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RATS Train Dogs To Sniff Our Bombs

RATS Train Dogs To Sniff Our Bombs

RATS could help train dogs how to hunt for explosives…

As part of an initiative to seek more effective ways of training war dogs, the Pentagon are looking to develop and automated system that can teach dogs how to hunt out landmines and other explosives.

It’s safe to say that war dogs have become a integral part of the U.S. Forces, and for good reason, they remain the best bomb detecting tool in the military’s arsenal – with an 80% success rate – and are constantly outdoing all expectations assisting in saving lives on the battlefield.

automated dog whisperer to train war dogs

RATS To Train War Dogs

Image Credit: Spc. Aubree Rundle, U.S. Army, 2007.

However, training pups for tasks required on the battle is no easy feat, in much the same way as seeing eye dogs, it takes at least 2 years, and extremely high costs, to trains pups to be ready for service, and most don’t even make the cut.

The new training assistant, known as the Rugged Automated Training System [RATS], would not only be able to train dogs, it could potentially be used to prep rats for such tasks. Rats have already shown their ability to hunt out landmines in Africa, research that has also received military funding.

The RATS system would train animals in much that same way as humans train animals, by using Pavlovian conditioning.

Experiments conducted by Ivan Pavlov in 1927 showed that over time, dogs awarded food in response to certain stimuli, e.g. the sound of a bell, eventually become conditioned to expect this to occur every time, and as a result, would salivate in anticipation of food upon hearing the sound of the bell.

In similar way, dogs are training to treat hunting for explosives as a game in which they receive rewards for their work. The problem is that dogs need constant human affection to keep them in shape, where as rats simply continue their new directives for the reward of food. This has researcher believing that rodents may actually be more effective than dogs. Nevertheless, the process still relies on a human trainer and hours of Pavlovian conditioning.

While it’s unlikely that RATS will replace human trainers anytime soon, its certainly possible that such a system maybe used as part of training programs of the future.

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  1. Katie Drummond: Army’s Automated Dog Whisperer Will Train Puppies of War. Popular Science, 01/31/2012.
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