Tuesday, January 29, 2013

MRIs, The Next Step In Finding Miltary Dogs

Photo: Greg Berns

To train a dog for military duty is no easy feat. Basically a group of dogs are rounded up and evaluated whether they would be a good fit for being a military dog. Then, the ones who pass are put into training. Just like in every class at school, there are some who will excel and others who will fall short and not join the military.

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is working with the military to create a program where prospective dogs have their brains scanned by MRI machines to see if they have the brain activity for military duty. The program is called FIDOS which stands for Functional Imaging to Develop Outstanding Service-Dogs. By doing this step, they are more likely to eliminate the "dropouts". It typically costs $20,000 to do these tests by training alone.

While this make the process more efficient, I can't help but wonder if magnetic resonance imaging will have long term effects. There are also some highly intelligent dogs who don't fit into the usual breed of military dog like Belgian Malinois, German Shepherd or Labrador Retriever (pictured right).

When you think of the price to get an MRI machine. That price alone will cover the training of 50 dogs. One thing that testers are not taking into account though is exceptions. Maybe a chihuahua has the ability to be an exceptional dog.

Photo: Caroline Steinhauer

Another reason that this is disheartening is that MRIs are pretty claustrophobic for humans. Imagine how a typical dog would react. In the past dogs had to be put under general anesthesia. Now, they are able to get them to sit and stay for 10 minutes. It just doesn't seem right to me. And what about the underachiever? Just because they didn't make the cut, doesn't mean they go through life without a purpose.

I think that much more research needs to take place before they come to a decision. Right now, I'm very wary of this idea.

Let's Discuss!

Do you think MRIs are a wise idea for testing military dogs?

It's All Related!

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