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Explosive Detection Dog Teams: Still The Best ‘Technology’ For Detection

If you have seen our latest video – you’ll agree with us, dogs truly are amazing animals. There have been billions spent down the years by numerous agencies in many countries, aimed at reproducing (or surpassing) a dog’s ability to detect substances. So far, nothing has been proven to beat the combined efficiency and accuracy of a well-trained explosive detection dog.

Explosive dog: accuracy and efficiency

Because of the unique way in which dogs olfactory (sense of smell) capability works, they can differentiate scents that are masked by other scents. They smell in layers, which enable them to discern the scent of each individual substance. They are also able to search an area in around 20% of the time it takes a human search team. Both factors make them more accurate and efficient than humans at substance detection.

There are many technology-based detection solutions now available on the market. While we will not pretend that the initial training (and continuation of that training) is inexpensive or always plain-sailing, most technology-based detection solutions are either extremely expensive or have obvious limitations. One example is the chemical explosive detection equipment now used at many airports. This process works through target contact sampling via a swab from an ion mobility spectroscopy. The substance is then vaporised to identify if explosive compounds are present. Though relatively inexpensive, this process is limited in that it can be slow to process large volumes of people or goods, relies on the skill of the officer taking the sample and most pertinently, the most commonly used explosives these days have low vapour pressures, making them almost impossible for this technology to detect.

How can explosive dog teams mirror this technology?

There are more effective chemical explosive detection technologies being developed and some that are modelled on mirroring the vapour plume detection abilities of dogs. This would mean that the equipment will not need direct access to suspicious items for sampling. Because of the greater sensitivity of the new technology, a detection zone could be set up within an area to continuously monitor explosive molecules passing through the air. The research continues and the hope is to both lower the cost of the technology and create potentially less onerous and invasive search protocol for people arriving at places such as airports and event locations. Though right now, we still firmly believe an explosive detection dog team represents the best balance to the search accuracy-efficiency-cost ratio.

Our Explosive Detection Dogs (EDD) are single purpose dogs, that is, they are trained to detect only explosive materials, and not, for example, illegal drugs. We only utilise single purpose dogs because, quite simply, we believe it is the best way for them to perfect their detection ability. The only exception to the above would be a client request (or our recommendation) to add firearms detection to the dog’s scent palate.

As our latest video illustrates, husbandry is a key element to ensuring an effective, energetic and positive detection dog, and a big part of effective husbandry is the connection a handler and his/her dog develops. Because of this, our detection and protection dogs live at home with their handlers and are not left in our kennels.

Detection dogs usually begin their training at around 12-18 months old. Initial training is comprehensive. To complete this and gain the relevant qualification (for both handler and dog) usually takes around 16 weeks. `

Once a Detection Dog Team has been deployed, it is expected that they undertake regular (monthly) continuation training with suitable qualified canine trainers/assessors as well as formal annual re-assessments to re-attain all necessary accreditations.

For more information on our explosive dog detection teams or to enquire about joining our team as a Detection Handler – please contact