Smell and detect
The dog smells the area around it for the odor it has been trained to detect and indicate. Once the dog does, it will go to
the area of the source where the scent is. Handlers can either bring the source of the scent to the dog, or locate the dog
within a security gate location or access or entry point to detect odors of potential explosives on people walking by. You
can also have a dog work within a group or congregation of people, or within an audience at an event.
At any location, typically the detection dog smells baggage or equipment. It also investigates areas like trash bins or places
where explosives may have been left. If there is a random bag left in an area and no one knows what it is, the dog can check
it. "Those are more of your typical detection dog scenarios," Gillette says.
"What we've found is that we haven't really tapped the full potential of the dog yet," Gillette says. "We found that by optimizing
the metabolism of the dog, with correct nutrition and good exercise programs, dogs are performing activities that help strengthen
them to handle the rigors of work and that they're able to work, longer periods of time before they fatigue."
The CDRI team is not forcing the dogs to do things that they don't want to do, but they select dogs that have the drive and
desire to perform various tasks. "At some point, you want the dog to be performing at an optimum level, not maximized," says
Gillette. At a maximal level, recovery time is too long. So they want the dogs to be functioning optimally so they're not
stressing their systems. That allows the dog to think, to detect and to be able to utilize all its olfaction abilities to
its greatest potential.
"We've found with exercise programs, conditioning programs and good diets and supplements, we can actually increase the detection
ability of the dogs," Gillette says. "We treat the detection dog like an athlete and manage them with conditioning and proper
nutrition that enhances the dog's abilities."
The CDRI Vapor Wake Detection dogs detect and trace explosive odors to their source. The dogs' training could have given them
the ability to have detected the PETN explosive sewn into the underwear of the alleged bomber on Dec. 25th. "It is quite often
that the TSA does that here in the U.S., where a dog would go and smell the plane," says Gillette. "And it is done at random,
so in a sense it is as much of a deterrence, as it is to detect any substances." Could the TSA adopt a program where dogs
are used on random flights once the passengers were seated, and a detection dog walks through the cabin to check for potential
explosives or devices? "I think that the detection dog should be included in any security plan," states Gillette.
The worldwide terrorism deterrent program may not be based solely upon the dog, but detection dogs may be a key component
to a successful defense strategy against explosive attacks in this country or anywhere in the world. When it comes to dogs,
their noses knows.
Ancestry and noses
Going back to dogs' canine ancestor, the wolf, odor detection has been critical to the survival of the pack — it detects prey
and allows the pack to communicate. A wolf may detect a moose up to 1.5 miles downwind, and under most circumstances, it can
detect an animal three hundred yards downwind. It has been estimated that the olfactory area or smelling apparatus of the
dog, the wolf's relation, is 14 times as large and 100 times more sensitive than a human's. Depending on the environmental
conditions and how the scent cone or plume is dispersed, bird dogs may smell birds at 50 to 100 yards.
The dog's brain is dominated by an olfactory cortex, and its olfactory bulb is about 40 times larger than the human olfactory
bulb relative to brain size, with up to 200 million smell-sensitive receptors. Researchers have determined that dogs are capable
of sensitivity to tens of parts per billion (ppb) to 500 parts per trillion (ppt).
Ed Kane, PhD, is a researcher and consultant in animal nutrition. He is also an author and editor on nutrition, physiology and veterinary
medicine with a background in horses, pets and livestock. Kane is based in Seattle.