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Detection dogs are trained to detect even minute amounts of key substances.
These substances range from drugs to cadavers to peanuts (yes, peanuts!). Bomb dogs and explosives dogs are trained to sniff out dangerous items in airplane luggage, cars, buildings, and anywhere a threat is suspected. Because the number and types of detection dogs are so numerous, this article will focus on a few of the main types of detection dogs.
1. Bomb Dogs
What good is sniffing out a bomb? Plenty! If there are reports that a bomb has been planted somewhere on public or private property - in a school, under a car, in a mall, just to name a few examples - and no one knows just where the bomb is, it can take precious time for people to find it. And in the meantime, the bomb might be poised to explode.
A dog's nose can detect parts per trillion, which is far more sensitive than any human nose; this means that a dog can seek out and find a bomb in record time - even if it's well-hidden. This saves precious hours and potentially saves many human lives.
The exact procedures for training bomb detection dogs are rigorous, and handlers practice with their dogs daily regardless of actual threats. Dogs are taught to sniff out various bombs in a wide range of situations, so the training takes time. Dogs are rewarded when they discover the bombs, reinforcing their desire to keep detecting these dangerous explosives.
Bomb detection dogs are often German Shepherds or dogs that are related to German Shepherds, such as the Belgian Malinois (most people can't tell the difference). Labs, Bloodhounds, and even Beagles have been used in this capacity, as have mixed breeds. The key is a keen sense of smell, trainability, and a courageous, non-timid temperament.
2. Drug Dogs
Like bomb dogs, drug dogs are trained to sniff out small amounts of substances even if they are hidden or masked by other scents. This is where drug dogs can truly amaze - they can detect illegal drugs even if the drugs have been packaged in multiple layers and the package smeared with strong scents like coffee and vapor rub!
Dogs are trained on a reward system, getting praise rewards or a favorite toy (usually not food treats) if they sniff out the substance. Drug dogs are used at airports, by police on the street, at borders between countries, and anywhere that drugs may be trafficked or suspected.
Drug dogs can also be any breed that exhibits favorable traits. Once again, the German Shepherd shines as the most likely breed to serve in this capacity, but Bloodhounds and other hounds are also excellent sniffers.