Have you ever walked through an airport and seen a determined-looking German Sheperd accompanied by a police officer? Well, the reason this pup looks so focused and why his vest says “do not pet” is because he or she is a drug detection dog.
These amazing creatures are trained to sniff out drugs and alert their handler. Detection dogs can also be used to find pests, weapons, and other threats.
Keep reading to find out how these dogs learn to do what they do!
How to Train a Drug Detection Dog
Training a dog to perform drug detection services is not much different than teaching them how to fetch. Trainers start by purchasing a scentless toy. Then, they practice holding the dog and throwing the toy followed by releasing the dog and rewarding it when it returns with the toy.
Once the dog is able to stay in place while they hide the toy, it’s time to try more difficult hiding places. They keep rewarding the dog each time it’s able to find the toy.
For a drug detection dog, a trainer might put drugs inside of the toy and keep practicing. Over time, the dog will associate the hide-and-seek and reward process with the scent of the drug. The same process is true for a pest detection dog or security dog.
Shape Signal Training
Shape signal training uses a simple training command to teach dogs advanced detection. First, the trainer establishes a command using a hand signal.
Next, the trainer uses the hand signal along with a scent. When the dog performs the action after scent exposure, the dog is rewarded and praised. The dog learns to associate the command with the scent and a reward. If the trainer practices with the dog over and over – eventually the dog can find the smell automatically.
When the dog is consistently detecting the scent, try to hide it in more difficult places. Eventually, the trainer removes the command from the equation and only uses the reward. It’s important not to reward the dog if they find the wrong scent.
Types of Detection Dogs
As mentioned above, drug detection dogs work in airports and as police or security animals in schools or large public spaces. Dogs can also be trained to find bed bugs or other pests that try to sneak through security inside packages of food.
German Shepherds are the most common breed of detection dog but there are other equally worthy breeds of dog – have a look.
The Most Capable Canines
Now you know the basic techniques to train a drug detection dog. Try for yourself and see whether your dog can learn the skills necessary to detect drugs and other scents.
And when you’re not busy training your pup, check out the other content on our site! We have health, travel, lifestyle, and fashion articles for your entertainment and education!