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Episode 74: Dog Myths

  • You can't teach an old dog new tricks: Adam and Jamie were both able to teach their seven-year-old dog plenty of new tricks in only a week. busted
  • You can fool a pursuing bloodhound: the bloodhound got confused in an urban setting but had no problem with backtracking, rivers, and various scent-altering techniques. Overall this was marked busted
  • Beat an guard dog: overall plausible, but you have to worry with any of these techniques that the guard dog won't stay distracted for long
    • Big juicy steaks: plausible
    • Submissive posture: busted
    • Aggressive posture: *busted
    • Scent of a lactating bitch: busted
    • Wolf urine: plausible
    • Scent of a bitch in heat: confirmed
    • Kari's Human Hamster Ball: busted
    • Grant's Robotic Cat Decoy: busted
    • Tory's Secure Drum: busted

This was the 'cuddliest' MythBusters episode yet as the MythBusters got to work with several dogs to test old adages and mythical evasion techniques. You can teach an old dog new tricks, you can distract a guard dog but you best remain on guard, and you probably can't fool a bloodhound.

You can't teach an old dog new tricks

Myth: You can't teach an old dog new tricks

This myth was setup as a contest/'dog show' between Adam and Jamie in which they were both given one week to train their respective dogs, which were 7-year-old Alaskan Malamute from the same litter (brother and sister). They also each got a dog training expert. Alaskan Malamutes are noted to be headstrong and hard to train and the two they got were both verified to have been untrained.

Norsled.org

above: Bobo, CeCe, Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman and Norsled's John and Don Homewood (source: norsled.org)

Adorable dogs ready to learn new tricks available for adoption at Northern California Sled Dog Rescue. You can also donate to help with the cost of medical services Norsled provides. (thanks Robin)

Adam worked with Beverly Ulbrich to train his dog, Cece. Beverly's techniques involved conditioning Cece to think that Adam was the pack leader. Cece had a bit of trouble with being overly timid on the second day, but by the end of the week she was following a whole array of commands from Adam.

Jamie and trainer Jean Donaldson did similarly well with his dog, Bobo. Jean's techique involved rewarding good behavior and ignoring bad behavior. Jamie also offered his threat: "Bobo, you gotta behave, or we're going to turn you into a coat"

The dog show went very well for both Adam and Jamie's dogs. Adam's Ceci did every trick: heel, sit, down, shake, and stay. Jamie's Bobo did every trick except for stay -- Bobo got a half point for not staying the required 20 seconds.

busted

Beat the guard dog

The build team tested various ideas as to how to get past a guard dog. To test the various techniques, they picked up Eewan, a 5-year-old German Shepard and trained guard dog from Tyson Kennels. After Mike McLaughlin, dog handler, showed them how Eewan was well trained to clamp onto any intruder, the build team got to work testing various evasion techniques.

There test setup was a "Guard dog compound," which was a safe in the middle of an area surrounded by a chain link fence. The goal was to get the 'treasure' from the safe and escape.

The members of the build team each took turns as the intruder while the other team members occassionally offered addition assistance distracting Eewan the guard dog.

Big juicy steaks (Kari intruder)

Tory distracted Eewan with the steak while Kari got to the safe inside the compound. Then Tory decided to throw the steak into the compound next to Kari. Eewan ate the steak and went back to Tory for more. When Tory had nothing to offer, Eewan went to work on Kari in the protective suit, but Kari still got the 'treasure' from the safe. plausible

Submissive posture (Grant intruder)

Grant crawled in submissively on all fours. Eewan immediately came running over and clamped down. busted

Aggressive posture (Tory intruder)

Eewan the guard dog immediately went after the growling Tory. *busted

Scent of a lactating bitch (Kari intruder)

The motherly scent is supposed to calm a dog down. Kari: "It's not working" busted

Wolf urine (Kari intruder)

They smothered Kari with wolf urine before she entered the compound. Tory: "That's strong." Eewan ran up to Kari and then hesitated for a second before clamping onto Kari. plausible

Scent of a bitch in heat (Tory intruder)

Kari lured Eewan to the fence with the scent while Tory snuck into the compound. Eewan occassionally over at Tory but was otherwise preoccupied as Tory escaped with the treasure. confirmed

Human hamster ball (Kari intruder)

