Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Wallis Brozman suffers from dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that requires using a wheelchair full time and impacts her vocal cords, so she speaks very softly.
Six years ago,
Canine Companions for Independence matched her with a service dog, Caspin, and he’s helped her in countless ways. But it can be a challenge when she’s in public and Caspin tries to get her help by barking.
One day, for example, she was stuck in her wheelchair for hours at a dog park, because her calls for help couldn’t be heard, and Caspin’s barks mingled with the playful yelps of other
Now, thanks to technology being developed by the
FIDO (Facilitating Interactions for Dogs With Occupations) Project at Georgia Tech, Caspin has a new trick.
At Brozman’s command, he runs to the first person he sees and tugs a rope on his vest. That activates a speaker that says in a strong, Southern male voice, “Excuse me, my owner needs your attention.” (Play the audio below to hear the message.)
“People really pay attention to a 65-pound black
Golden Retriever mix with a Southern accent,” Brozman says. “That speaker application was great, because I can’t yell, and it was easy enough for me to tell him that.”
That’s just one of many potential ways the FIDO vest can take what service dogs can do to the next level.
FIDO is a project led by
Dr. Melody Jackson, who has an expertise in computer science, has been a longtime
volunteer puppy raiser for Canine Companions and has an office mate who’s a pioneer in wearable technology.
All of those things came together for the vest, which is still being developed but is in testing with Brozman and the
Georgia Tech police department. The custom vests combine common canine behaviors, such as biting, touching or pulling, with sensors that allow the dog to communicate with their owners or others.
“These are things the dogs already know how to do. We just have to show them how to do it on something that they’re wearing,” Dr. Jackson says. You can see how Caspin's vest works in the video below.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily, please install the latest version of Flash.
Consider a dog who
assists someone who has epileptic seizures. The dog may normally hold the person up and keep them conscious. But with a FIDO vest, he could bite a part of the vest to trigger a sensor that would dial 911 — and a recording on the vest would tell the operator that his handler needs help.
Dr. Jackson gives an example of a
military K-9 in Afghanistan. At a time when his platoon wasn’t actively searching for explosives, the dog lay down and refused to move. But because of the situation, his handler didn’t realize the dog was trying to warn him of a land mine and was indicating so by lying down. The land mine exploded, severely wounding the handler. If the dog had a FIDO vest, Dr. Jackson explains, he could have used it to tell his handler he was really alerting him to danger.
“We’re hoping this will literally be lifesaving,” she says. “It will literally be much safer for the person and the dog to have the vest.”
Dr. Jackson has been working closely with the California-based Canine Companions for Independence, and has talked with handlers of military dogs, police dogs, medical alert dogs and others to find out what they need most — and how technology could help.
Paul Mundell, CEO of Canine Companions, sees lots of potential for the vest to solve challenges and make
dog work more effective — particularly for people who are deaf or quadriplegic.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
An Indiana shelter with a soft spot for
seniors is making life better for a Golden
Retriever with terminal cancer.
From bringing in your puppy or kitten to
telling your friends about him or her, there
are plenty of ways to make a…
Minimize the risk of a bad trick-or-treat
interaction by brushing up on your dog’s
manners before October 31.
Dr. Jenna Ashton shares how to
determine your pet's water intake and tips
for encouraging him to drink more.
The Schapendoes (aka Dutch Sheepdog)
is known for his incredible jumping skills
and cheerful personality.
Parasites are no fun for dogs. Learn how
to protect your canine from heartworms,
hookworms, whipworms and more.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.