DeChant, Mallory

Mallory T. DeChant, Phd, CCFT was awarded her BS in Animal Science from The University of Findlay in 2016 and her MS in Animal Science from Southern Illinois University in 2018 where she studied the physiological impact of simulated search work in search and rescue human remains detection canines. In 2019 Mallory T. DeChant completed her certificate in canine fitness and conditioning from The University of Tennessee. Mallory T. DeChant completed her PhD in Animal Science at Texas Tech University in 2021 where she studied various training and experience factors that impact detection dog performance. Currently, Dr. DeChant is a Postdoctoral research associate at Texas Tech University where she is studying nutritional solutions for enhanced cognition and olfactory discrimination, reduced core body temperature and muscle damage/inflammation in working dogs.

Publications:

  1. Evaluation of the Capability of Oil Specific Discrimination in Detection Dogs
  2. Training the Sensor: Impacts of Learning on Canine Detection and Performance in Canines: The Original Biosensors (Chapter 10)
  3. Leveraging Canine Cognition to Enhance Search Vigilance in Operational Scenarios Part 3: Increasing Canine Vigilance by Training Dogs to Expect a Low Prevalence of Target Odor
  4. Explosive odor signature profiling: a review of recent advances in technical analysis and detection
  5. Leveraging Canine Cognition to Enhance Search Vigilance in Operational Scenarios Part 2: Non-contingent Reward and Pavlovian Appetitive Stimuli Fail to Increase Search Behavior and Performance Under Infrequent Target Odor Conditions in Detection Dogs
  6. Leveraging Canine Cognition to Enhance Search Vigilance in Operational Scenarios Part I: A laboratory model of canine search vigilance decrement
  7. Stimulus Control of Odorant Concentrations: Pilot Study of Generalization and Discrimination of Odor Concentration in Canines
  8. Training with varying odor concentrations: implications for odor detection thresholds in canines

Improving the Stimulus-Response Behavior Chain in Detection Dogs

The stimulus-response behavior chain in detection dogs is how handlers train their dog to search for the target odor(s). The behavior chain starts with the handler instructing the dog to search and the dog’s responses by physically searching the area until they find the target odor (this is link 1). Then, the dog responds to the target odor by alerting to the odor and finally, the handler rewards the dog with a toy (this is link 2). In this lecture, I will discuss the two links of the behavior chain and the ways this chain can be unintentionally broken. In addition to identifying the weak “links,” I will also discuss potential ways to mitigate the performance decrement observed in the dogs. Topics such as routinely searching in environments where there are no target odors present, generalization failure to different concentrations of target odors, spontaneous generalization and discrimination between weathered and unweathered target odors will be discussed.