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War Dogs Help Scientists Map Human-Canine Relationship

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Dog owner Melissa Scott knows that man’s best friend can be as unpredictable as man himself.

“He’s kind of like a teenager right now. He knows what he needs to do, but he also knows he can choose not to do it,” said Scott, while walking with her 18-month-old Newfoundland, Boris.

But he can be taught.

Last year a Navy Seal “war dog” named Cairo was one of the first to enter Osama Bin Laden’s hideout.

War dogs can smell two miles away, jump out of airplanes, and can swim long distances.

Knowing they can do all those things, scientists at Emory University in Atlanta have trained dogs to sit in MRI’s.

What they learned is that a dog’s brain never stops.

Impulses increase greatly when they are given hand signals.

But scientists believe this study could eventually reveal how dogs interpret our facial expressions and body language.

Certified dog trainer Maureen Leach of Happily Ever After agrees.

“We expect this other species to learn English. Is that expecting a lot? Yes. Can they do it? Yes they can,” said Leach.

Leach has been training dogs for decades. She said they learn best by “clear communication and timing.”

To know that the MRI breakthrough could help us learn more about canine cognition is exciting for Leach. And it may allow her to teach old dogs new tricks.

“I don’t think the learning will ever stop when it comes to dogs,” said Leach. “If we can use MRI’s to get a look-see as to what’s going on, that’s a wonderful thing to do.”

Scientists believe this research could eventually show how humans and animals originally came together.

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