A new generation of super dogs might offer a way to stop suicide bombers before they get a chance to detonate. They're called "Vapor Wake" K9s, and they're the first dogs trained to track the scent of explosives on the move in a crowd.
The dog's sense of smell is so precise, it's almost like the faint odor of an explosive is as vivid to its nose as a brightly-colored ribbon streaming behind the suspect would be to our eyes. The canines are better odor detectors than the best man-made machine. The methodology used by vapor wake dogs is actually patented.
They're already deployed with the U.S. Capitol Police and the Amtrak Police at Union Station in D.C.
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Traditional bomb-sniffing dogs are trained to alert on chemical smells in stationary objects like cars or luggage. But the vapor wake dogs, initially developed at Auburn University in Alabama, are trained to follow the scent trail of a bomb. They can sniff it out even 15 minutes after a bomber has passed through the room.
Vapor wake dogs are trained for the work from the time they're puppies. It's not that their noses are better than other dogs, they just have the focus and temperament to ferret out the scent of a bomb in a noisy, distracting crowd, said Paul Waggoner, co-director of Canine Performance Sciences at Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine.
There are now more than 100 vapor wake dogs deployed across the country. NYPD has more than a dozen of them, but the New York and New Jersey Port Authority does not.
Waggoner said price is one of the things keeping more police departments from using them. Training, caring and testing the dogs can cost more than $40,000 apiece.