Breeding and Training

Breeding & Training


Since September 11, 2012, the Penn Vet Working Dog Center has been dedicated to the training, breeding, research, and care of the working dog.

Meet Our Dogs

Learn what it takes to become a working dog and, best of all, meet our dogs:

Working Dog Center

Breeding

We believe that we can identify and select for better and healthier dogs with a breeding program in this country, similar to what is done with many of the service dog organizations. We also hope that the research we are doing in the genetics and training aspects will help other organizations be more successful in identifying those shelter dogs that will excel in working roles.

Zzisa puppies, Working Dog Center

The Working Dog Center has partnered with the Department of Homeland Security for the research and breeding of explosives detection canines. This endeavor uses data originally gathered by the Transportation Security Administration Breeding Program in order to determine the most critical genetic and behavioral characteristics of explosives detection dogs.Building on this foundation, the WDC breeding program has capitalized on the TSA dogs, outside breeding collaborators, and the excellence of the dogs who have come up through our Puppy Foundation Program to produce the next generation of detection dogs.

Working Dog Center Breeding Program Stats
 Year Breeding
2014 Zzisa (TSA) X Ffisher (TSA) - June 2014
2015 Ffoster (TSA) X DaVinci (CCI) - June 2015
2016 Socks (WDC) X Ddolan (TSA) - June 2016
2016 Pacy (WDC) x Packer (TSA/WDC) - July 2016
2017 Felony (WDC) x Hector (Vrijheid Dutch Shepherds) - May 2017
2017Socks (WDC) x Pete (Puppies Behind Bars) - June 2017

Training

At the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, our puppies start training from the day they join the program at eight weeks old, participating in age-appropriate exercises to gradually develop the skills they will need as working dogs. From that point, they spend at least eight hours a day Monday through Friday at the Center to learn the basics of search, agility, fitness, impulse control, obedience, and drive.

A Foundation in Scent Detection

Since we are a foundation program, we teach our dogs the basic skills necessary for a successful career in detection. We like to think of it as a liberal arts degree that will prepare them to go on to the advanced training that best suits their physical and behavioral strengths.

Our dogs currently search for their favorite toy or for a concealed person (any hidden person). When they graduate from our program they will learn to apply their search skills to their specified target odor (i.e., explosives, drugs, medical detection).

After completion of foundation training, our dogs are prepared for careers in different disciplines, including:

  • Urban search and rescue
  • Human Remains Detection
  • Dual purpose
  • Single purpose
  • Diabetes alert
  • Ovarian cancer detection
  • Explosive detection
  • Narcotics detection

Searching With Confidence

To ensure they will succeed in any detection program, our dogs learn to confidently  & independently search independently (off leash) as well as on leash. They use “air scenting” to identify the slightest trace of odor and follow it to the source.

How a Dog Alerts

We typically start by teaching an active alert (e.g., scratch or bark) and may progress to a passive alert such as a sit or down. The final alert will be determined by what odor the dog is trained to detect. We also take advantage of a dog’s natural tendency to respond, so if a dog spontaneously offers a passive alert (sit) when they identify an odor, we will develop and reward that response.


Meet Annemarie DeAngelo

Annemarie DeAngelo with Rebel and Waya

Major Annemarie DeAngelo, Training Director, came to the Penn Vet Working Dog Center with nearly three decades of law enforcement K9 experience as a state trooper for the New Jersey State Police. In fact, Annemarie was the founder and architect of the New Jersey State Police Canine Unit.

What It Takes to be a Working Dog

  • Drive

    Drive is the propensity of a dog to exhibit a particular pattern of behaviors when faced with particular stimuli. Drives are triggered by these particular stimuli and expressed in a typical and predictable way that is associated with the particular stimulus.

    Drives can be enhanced or diminished through experience (e.g., training, environment, et cetera), but they cannot be created or eliminated. Traditionally defined in the working dog literature as an exaggerated, instinctual response to certain stimuli and situations. Drive is most narrowly and clearly defined as a willingness, vigor, or enthusiasm to engage in certain behavior, contexts, or situations.

    Our puppies participate in daily exercises that will hone and develop their natural instincts to play with toys, desire food, chase and hunt. Building these drives creates a solid foundation for which a successful search career is based.

  • Search

    A term that is encompasses a variety of applications, including systematic search pattern, hasty search, grid search, evidence search, blank search, and area search.

    In preparation for detection careers in fields including search and rescue, explosive, narcotic, diabetic, and cancer detection, our puppies are building confidence to search out and find their target in a variety of environments including buildings, vehicles, and an array of outdoor areas.

  • Obedience

    The canine should be under the control of the handler, capable of heeling through crowds and non-aggressive to people and other canines. The canine, for its safety, must be responsive to an emergency stop command. The long wait evaluates the reliability of the canine to remain in place when the handler is not in sight.

    Our puppies learn an extensive set of obedience skills to ensure they live safe and enjoyable lives during both working hours and when they are off duty.

  • Agility

    A character trait which describes the natural (running) speed, sure-footedness, and coordination, and the ability of the dog to correct and recover.

    Utilizing a combination of traditional agility equipment and real world props, our puppies learn proprioception (hind-end awareness) and confidence on a wide array of surfaces and heights. This allows them to stay focused on their search and not their footing improving their probability of detection.

  • Direction & Control

    In order to search areas that the handler may not access or to avoid hazardous areas, the canine must demonstrate the ability to be directed and controlled by the handler. The canine should respond to audible and/or visual signals.

    Mastering these skills prepares our dogs to enter successful detection careers in any environment.

  • Environmental

    Instruction and evaluation procedures used to teach a dog to work, and determine whether a dog can work, in a variety of operational environments with increasing biological and physical complexity, which may distract or inhibit the dog from work.

    The training and testing, respectively, are designed to teach the dog to work, and assure that the dog can work, in a variety of operational environments, some of which may be extreme.

    For the same reason we expose our puppies to a variety of surfaces during their agility training, we teach them to not be diverted by the many pressures and distractions they might encounter in their work environment. This includes crowds, moving vehicles, loud machinery, gun shots, other animals, and smoke are just a few situations they will learn to work through.

  • Fitness & Conditioning

    With the amount of time and money it takes to get a dog to the level of field readiness, it is imperative that we ensure they stay at top physical performance. From the very beginning, our puppies undergo age-appropriate fitness routines aimed at maximizing their performance and increasing the duration of their working life.

    These exercises help keep our puppies in top physical shape for their future as a working dogs. Learning fine motor skill exercises, such as these stretching and strengthening exercises, also help improve communication between dog and trainer and can have positive implications on their detection work.

    The WDC also supports working and sport dogs wether they are recovering from an injury or wanting to enhance their overall performance and conditioning. The expertise of Dr. Cindy Otto, board certified in sports medicine, and Tracy Darling, RVT, VTS (SAIM) is serving the greater working dog community through WDC’s Performance Medicine program.

  • Husbandry

    The science of providing for the needs of an animal including housing, daily care, feeding, exercise, and meeting the behavioral/mental/”emotional” needs of the animal.

    Stand for veterinary exam, grooming, toe nail clipping, loading in and out of vehicles and traveling calmly are all skills that any dog needs to thrive. In addition to successful search careers, we strive to ensure that our puppies are confident and capable during their time off of work when they are faced with the same situations as any other dog.