Research Study: Penn Vet Working Dog Center

posted Oct 13, 2009, 12:52 AM by Charles Henderson   [ updated May 2, 2012, 7:53 PM ]
Research Study: Puppy-raising Foster Programs
Monday, Apr 02 2012

Dr. Cynthia Otto of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center is conducting a research study of puppy-raising foster programs for working dogs.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center is hosting its third conference:

“The Art and Science of Training: Dog & Handler”

April 8-11, 2013, Purina Event Center, St. Louis, MO

The goal for this conference is to explore training from an open-minded perspective and include leading trainers and scientists from all disciplines to bring the best ideas and practices to the table. This conference will incorporate didactic presentations and hands-on sessions with the goal of arming attendees with the best each discipline has to offer to improve performance.

As leaders in the canine community, we invite you to attend. 
Details on the conference can be found at
For more information about Penn Vet Working Dog Center:

Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Advancing Detection Dogs through Research & Education

  • Serve as a consortium to unite programs that employ detection dogs to benefit society throughout the US and around the world.
  • Collect and analyzes genetic, behavioral and physical data; and integrates the latest scientific information in order to optimize the success and well-being of detection dogs.
Prepare for future demands and facilitate research by developing a detection dog breeding/training program that will implement, test, and disseminate the knowledge gained.
Established in 2007, the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, is part of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine and serves as a national research and development center for detection dogs.

With the United States national security under constant threat from attacks, detection dogs are still the best tool that we have to detect and mitigate potential threats. Search dogs are also critical for the detection of victims of natural and manmade disasters.

Our goal is to increase collaborative research, scientific assessment, and shared knowledge and application of the newest scientific findings and veterinary expertise to optimize production of valuable detection dogs.

Penn Vet Working Dog Center's Focus

Practical Focus
  • Determine optimal strategies for screening, rearing, and training detection dogs.
  • Provide tools including genetic material, breeding stock, and semen.
  • Design physical health screening and conditioning programs
Academic Focus

Leverage expertise in the following to generate advances in detection dogs:

  • canine genetics
  • orthopedics
  • nutrition
  • behavior
  • rehabilitation
  • emergency medicine
  • reproduction
  • clinical trials



Societal Focus
  • Collaboration with successful community based programs to involve prisons and youth-at-risk programs in the puppy socialization and early training of the dogs from our program.
  • Enhance the ability to identify successful detection dog candidates from shelters or rescues.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center's Team
Cynthia M. Otto, DVM, PhD, Dipl ACVECC
Director, Associate Professor of Critical Care |

Dr. Otto, a member of the Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 from 1994 to 2010, began monitoring the health and behavior of Urban Search and Rescue canines in October of 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. This work inspired her to establish the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.

She has also been involved in disaster medicine as a member of the Veterinary Medical Assistance Team – 2 since1999.

Dr. Otto is a board-certified emergency and critical care veterinarian and a tenured associate professor of Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine and was named Pennsylvania’s 2002 “Veterinarian of the Year” and received an Alumni Recognition Award in 2006 and the OSU Distinguished Alumus Award in 2008 from the Ohio State University.

She is actively involved in dog sports (flyball, agility, and tricks), and also provides pet therapy in the Philadelphia area, with her rescued Bichon mix, Dolce.

Kathleen M. Kelsey, MS, MBA
Research Coordinator |

Kathleen graduated from the University of Missouri with an MS in Animal Science and her MBA from Columbia College. Before joining the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, she worked with Purina Mills providing nutritional programs for dog owners across the Midwest.

She has been involved with Urban Search and Rescue since 2003 as a Canine Search Specialist with Missouri Task Force One. Her experience as a trainer combined with her interest in research drew her to the mission of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.

Kathleen continues to deploy with Missouri Task Force One with her current partner, an American Bull Dog Mix, ChicoDog. She is also training her GSD, Zach, in Human Remains Detection and is enjoying the new sport of Nosework with her retired USAR partner, a Dutch Shepherd named Calvary.

Megan E. Brown
Research Assistant

Megan graduated cum laude in 2009 from West Chester University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Psychology. It was there she became interested in veterinary medicine and research and decided to pursue a career as a veterinary assistant.

She joined the Penn Vet Working Dog Center in the summer of 2010 and has been involved with the various projects at the center since.

When not working on data for one of the studies or as a veterinary assistant, she enjoys her 7 animals: 2 dogs, Marley & Fez; 4 cats, Lynx, Lumen, Lily and Mia; and a ball python named Sheldon.