Teaching Service Dogs to Use the English Language to Help Their Owners


Sure, a service dog can tell if her owner is about to have an epileptic seizure or is going into a diabetic coma. But can she call 911? If Melody Jackson, PhD, has her way, yes. She is heading up Georgia Tech’s FIDO Project, which stands for Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations. As part of her work, she is testing vests with attachments dogs can hold, bite, touch with their nose, or tug to launch a string of words in English. Imagine if one of the sensors she tugged on could dial 911 and say, “My owner needs your attention,” with geotagging to give the dog and owner’s location?

The technology could also be expanded for other uses, as in “I found the person you are searching for and will stay with him until you get here.” Or to say to a blind owner, “we must walk around this even though your cane is not touching it” for something like wet cement. The project is also looking at the possibility of teaching dogs to use touch screens at home to send messages communicated in English.


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