More About the Bio Sensor Research


Some excerpts from the correspondence with Dr. Steven Lindsay:
The Biosensor Research Program did use neonatal stress procedures and did keep some data, but to my knowledge very little of it has been published.
Michael Fox [now at the Humane Society of the United States (may be retired or about to retire)] consulted the Army about the procedures (see Fox, 1978) and he would be the best person to consult about the procedure and data.
I do not recall the procedures as recommended by Dr. Battaglia, but I did not work in the Nursery and may have missed those parts of the procedure.
As I remember, the procedures were performed mechanically (slow moving centrifuge) and brief refrigeration. Fox (1978) claims significant cognitive, social, and physiological benefits accruing as the result of neonatal stress exposure.
Personally, I'm skeptical about the efficacy of the extremely brief handling procedures as recommended by Battaglia and would like to see more in the way of supporting data. The procedure used by Fox involved repeated 1 minute periods of stress exposure. The effect of such exposure may vary significantly from breed to breed, perhaps requiring different levels and durations of stress to be effective.
Although anecdotal reports suggest that neonatal stress may be beneficial, the exact nature of the effect and the procedural details have not been fully worked out.


From Dr. Michael Fox:
I helped set up the army's "Superdog" project as I called it, for combat dogs during the Vietnam war.
The program was based on my research in canine behavior development. See Integrative Development of Brain and Behavior in the Dog. Univ of Chicago press, 1971. I mention the benefits of early handling and later socialization in Superdog, with Wylie/Hungry Minds press.
No specifically critical time, like between 3-16 days for stimulation, was ever advocated by me. Nor was any report put out by the army to my knowledge. But Dr. Jeff Lynn did a Master's degree under me at Washington University,St. Louis, and he was a veterinarian with the army at the time working with the puppies.
I hope this helps. I heard only that the dogs from our program performed well in the field, and seemed better able to cope with stress and heat than conventionally raised shepherds used in the jungle war. Battaglia should give me full credit, and applaud the army vet corps under Col. Castleberry for doing their best for these service dogs used in combat.


Excerpt from Dr. Eldin Leighton telephone conversation and letter.
For the past 6 years, Dr. Leighton has been the Director of Canine Genetics for The Seeing Eye, Inc. of Morristown, New Jersey. His affiliation with The Seeing Eye began as a consultant in 1977, and in 1979, he was asked to re-design their canine breeding program. The Seeing Eye dogs produced today are the product of that breeding program. Dr. Leighton studied population genetics applied to domestic livestock at Iowa State University where he earned the M.S. degree in 1973 and the Ph.D. in 1979. From 1973-76, while on active duty in the U.S. Army, he served as a research geneticist  in the Bio-Sensor Research Division of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. This project was popularly known as the "Super Dog Project".
He was research geneticist assigned to the project, but one of his "other duties as assigned" was to serve as the project's Property Book Officer.He got there in Dec. 1973 to June 1976, after that phase of the project was closed down (the project closed at the end of June). It was under the wing of Walter Reed Medical Center but was actually located at Edgewood Arsenal, NE of Baltimore, MD, and now a part of the Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The flak from the program was still being talked about when he was there and it continued to be a lively topic during the several years he was there.
The summary of the Fox experiment was apparently the same project (although Fox doesn't mention it as coming from the Bio Sensor lab).
About a year or so before Dr. L. got there, maybe in 1969 or in 1968, an area TV station wanted a tour of the place and Col. C. showed them around. They video taped the 4 puppies in separate compartments in a wash tub being spun around at 45 rpm and then being put in the refrigerator. The voice over said "....and those puppies that survived the centrifuge were then put in the freezer..."
This aired on one network and then the others picked it up and it resulted in presidential and congressional investigations which resulted in that project being closed down. Papers also picked it up. For awhile, that project held the record for generating more publicity than any other unit of government.
To the best of Dr. L's knowledge, there was never any testing of outcome results with mature dogs. Also, the Army did not develop and use any particular program in raising puppies that he's aware of.
The Army did do some breeding and most of their foundation stock came from Germany.


Some excerpts from the correspondence with Captain Arthur J. Haggerty(Haggerty Training):
There was a certain amount of publicity in the general press in the early 70s. The best source of information that I would suggest is the Russian tests that were conducted probably in the sixties or earlier. The tests were bizarre including putting new born whelps in a centrifuge and exposing them to cold temperatures. The US Army did attempt to replicate these tests without the results claimed by the Russians. The Super Dog Program produced excellent results. I attributed this to the selective breeding more so than early stimulation but to the best of my knowledge no control studies were conducted on the stimulation. Early handling has been reported as improving dogs in Fuller and Scott's work (late fifties to early sixties) and in Whitney's work in the fifties. Pfaffenberger and Bill John's work (fifties) which was interrelated with Fuller and Scott also recommended early handling. The early handling was recommended at a later time than the three day to sixteen day time frame. Now this info and dates are off the top of my head so don't pin me down with the dates. Steve Lindsay should be better able to help you with citations.


