.
The evaluation should then be repeated
to assess the dog’s ability to recover its primary reward
(ball, KONG, towel, food) in and around the people. The reward should
be thrown near the people, and the evaluation will assess the dog’s
ability not to be distracted by those standing around the reward.
8. Tracking Evaluation
8.1. The tracking evaluation
determines whether or not the dog has any natural tracking ability
or has had any previous training. It measures the dog’s desire/ability
to use its nose, as well as its interest level, its desire to pursue
the track, and its tenacity to stay with the task to the end.
An example of the evaluation could be:
The track would be laid in an open field
free from distractions and with grass up to six inches in height.
The quarry will walk in a straight line, downwind, for approximately
200 feet, lay a ball at the end, and return to the start, double-laying
it. The track can be marked by scuffing it, but the handler must
know where the track is. The track is then aged for 10 minutes.
The dog is cast over the track without encouragement to see if it
will indicate and pursue the track on its own. If the dog does not,
then some direction can be given. Once the dog has indicated the
track, the evaluator should observe the dog’s level of interest,
if the dog stays with it or distracts, and if the dog is happy working
the track. This test is merely a measure of what the trainer has
to work with; it is not a pass/fail situation.
9. Desirable Evaluation Outcomes
9.1. Desirable outcomes
may include but are not limited to:
- The dog is stable and outgoing in
- The dog has an excellent retrieve/hunt drive on a thrown or hidden object.
- The dog maintains concentration and focus over time, with attention
on the object, regardless of the area and other distractions.
- The dog maintains strong drive throughout the entire evaluation.
- The dog demonstrates independent
- The dog demonstrates independent
10. Undesirable Evaluation Outcomes
10.1. Undesirable outcomes
may include but are not limited to:
- The dog chases but does not search
for the object.
- The dog will not search/hunt for
- The dog gives up the search easily.
- The dog will not chase a moving object.
- The dog chases but leaves for distractions—such
as animal contamination, i.e., urine/feces, and other people or
casual items in the area, i.e., a piece of paper on the ground.
- The dog is distracted/overwhelmed
by the environmental conditions.
- The dog behaves in a shy manner.
- The dog behaves in a nervous manner.
- The dog behaves in an overly aggressive
- The dog fails to search.
- The dog fails to hunt for the odor/object.
- The dog fails to find the odor/object.
- The dog shows a lack of search intensity.
- The dog shows a lack of stamina.
- The dog shows diminishing interest
in the reward during the evaluation.
- The dog is overaggressive and unable
to work around people.
- The dog is overaggressive and unable
to work around other dogs.
- The dog exhibits excessive panting
that is not due to heat or exercise.
- The dog has a low drive.
- The dog does not have the desire
to complete the task.
- The dog is easily distracted by noise,
people, or other dogs.
11. Evaluation Structure and Method
11.1. Examples of a
detailed evaluation assessment and scoring system are at Appendix
1, which includes three attachments. Appendix
2 provides preliminary tests to evaluate a canine’s temperament
and determine if additional testing is warranted. It includes a
Temperament Evaluation Worksheet. Appendix
3 is an example of a statement of work outlining the Department
of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s
requirement for canines.
All three appendices are available in
HTML and PDF formats. To access the PDF version, you must have Adobe
Reader installed on your computer. The Reader may be downloaded
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Physical and Medical
12. Physical Evaluation
12.1. Preliminary requirements
To ensure proper identification, all
dogs submitted for evaluation must have a collar/harness with the
dog’s name affixed to it.
The collar/harness must be strong enough
to restrain the dog.
It is considered a best practice to
ensure that a computer microchip/tattoo for identification purposes
is implanted in each dog.
13. Breed, Sex, Weight, and Height Requirements
13.1. Breeds historically
selected for detection purposes come from the sporting, herding,
hound, and working categories.
13.2. Age: The adult
dog should be 12 to 36 months of age at the time of evaluation.
13.3. Sex: Dogs of
either sex have shown good ability in detection work. A female in
estrus should be deferred until a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks after
Weight must be proportional to the dog’s frame and skeletal
size. An objective rating system to measure body condition (weight
for frame) should be used. (La Flamme, D. Development and validation
of a body condition score system for dogs: A clinical tool, Canine
Practice  22:10–15)
13.5. Color: Any color
typical for the breed is acceptable.
14. Medical Requirements
14.1. General: Must
be in excellent health, structurally sound, and medically able to
required for evaluation and procurement. At a minimum, the dog must
either have been vaccinated (essential in the case of rabies) or
have a titer indicating that a particular vaccination was not needed
within the previous 12 months for:
- Rabies—vaccination in accordance
with state and local laws.
- Canine distemper (CDV).
- Canine adenovirus (type 2) (CAV-2)
- Parvovirus (CPV-2).
There may be particular regional/national
requirements that must be considered. The 2006 AAHA (American Animal
Hospital Association) guidelines should be consulted.
14.2.1. A vaccination/titer
certificate issued by a veterinarian with individual dog identification
(name, tattoo, brand, or microchip number) must be provided on all
and ability to be examined. Dogs should be socialized to humans
and should be able to tolerate medical examination procedures.
14.4. Minimum signalment
14.4.1. The following
minimum information should appear on all medical record documents
- Dog identification.
- Tattoo number.
- Microchip number.
- Whelping date (or age at time of
examination if whelping date not known).
- Date of examination or entry.
- Name and signature of examining veterinarian.
22.214.171.124. The following
should appear at least once in the medical record:
- Sex and reproductive status.
- Color pattern.
- Contact information for owner.
- Contact information for examining
14.5. Minimum medical
14.5.1. The following
list constitutes the best practice to complete in an examination
for a minimum database:
- The gait should be assessed at
the walk, trot, and run.
- Skin and coat:
- Must be healthy in appearance.
- Oral cavity:
- Heart and lungs:
- Heart sounds.
- Heart rate.
- Heart rhythm.
- Lung sounds.
- Cardiovascular system at rest.
- Cardiovascular system upon exercise.
- Respiratory system at rest.
- Respiratory system on exercise.
- Musculoskeletal system.
- Nervous system, senses, and sensory
- Nervous system.
- Eyes and adenexa.
- Functional vision.
- Anatomy of ears.
- Functional hearing.
- Nose and nasopharyn.
- Demonstrated olfactory ability.
- Reproductive and urinary system:
- Intact or neutered reproductive
system. Document monorchidism or cryptorchidism.
- Urinary tract anatomy.
- Urinary tract function.
- Laboratory minimum database.
- Hematology and blood chemistry:
- Collection of blood sample for
- Blood chemistry. Complete blood
- Canine heartworm testing.
- Collection of urine sample for
- Urine specific gravity.
- Fecal examination:
- Collection of fecal sample for
- Skeletal radiology:
- Depending on the planned use
of the dog, early signs of degenerative joint disease may
not be acceptable.
- It is considered a best practice
to acquire diagnostic elbow and hip radiographs to evaluate
elbow and hip conformation and that these radiographs be reviewed
by an independent, board-certified veterinary radiologist.
- It is a best practice to ensure
that the minimum patient data are projected or imprinted (“flashed”)
permanently on the radiograph at the time of exposure.
- If further evaluation is warranted,
evaluations may be completed at the discretion of the veterinarian,
or the dog may be deemed unacceptable.
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