The Basics of How They Train Sniffing Dogs How to Train Sniffing Dogs Sniffing dogs are the silent heroes that we don’t come into contact with on a daily basis, but help to keep us secure in our everyday lives. They are often employed by TSA agents, police officers, and firefighters, where they serve the important role of sniffing out hidden explosives in schools, airports, cruise ships or any other public area. They can also find illegal drugs and other harmful substances thanks to their innate ability to recognize smells at a level that is vastly superior and much more sensitive than in humans.
The Process of Training Sniffing Dogs Have you ever wondered where such dogs come from? In most cases, the fates of these dogs have already been decided upon by the time they are puppies. For example, TSA airport security agents raise and train their very own puppies. As many as half of them become successful in scent work, while the other half are given away to local families. Police organizations work in similar manner. The TSA and police forces also seem to favor specific breeds such as the Belgian malinois or the German shepherd due to their uncanny sense of smell, intelligence, dedication, and dependability. Other kinds of dogs include golden & Labrador retrievers as well as Belgian sheepdogs, even beagles. The dogs must first learn basic obedience after which they are professionally trained to sniff for explosives. TSA agents currently make use of Texas’ Air Force Base to start the basic training. In short, any time the dog picks up an explosive smell, they receive a reward or a toy, utilizing the most effective form of training, known as operant conditioning. In the case of learning how to recognize drugs, a towel is often used to engage the dog in one of their favorite games – tug of war. First, the dog is trained to recognize the smell of the drug. Then a towel containing the illegal substance is hidden someplace and the dog attempts to find it. Upon locating the towel, the dog is rewarded with a round of tug of war using the towel as a reward for his actions. Passive versus Aggressive Reactionary Finding Techniques There are two ways that sniffing dogs can react, when they find the item that they are targeting: passive or aggressive. Passive techniques are usually taught in dogs that will be hired to work in public settings such as an airport, where it’s a good idea to avoid any aggressive activity. For example, people waiting in line to pick up their luggage will often encounter such dogs that will refuse to dig at their belongings in case food, marijuana, or other illegal items are found. The dog will merely sit down upon encountering such items. The aggressive technique is frequently employed during drug raids or in places where digging or scratching does not pose any danger.