Training the Super Dog

Military Sep 29, 2010

Gillette trains working dogs to be the ultimate biosensors

It was at a stock car race, of all places, that veterinarian Rob Gillette had a revolutionary idea. He wasn’t thinking much about animals that day — stock car racing is all about tuning machines and pushing them to the edge of their abilities. A car pulled into the pit and Gillette watched as the crew adjusted tire pressure, altered the engine tuning, tweaked the aerodynamics. The car pulled out and went faster than before.

“I thought, ‘Man, I wonder if I could do that with a dog?’” Gillette said. “And all the education, and all the veterinary medicine came to a moment right there— it’s almost like I entered a new room.”

Gillette working with canine athletes at the Race to the Sky in Montana

Gillette directs the Animal Health and Performance program, the Veterinary Sports Medicine program and the Canine Detection Research Institute. He treats working and sporting animals as the high performance athletes they are. He’s teamed veterinarians and scientists to create programs – unique in the nation – that optimize performance, minimize the risk of injury or metabolic damage, and define the best treatments and therapies for the special needs of performance animals.

Not only have Gillette and his team worked with sled dogs and fox hounds, retrievers and racing greyhounds, their work with Auburn’s Equestrian team has earned them two national championship rings. And through the Canine Detection Research Institute, they’re producing the best detection dogs in the country. Detection dogs coming out of Auburn’s rigorous training program can locate explosives in a moving crowd –just by scenting the vapor wake an explosive leaves behind- or find IEDs in a dense urban environment. Some can find infected trees in an otherwise healthy forest, or track down evasive pythons in the Everglades. They’re at work everywhere from Washington DC to Afghanistan.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Robert Gillette

Dr. Robert Gillette is the Director of the Animal Health & Performance Program in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University. His general research interests are in the area of orthopedics, biomechanics, and muscle physiology of the canine and equine athlete. His specific research interests are in the areas of performance injury prevention, lameness, rehabilitation, and muscle conditioning.

Dr. Gillette’s clinical interests include working with athletic and working dogs; breeding programs, training regimens, conditioning programs, and injury prevention for performance dogs; canine sports medicine problems, including medical related performance problems, injury repair, rehabilitation, and reconditioning; and equine soundness and injury prevention.

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