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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...

Sunday, 16 June 2013

May I have your urine, please?

Hi Mia!
(Source)
Your dogs are most pat-worthy. Another reason I wish we lived closer.

So I posted that odd photo on Facebook to allude to the idea that much of canine science is about measuring dogs. 


I don’t mean like taking out a ruler, and saying, “I just want to see how long your tail is” (although, now that I think about it, I would like to measure dogs’ tails along with their sociability to other dogs. Might their be a relationship between tail length and dog-dog sociability? There was that robot study looking at dog approach to a robot dog with different-length tails that were either wagging or stiff. Maybe this is not so crazy? Hmm).

But as you mention in your last post, canine behavior, cognition and welfare researchers are often measuring things like heart rate, heart rate variability and blood pressure, as well as collecting blood, saliva and urine samples.

Since collecting these samples can be part of canine research, researchers often have to consider whether there is a way to collect biological samples in a way that is not bothersome to dogs. And, if a particular procedure would be bothersome, might it be preferable to collect a different type of sample? I’ve since learned that dogs can learn good associations with providing biological samples.

May I have your urine, please? 

Collecting urine from dogs is pretty easy peasy. As described in a paper by Lisberg and Snowdon, “We collected urine samples noninvasively using a sterile nonreactive plastic urine cup held in the urine stream.” See the dog slowing down for a sniff, hover around the rear end, kneel down and extend cup when it's go time (while wearing gloves, of course). Apparently there is even a "clean catch" method with an elongated handle.

While many dogs engage in pre-urination sniffing, dogs can also be taught to urinate on cue. For example, in a paper by Mitsui et al investigating urinary oxytocin levels, the researchers note that, “All dogs could urinate at the direction of human.”  


Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, The Dog Trainer on Quick and Dirty Tips offers suggestions on how to teach dogs to pee on command

While sniffing and olfactory exploration are key to a dog’s experience of the world, it can be handy to teach dogs to “do their business” on cue. You might have things to add to this topic, especially when it comes to working dogs.

May I have your blood, please?
 

Maybe it’s obvious that collecting a dog’s urine is not a big deal (although sometimes, people can make the experience distressing for dogs). It's almost like many dogs are giving it out for free. But blood? Needles? That all seems a lot more challenging, and even painful.
Voluntary blood draw in action (Source)

Laura Monaco Torelli, Director of Training for Animal Behavior Training Concepts in Chicago and faculty member of the Karen Pryor Academy (Twitter: @ABTConcepts)
recently wrote an excellent blog post (with demo videos!!) on How to Teach Voluntary Blood Draws: Lessons from Dolphins and Horses Apply to Dogs. As Monaco Torelli explains, “One of our more specific goals for Santino [her dog] was for him to stand without restraint for a blood draw.”

Monaco Torelli provides a number of proactive steps people can take to introduce positive experiences with medical and grooming procedures. The end result, an unrestrained blood draw! She also offers suggestions to shape various grooming procedures, like working up to putting drops in eyes, or prepping for ear drops or even receiving a microchip.

So that’s what I often think about, in research and my personal life. How can I make dogs (and other non-human animal) as comfortable as possible in their daily lives? And to that end, can I proactively prepare them for the different experiences that they will face later in life?

Hope all's well!


Julie

References
Lisberg A.E. & Snowdon C.T. (2009). The effects of sex, gonadectomy and status on investigation patterns of unfamiliar conspecific urine in domestic dogs, Canis familiaris, Animal Behaviour, 77 (5) 1147-1154. DOI:

Mitsui S., Yamamoto M., Nagasawa M., Mogi K., Kikusui T., Ohtani N. & Ohta M. (2011). Urinary oxytocin as a noninvasive biomarker of positive emotion in dogs, Hormones and Behavior, 60 (3) 239-243. DOI:

© 2013 Julie Hecht