Explosive Detection Dogs

What does it take for training a detection dog?

What exactly does it take to train a bomb-sniffing K9 dog?


Bomb detection training is certainly no walk in the park. Not every dog has the high drive, willingness to work, and finely tuned nose to be able to sniff out explosives amongst all other scents in an airport, and many dogs do not pass the criteria for bomb detection due to their temperament and personality conflicting with the task at hand.


When it comes to breeds known for following scents, one will usually think of the Bloodhound, which has been used for years in hunting and tracking of both animals and people. However, some of the favorite breeds trained by police for these tasks are usually Labrador and Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois, not only because of their sense of smell, but due to their high intelligence, high drive, ease of training, eagerness to learn and please, and their overall disposition as a working dog.While scent training for the most part can be fairly easy for most dogs of any breed due to all dogs having a naturally keen sense of smell, scent training in a highly distracting environment filled with thousands of people coming in and out
each day is not.


If you've ever flown with your dog before, think of how your dog reacted to the sights, sounds and smells of the airport. Even if you've never flown
with your dog, substitute the airport for a highly populated area you have been with them, like a pet store, veterinary hospital during a busy vaccination clinic, a dog beach or dog park. How did they react to their surroundings, especially on a first trip? The sensory overload and piqued curiosity for the average dog's nose and ears under most circumstances is too much to bear, even for an otherwise well-trained and obedient dog. Would your dog be able to focus on you and the task at hand when they keep hearing airplanes land and take off, on top of everything else going on around you? I know my Siberians certainly wouldn't!

Bloodlines & behavior

Most organizations that train service and working dogs have puppy breeders who choose their parent dogs very carefully for the task for which the puppies will eventually be raised and trained. Bomb detection is of the utmost importance, and a lazy dog is unacceptable as complete accuracy and a diligent work ethic are mandatory at all times. Only the best of the best can be trusted with this task. Therefore, parent dogs are not only dogs with excellent
dispositions and a working background themselves, but are screened for hereditary diseases and disorders to ensure the health of the puppies. Many dogs may work well into their senior years before retiring, so breeding healthy puppies is very important.


After the puppies are of the age to leave their mother, puppy raisers step in and spend the next one to two years training the dogs in obedience, socializing them to people, other animals, vehicles, public places and so on, and evaluating their disposition and work ethic. Any sign of aggression, anxiety, illnesses, behavior problems or difficulty in training usually has them cut from the program and placed
for adoption into pet homes. If they pass, it can take months to a few years of further specialized training and socialization to have a reliable, accurate working dog perform under these demanding circumstances.

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