Eewan ignored the ball at first, but then came over and started tearing the plastic wrapping off her ball. With Eewan biting onto the outside of the ball, Kari had to make a small hole in the wall to so that she could reach into the safe and steal the treasure. Kari was able to roll back to the entrace and pass the treasure off to Grant and Tory, but it was too dangerous for her to get out of the ball. busted

Robotic cat decoy (Tory intruder)

Grant mounted a taxidermied cat to a remote-controlled robot and made it into a weird animatronic contraption. Eewan chased after the robo-cat until Grant let it get to close to Tory, at which point Eewan latched onto Tory. busted

Secure drum (Tory intruder)

Tory inched over to the safe inside of a steel drum with wheels on the outside. Tory was able to get the treasure, but the dog handler had to intervene when Eewan started to figure out how to lift the drum. busted

overall: plausible You can distract the dogs, but you don't know how long you can distract them

Beat the Bloodhound

Myth: You can fool a bloodhound

Adam and Jamie tested various mythical techniques for throwing off a pursuing bloodhound: backtracking, crossing a river, changing the scent of your trail, etc... With Morgan the bloodhound (San Mateo County Canine Unit) and his handler as his pursuer, they set off to a remote location to do their tests.

Jamie (on Adam's selection as fugitive): "Well, something tells me that you'd be better at laying scent trail than I would"

Real-time footage at discovery.com/mythbusters

Backtracking, zigzagging, climbing a tree

The backtracking slowed Morgan down a little bit, but Adam was easily found. busted

Crossing a river

Just like in the movies, Adam ran up a stream in an attempt to throw off his trail. Morgan plowed right through the river towards Adam's position. As it turns out, water collects scent very well. busted

Masking with pepper

In Cool Hand Luke, Paul Newman's character confuses pursuing dogs with a mixture of pepper. Adam did his own interpretation of this technique by running to a small shack where he had pepper stored. He spread the pepper around and then crawled out the window to keep running. Morgan was able to find the trail leading away from the barn and locate Adam -- there was no dog sneezing. busted

Changing clothes and washing

Morgan tracked Adam's scent to where Adam changed clothes and washed. Morgan spent a lot of time there and seemed confused because Adam spent a lot of time at that location -- there was a lot of scent. The handler worked Morgan around some more and Morgan was able to pickup the trail once more. busted

Masking scent with Coffee and Cologne

Adam doused himself in coffee grounds and doused himself to mask his own scent. Morgan had no trouble whatsoever. Jamie: "He smelled like a cheap date" busted

Urban maze

Adam ran through an urban setting to give Morgan too many scents to focus on. Morgan was distracted and was only able to find Adam after 90 minutes but possibly through luck. Morgan hadn't been trained in urban environments and other bloodhounds have successfully tracked suspects in such environments. plausible

overall: busted

Comments

Weren't Bobo and CeCe great? CeCe is still up for adoption. Visit http://www.norsled.org to help find this great girl a home!

Camphor or ammonia will knock out a tracking dog's sense of smell (temporary), even a household product like Windex that has a small amount of ammonia in it is enough to do it, especially if the dog were to step into a puddle of it and continue to walk around.

I wanted to let you know that CeCe has found her new forever home. She has a new partner in crime, a Malamute named Mister. CeCe and Mister both found their new home via http://www.norsled.org

Thank you for including a link to our site in your post. It really helped to increase CeCe's visibility and get her into a great home!

At the start of the end credits I noticed a dedication but didn't catch who it was for.

Thanks.

I thought i saw that the dedication was to Morgan the bloodhound, i am googling around to confirm if i was right, no links to confirm this yet. I would be upset if something happened to that bloodhound. Morgan was amazing.

There was a dedication to a Bloodhound, but it wasn't to Morgan. I guess somebody else lost a bloodhound around the time it was being edited.

Matt

The dedication was for Ronnie the bloodhound.

The dog you see in the mythbuster episode was Morgan and the handler is called Matthew Broad.

The dedication was to Ronin. Ronin was another k9 police bloodhound that died shortly after filming the mythbuster episode.

reddogrising.net/books/red-dog-rising/forward-by-jamie-hyneman/

http://web.archive.org/web/20081007204853/http://www.post.ca.gov/library/p_ch/flagships/alameda.asp