Dogs experience the world primarily through smell. They have pretty good eye sight and hearing, but their sense of smell outshines ours by several orders of magnitude. People have about five million scent receptor cells in the turbinate structures of our nose where as in that of a of a dog, there are between 125 million and 300 million of these cells.
Further, a dog's brain is wired to evaluate smells. There have approximately 40 times more brain capacity devoted to smell than do humans.
Dogs can detect scents better than any man-made device. The scents come from all sorts of media. With people, we are constantly sloughing off skin cells and excreting tiny amounts of sweat, oils, exhaled breath, and other biological components the dog can detect.
Dogs are generally trained for a fairly narrow range of missions. Drug-detecting dogs are trained to find drugs of abuse, such as, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, etc. Other sniffer dogs are trained to detect explosive compounds, or the odours given off by dead bodies. These latter "cadaver dogs" are used for searches in disaster zones and at crime scenes where bodies are thought to be buried.
The training process is simple, though time-consuming. The dog is taught to find the substances of interest in increasingly challenging settings. When the dog finds the right target, he or she gets rewarded with a treat or a reward. Dogs have been socially conditioned to be our companions, and they want more than anything else to be part of the pack. The dog's handler is the leader of the pack, the Alpha Dog in the dog's eyes.
Traditionally, breeds like the German shepherd and Belgian Malinois were used for law enforcement work, and they still are in situations where the dog will be used to corner or intimidate suspects. For lower-profile work in airports and ports, where the primary mission is detecting target substances, less threatening breeds are used. Spaniels, Labrador retrievers and Basset hounds are popular choices. When these dogs locate a targeted substance, they generally don't dig at it or get excited. They just quietly sit down next to the suspect spot.
There are various theories on how to mask the scent of the target substances-surround them with ground coffee, pepper, or other substances intended to mask the scent from dogs. No one has come up with a completely foolproof method. Not all dogs, or dog handlers, have the same level of efficiency. So a method that gets past one team of dog and handler might not make it past others. At Protection dogs India we strive to aim at achieving the highest level of training of our dogs so nothing goes undetected when a dog is on its job!
Training a sniffer dog
A Sniffer dog is trained to detect various scents and in different ways. Each method of training a sniffer dog depends on what he issuing trained to sniff out, for example, the sniffer training for detecting arms will differ from that of detecting narcotics and the list of detectable target scents is endless. The training method used to detect the target will depend upon the dog’s working environment, the strength or intensity of the target scent they are being trained to detect and the desired command or reaction for indication that the dog will give on locating the substance.
Sniffer training usually follows a general routine of which involves rewarding the dog on sniffing out the target. The reward may be a toy, praise, treats or a combination of all. During the initial stages of training your sniffer dog, he is rewarded on showing any signs of recognition of the scent that he is being trained for. Once the training progresses, the trainer will then extend the reward time until the dog has sniffed out the desired scent and indicated the location of the target by the desired response in the form of a command on detecting the target, like sit, bark, down, etc. This response should be a passive, non-aggressive response to ensure the scents or odours can be detected without damaging the property.
In order to maintain consistency in skills and responses, Sniffer dogs have to go though regular training, recall-training, practice and tests to keep up to the standards throughout their careers as Sniffer dogs.
Skills and qualifications of Scent Dogs
Training a scent dog also involves training an efficient handler as a team. A good handler is important to bring out the best in a scent dog and as a team they can perform their Job with more accuracy and efficiency.
1. Search Dog Handlers trained for the job may be from a Police or Military background. Alternatively, if they come from a nonmilitary background through training K9 training courses, it is important for them to maintain a disciplined lifestyle with regular practice each day with their sniffer canines.
2. There are various accreditations that outline the standards of scent training for Dogs and Handlers. They are both government recognised and councils that recognise civilian qualifications by private training institutes.
3. In countries that are big on sniffer dog security have mandates for handlers to be trained and licensed security officers. In nations where Sniffer dogs are yet to be introduced on a larger and commercial scale or are new to the practice, the handlers may be trained qualified professionals either trained in the military or by a recognised private training institute that specialises in the field.
It is also important for Canine Service providers to be BS8517 Part 2 compliant and a NASDU Inspected Company.
Sniffer dogs at work
A detection or sniffer dog is trained to work using its sense of smell, to detect a wide range of substances including:
3. Drugs and narcotics
4. Crime Scene Evidence
5. Termites and insects
6. Human Diseases
8. Other contraband
A commendable quality of detection dogs is their ability to discern individual scents, with other scents around. Their sniffer senses are impressive with their ability to twitch their nose for the air carrying odours from the substance, hit their receptors. This signal then carries from their nose to their sensory cortex, the area of the canine brain that processes sensations, as well as smells. Sniffer dogs then interpret the scent and indicate the handler, of having detected the substance.
Service dogs are dogs that have been individually trained to perform a specific task for individuals with disabilities. The disabilities can vary greatly, and so do the tasks that the service dogs perform. Service dogs can aid in navigation for people who are hearing- and visually impaired, assist an individual who is having a seizure, calm an individual who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and even be trained to dial for assistance in the event of an emergency. Many disabled individuals depend on them every day to help them live their everyday lives.
Service dogs protected under law
Under Disabilities Acts in most western countries individuals with disabilities are entitled to service dogs to help them live their lives normally. The act protects disabled individuals by allowing them to bring their service dog with them to most public places including restaurants, hotels, public parks & air travel. Any dog can be trained to be a service dog. The important thing is that the dog should be trained to be a working canine and not a pet.
Identifying service dogs in public
Service dogs are often identified by a vest or tag worn by the service dog at all times which lets the public know it is a working dog, letting the public know that it is a service dog. Some public places and airports prefer to see an identification card or vest indicating a service dog.
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