The number of explosive detection dogs has increased enormously. Many security companies and governmental organizations have been and still are purchasing detection dogs. That is not so strange looking at all the terrorist attacks over the last years.
One of the goals of terrorists is to harm society. This group will do everything to be successful. Therefore, it is important that organizations working with detection dogs keep sight of reality. With ‘reality’ is meant ‘real life situations’. It is the responsibility of training centers (governmental and non-governmental) and the purchasing organizations to keep sight of reality.
But do they?
Many detection dog training centers have beautiful pictures on their website of their great training location. That looks professional on first sight, but it is not.
One training location gives the instructor two options: or he/ she will hide the explosives on the same place all the time, or he/ she is rotating the hiding places.
Hiding explosives all the time on the same place makes a detection dog stop using its nose and start using its eyes. The dog will remember from the previous days where the explosives are hide and will walk straight to these locations. For people who do not know this, it looks like the dog is doing a great job. But how will this dog perform in the field, in real life situations?
Rotating hiding places sounds like a good alternative, but it is not. An explosive (or any other odor element) leaves its own scent behind at the place it was hid. The place is ‘contaminated’ with the scent of the explosive. Although the explosive is not hid there, the dog will point out that spot.
A beautiful training location does not meet reality.
On first sight it is great that during training a detection dog finds all explosives. But how are these explosives hid? In many cases an explosive is hide in such way that the dog can find it easily, sometimes even visible for the eye. In that case it is not difficult for a dog to find it, but would a terrorist hid it like that?
The way of hiding an explosive is very important. People must look critically to the way a training centre or handler wraps up and hides explosives.
YouTube.com shows many examples of not realistic training situations and how an explosive should not be hide.
To keep sight of reality an instructor or handler should hide an explosive with the intention the dog should not find it.
With keeping the previous in mind, the way of searching is very important. Does an instructor or handler allow the dog to search ever object carefully or is it only a fast touch? Does a detection dog handler have the courage to put the nose of the dog on a very small hole and allow the dog to take air more than once? Or is he/ she afraid the dog will give a false alert? This is one of the samples that distinguish a good quality dog and handler from a poor quality dog and handler. Reality is again that a terrorist will hide an Improvised Explosive Device (IED)/ bomb as good as possible.
What is a certificate saying after passing the test(s)? What is a certificate saying about the reality a test was set up? Or is it just a snapshot, where people train hard for on a short term and where explosives are hide easily?
Because of the increasing demand for detection dogs and handlers, commercial aspects become more important. The sooner a person has its certificate, the sooner it can go into the field and make money.
Reality and thus quality become secondary to commercial aspects. It is up to governmental and non-governmental organizations to be aware of these differences in quality.
This article focused on explosives detection, but applies also for narcotic/ drug, mines and human scent detection.
It is not about us, it is about THEM. THEM is the society.