If you are a frequent flyer or have ever crossed a national border, it is highly likely that you have seen customs officials with drug sniffing canines. Drug dogs provide a tremendously valuable service to people throughout the world. It is no secret that drugs and illegal substances ruin the lives of many individuals year after year. Drug dogs are one of the most effective ways for officials to detect and confiscate such substances. They are an elite group of canines capable of doing what ordinary dogs cannot.
The German Shepherd is probably the most renowned breed of drug dog. Among other common breeds used for this purpose are Dutch shepherds, Doberman pinscher’s, Labrador retrievers, and Belgian Malinois. The primary responsibility of such dogs is to locate illegal substances, while protecting their owners and handling officers. At border crossings and airports, they are frequently used for cocaine detection.
Standard drug dog training is basic in nature. Contrary to what some individuals think, such dogs do not sniff out and retrieve illegal drugs because they are addicted to the substance. Dogs are never given drugs to ingest during training procedures and they do not experience any type of physical pleasure from the drug itself. Trainers simply teach such dogs to detect and retrieve illegal substances through games and rewards. They typically begin with activities such as a tug-of-war game, which is usually played with a white towel. Once the dog develops an attachment to it, a narcotic substance is placed inside the towel so that the canine begins to associate this toy with the smell of the drug. In subsequent steps, the trainer hides the toy, which contains the narcotic, and when the dog retrieves it, he is given a reward for winning the game of “tug-of-war.” This process is repeated for each substance that the trainer wishes the dog to recognize.
Most searches are conducted with the dog on a leash. Handlers will guide the animal to areas where drugs may be hidden or to suspects who are believed to be in possession of such substances. In most cases, when the dog finds narcotics he or she will frantically paw or scratch at the place in which the drugs are concealed.
Schools and places of business frequently avail themselves of the services of such dogs as part of their drug prevention programs. The canine sense of smell is twenty-five times that of a person. Therefore, if one drop of an illegal substance is placed in fifty gallons of water, it can be detected by the dog. Dogs also have an unusual ability to separate, refine, and categorize scents. For this reason, they can detect drugs even if they are buried under several layers of clothing or concealed under the carpet in a car.
Private companies also offer drug dog detection services to consumers. Accompanied by professional handlers, such dogs search the dwelling when the suspected drug user is not home. This service is invaluable to those who suspect that someone they have allowed into their home is engaging in illegal activity.
Unfortunately, the sale of illegal substances and drug abuse are problems that will likely never completely be eradicated. However, with the use of these extremely efficient, loyal and hard- working dogs, the jobs of those who work in any facet of drug enforcement will be easier and less stressful.