Dogs have long been used for detecting drugs and explosives in airport luggage, but now they are also being trained to find bombs in hand luggage being carried through airport terminals. Woody is one such dog, and he recently passed a test with flying colours. The 64 pound black lab successfully nabbed an explosive carrying “passenger” out of hundreds in the crowds at Dulles airport.
Woody was trained at Auburn University Canine Detection Training Center in Oxford, Alabama. Using dogs for this type of detection is relatively new, and is not perfect. Other dogs being tested have missed their targets, causing some to criticize the government for spending $100 million dollars on the project, which now sees 700 canine teams on the ground.
“You’re using dogs in ways they have not been previously used,” said Jeff Price, an associate professor at the Metropolitan State University of Denver who is the author of “Practical Aviation Security.” “A lot of money gets spent before they know something works,” said Price. Dogs noses are thousands of times more sensitive than human noses and they can pick up scents from miles away. Airport terminals are among the most challenging places for these dogs to work as the range of smells is immense.
The program is still relatively new and more testing will be required before it will be decided how it will proceed, but in the meantime these dogs are finding their targets even if it is not a 100% success rate. “There’s no perfect layer of security,” said the TSA’s Chris McLaughlin. “These dogs are very effective.”