mary incaDr. Mary E. Cablk is an expert in detection and systems. In her research she draws upon knowledge from multiple fields such as olfaction, analytical chemistry, learning, cognitive and industrial/occupational psychology, forensics, spatial analysis, pattern analysis, and image processing. Her research and expertise has taken her around the world where she has addressed audiences and worked with colleagues on landmine detection, wildlife detection, recovery of human remains, and search and rescue, among others. She works closely with relevant agencies and organizations on development and implementation of credentialing and standards for canine teams in a variety of disciplines.

Blind and double blind canine training: A how to overview

Blind and double blind training can be very simple, and can be made complex. Let's start with simple. The basics of either (blind or double blind) are the same: someone besides the handler sets the problem. anyone who has knowledge about the set (how many hides, where they are) keeps that information to themselves. Here's where the difference comes in: if it is a blind problem, someone with knowledge about the solution to the problem may be present and they provide no information to the handler that might bias the outcome. They may stand on the sideline, they may walk along with the team, they may be anywhere nearby. In a double-blind problem all individuals with knowledge of the solution to the set, in whole or in part, are out of the area. In double blind there isn't a way for the handler to recieve any information that would help them solve the...
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Blind and double-blind: Basics for the K9 handler

There's quite a bit of discussion about the terms "blind" and "double blind" going on in the canine world. Handlers are seeking to improve their training and better prepare for real life missions deploying their canine partner. We've all heard of "double blind" studies, which are common practice in the scientific arena. At the very least, we've all seen commercials showing "blind taste tests"... but what do these terms really mean and how do they relate to canine training? "Blind" means that the handler does not know the solution to the training problem. The handler knows neither how many hides are placed nor where hides are located. Someone nearby can know. It is just the handler who is in the dark. If a handler knows how many hides or subjects are hidden, it is not a blind problem. For example, certification tests often have a set number of hides. Example: a...
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Plants eat humans and belch cadaver odor? (part 2)

This is part 2 of exploring a current belief being circulated that plants are able to sequester human remains in their leaves, give off the decomposition odor, and that dogs thus alert on vegetation to indicate a grave. Here's what would have to happen for this to hold true: The human remains would have to pass through the plant from roots to leaves intact and without compromise such that the odor given off was the same as that given off by the body in situ. Problem number one: we do not know what it is that dogs recognize as human remains target odor, but it seems to be more than one single compound. Keep the idea of complexity in odor signature in mind as you read further. There isn't an evolutionary purpose for altruism in plants. There also isn't a biological mechanism that allows this to happen. In fact, I haven't been able to...
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Dog sniffs trees not grave

Do plants give off cadaver odor? Not demonstrated to be true.
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Plants eat humans and belch cadaver odor? (part 1)

Last year I started to hear some very peculiar things: that plants take up human remains and dogs smell the odor given off by the leaves. I asked several colleagues about the possibility that this could occur but none could come up with any mechanism to support it. So I became concerned about what kind of information was being floated around which had no basis in any actual science. It was particularly troubling when law enforcement would tell me how this worked. These are smart folks who are being fed a raft of you know what (and I don't mean skin cells). It didn't take long to figure out where this was coming from... the dog handlers. Understanding how this belief originated is easy, particularly if you work a detection dog which I happen to do. Dogs will often do what we call a "change in behavior" or exhibit a "change in body carriage" along with...
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Welcome to the Science of Sniffer Dogs!

This blog discusses current topics that relate to the interface and interplay of science with detection dogs. The information I present here represents not just the science, but also the dog training/handling side, since I am both a research faculty and a certified detection dog handler.
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