Some excerpts from the correspondence with David C. Frost, an instructor/course chief at the dog school at Lackland at the time and eventually Superintendent of the Department of Defense Dog School. He spent 13 years at the dog school at Lackland, and most of his 23 years in the Air Force in the Military Working Dog Program.
There was a study conducted by the Land Warefare Laboratory, Aberdeen MD.I don't recall the number of dogs, although there were quite a few. Of course they arrived at different stages as the litters would mature. I do remember that in the beginning, the dogs were very unpredictable, intelligent, but often distracted by the most inane objects. The trainability increased as feedback from the school assisted in making changes in the socialization process. The number of dogs would certainly a large enough sample group to make a comparison. However, my sense is, the data you would need for that would be extremely difficult to obtain, as most of it would be anecdotal. I don't recall any breed other than GSD's being used. I have no information, other than what I recall from a short film that was made and shown to the instructors at the school. I don't recall any references to a centrifuge or cold room. I worked with a number of the super dogs, one inparticular in late 1970, early 1971, was Otto. Otto was trained as part of the research and development of the explosives detector dog program intiated by the US Air Force. I was instructed to train Otto as an explosives detector dog, using food as the primary reinforcer, rather than the ball which at that time was the accepted practice. Otto did extremely well in the training, and was eventually shipped to Maryland State Police as an explosives detector/patrol dog.


Excerpts from corresppondence with Mike Lister, Instructor at Ft. Benning Ga. from 1970-1976.
I was mainly involved in the training of Mine Detection Dogs. We did have Bio dogs in the course. We also used Bio dogs in Multi-purpose Dog Training, Body Recovery, Decaver Detection, Off-Leash Scout Dog Tng.
... There is also material about other Military Dog Programs. I will give the e-mail address of the person who has the material, and will photo copy for you. This is just one of the files he has on Dogs. There are also articles I believe that are written by some of the people you have mentioned, besides Col. Castleberry.
  The program was obstensively started to breed hip dysplysia out of German Shepards for Military use. Once this was occomplished, they were to give the dogs to civilian breeders, for sale to the Govt. The program went way beyond that. Col. Castleberry started breeding dogs for superior intelligence. He not only bred shepherds. There were bird dogs, labs, german short hairs, ect. He also did cross breeding. The dogs that we received at Ft. Benning were not considered his most intelligent dogs. We did send back information on how they did, and if our rating of their intelligence was different from his.
  I am unaware of how many of his dogs went through training at Ft. Benning Ga. Surely he and his staff would know where that info was kept. I spent over 20 years in the Military Working Dog Program. The Bio Dogs that I came in contact with were the most intelligent that I have seen. If these were at the lower level of the dogs he bred, the others must have been fantastic. You would have to ask David Frost, but it was the opinion of those at Ft. Benning that the dogs were great at scent discrimination tasks, but were not suitable for aggression tasks. They were much shyer and sensitive than the dogs we got from the public. I believe Col. Castleberry addressed this issue, by having more human interaction for the pups as they were growing up. We were told in the beginning there was very little human interaction. The dogs were also very sensitive to correction. At Ft. Benning we followed the principles of conditioning when training our dogs. When using level of titration to correct our dogs, we only needed the lowest level for the Bio Dogs. Usualloy voice or a look was enough of a correction. As regarding stress, they didn't handle it as well as other dogs. The Bio Dogs were the only neonatal dogs we trained.
  I do not know if offical records were kept regarding Bio Dogs versus dogs purchased from the public. I can tell you that we never had a Bio Dog not complete the Mine Dog Course. There were many failures with the other dogs. The smartest Mine Dog was a Bio Dog. Her name was Yvonne, and Col. Castleberry had her listed as the worst of the dogs he sent us. This dog was able to find over 50% of mines buried over 30 days, though she had been trained to only detect only 3 day old buried mines. She was not the only dog we rated differently than the Col. The only explanation we had was the influence of the of the human handler, and the bonding that occured.
  We conducted many contests with mine detectors. The dogs always won. These and other records may be at the Infantry School at Ft. Benning Ga. Where or how to get them I do not now. It has been said that Bio Dogs did not leave the U.S.. This is not true however. They did go to Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and I believe Australia.
... The dogs were at least one year of age. They did tng. and testing, but I don't believe it was specific to military or police use. I do know that we started sending Instructors to his program. Exactly what function they performed, I am not sure.
I wanted to mention that we had a contracted civilian co. help in training the first Mine Dogs. We worked with a Dr. John Rumba. He was of the belief that a dog trained on food reward and principles of conditioning, would work at the same capability for any handler.
We were able to debunk this myth after numerous trials and competitions. The bond between the dog and handler did influence the dogs capability, even the Bio Dogs.


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