Demand for Bomb-Sniffing Dogs on Rise [AUDIO]
Demand continues to grow for bomb-sniffing dogs across the United States, including in New Jersey, as the country continues to make security improvements. A K-9 academy in South Jersey is training many of the dogs used in New Jersey.
Atlantic County’s John “Sonny” Burke Police K-9 Academy in Corbin City had one of its largest training classes ever last fall, six months after the Boston Marathon bombings.
“The most commonly used breeds are the German shepherd and the Labrador retriever, although now Belgian Malinois are also fairly popular dogs to use,” said Joe Rodriguez, academy coordinator and lead instructor.
The K-9 academy has been training patrol and scent detection teams for more than 25 years.
Rodriguez said to train the dogs, the scent they are taught to identify is put onto towels. The towels are then used in a tug-of-war game before being hidden. If the dog finds the towel, his reward is another game of tug-of-war with his trainer.
“The dog knows that odor — he knows as soon as he finds that odor, he’s going to get tug-of-war,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what they’re really searching for. They don’t really care about the actual odor, they just know at the end of that odor ‘I get to play with my dad or mom,’ and that’s the reward for them.”
Scent detection classes in narcotics, explosive and arson detection run for 10 weeks.
Rodriguez said one of the reasons the use of bomb-sniffing dogs is so popular is because they are reliable.
“They’ve done studies where they put them against machines that the airport uses, and the dogs actually fare better,” he said.
Bomb-sniffing dogs can be used for any type of security situation where safety is paramount including parades, concerts, sporting events, fundraisers and mass transit.
“Anywhere where there’s a large amount of people, where they think that there could be a possible safety threat — they’ll bring the dogs in,” Rodriguez said. “And it’s like wine — the older the dog is, most of the time, the better he is.”