Though today we commemorate National Dog Day, in many American households every day goes to the dogs. We treasure our four-legged friends. They offer unconditional love and affection. They’re great listeners, they don’t hold grudges, and they’re endlessly loyal. But there’s actually even more to celebrate about our canine companions because they’re also vital tools for national security.
That’s why we devoted the latest episode of the official Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) podcast, Technologically Speaking, to these magnificent creatures. In You Don’t Just Get the Nose with the Dog, Program Manager Guy Hartsough explains the nuances of what makes a detection canine different from a typical pet dog and he drives home the point that detection canines have incredibly sophisticated capabilities that should be taken very seriously. Working dogs may look friendly and huggable, but they are the most versatile mobile detection tools we currently have.
Hartsough leads S&T's Detection Canine Program, which provides the tools, techniques, and knowledge needed to better understand, train, and deploy detection canines in various operational environments. Expertise provided by S&T includes development and testing of training aids, independent evaluation, and research into canine olfaction, cognition, and genetics. The goal is to make these dogs as efficient and effective as possible using a scientifically rigorous approach with statistically significant results. The program helps bring innovative advances from the lab to the field and serves as a centralized focal point for law enforcement agencies to address mission requirements.
One way this collaboration takes place is through the Regional Explosives Detection Dog Initiative (REDDI), a series of regionally-based events for detection canine teams in the law enforcement community. REDDI began in 2017 and has been improving explosive detection canine team training effectiveness and efficiency ever since. S&T helps local, state, federal and tribal partners nationwide effectively harness the exceptional smelling ability of dogs to locate dangerous substances with the potential to cause great harm. Leveraging a well-trained nose, these exceptional human-animal teams uncover improvised explosive devices and literally save lives. Their contributions are vital to protecting our nation’s borders, transportation hubs, public events, and more.
Back in March, we entered into work with the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine to support detection canine research and development. This 5-year effort will enable in-depth study of odor detection skills and investigation of ways to optimize detection canine availability, welfare, and longevity.
The Detection Canine Program has also just released a long-awaited web-based training course related to our Person Borne Explosive Device (PBED) canine initiative. This HTML-based “train the trainer” program features detailed descriptions of best practice approaches to transition a detection canine from being able to locate stationary objects of concern to being able to track a hazardous substance that’s on the move. The comprehensive PBED course includes numerous video clips of training techniques and scenarios to set handlers up for success. Having already been shared with a number of local and foreign law enforcement agencies, the PBED course is set for a wider launch in the coming weeks. Access can be requested by e-mailing STK9@dhs.gov.
From “sit” and “stay” to preventing acts of terrorism, dogs have proven time and again that they truly are our best friends. In honor of National Dog Day, be sure to tell the good boys and girls in your life just how much you appreciate them!