Can Dogs Detect DVDs?

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Introduction

Sniffer-dogs are stopping the bad guys in their tracks at airports all over the world with their insatiable sense of smell. The canine nose is a powerful machine taking in the scent of “crafty criminals,” as they find the drugs, cash, and now pirate DVDs! 

Dogs are helping out Hollywood, by putting a stop to illegal copies of movies. The question that begs to be answered is how do they sniff out a DVD? All the electronic devices on the planet can’t match the ingenious sense of smell nature has gifted to dogs. Their legendary sniffer talents help the police, military, and even search and rescue. So who are the super-star sniffer-dogs helping to stop DVD piracy?

Signs a Dog Can Sniff Out DVD's

Meet Lucky and Flo, a tail-wagging pair of black Labrador Retrievers who were the first dogs hired to sniff out DVDs. Sponsored by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), this dynamic duo was loaned to Malaysia, a country high on the list of illegal DVD exporting. According to NBC News, Lucky and Flo sniffed millions of dollars worth of black-market DVDs, a paw-raising haul from two ebony mutts who knew where the movies were buried.

They were also immortalized in a program dedicated to impress upon school kids in the USA how important it is to honor copyright laws. Dogs like Lucky and Flo were trained to smell the layers of 'polycarbonate plastic," used to make these digital discs. These doggy-detectives were able to find hoards of illicit DVDs, which costs the movie industry billions of dollar in lost revenue. As dogs are unable to detect the real DVD from the counterfeit, they were generally taken to places suspected of duplicating or stashing DVD copies.

Lucky and Flo have been to a few places in the world, promoting the concept and sending a clear message to the crooks looking to make a fast buck. You could imagine a day in the life of these crime-busting canines, as their handler arrives to take them to a location where fake DVDs are being downloaded.

When they are told to seek out the discs, their focus would be on sniffing out the polycarbonate with all senses on high alert, panting as they go with their heads turning in all directions. Their powerful sense of smell leads the way as they stare at the scene, analyzing all the different scents until the loot is found.Then, they will sit, alerting their handler. The prize for a job well done is probably a tennis ball, as these dogs were trained by a renowned dog whisperer connected to the Search and Rescue Dog Association.

Body Language

While sniffing for DVDs, a dog will likely display the following:
  • Staring
  • Alert
  • Panting
  • Wag tail
  • Sniffing
  • Play bowing

Other Signs

Some more signs to watch for as a dog has their nose on the prize include:
  • Sitting near the stash
  • Turning their head

History Of DVD-Detector Dogs

Your precious pooch was once a fearless wolf that could pick up the scent of their prey over a mile away! The snazzy wolf snout has been inherited by their doggy-descendants, who are using their grandiose sniffing powers to find counterfeit DVD’s.

A lineage of the grey wolf now believed to be extinct gave birth to dogs and would probably have a wolfy-giggle at how their noses are being put to the test in a human world. Persistent pooches are all over the airports, borders using their smelling powers of persuasion to find illegal substances.

Sniffer-dogs began their career in the mid 20th century as they learned to find German mines and some years later, their astute sense of smell found them being trained to seek out drugs and explosives.

When it was realized that K9’s were capable of sniffing more than drugs, a whole world of problem-solving opened up, with pooches being trained to detect electronics, whale poop, disease in bees, human remains, bed bugs, and cancer.

Dixie, a Springer Spaniel is working in Scotland to put an end to bogus DVD’s and is so sharp she can detect a mere fragment in any location.The Telegraph, UK reported the story. Since the success of Lucky and Flo, the world has taken notice and DVD-detector-dogs are placing their paws firmly on the movies replicated by DVD pirates.

The Science of Sniffer-Dogs

Dogs can literally bark, “I’ve got the power,” when it comes to their smart, smelling noses. A woofer can soak up a scent with their individual nostrils, assessing whether it’s a DVD or just another dog's marking on a tree in the park. They are nosy rascals that can hold a smell in while breathing out. Some of the scent will pass through to the lungs while the rest flows over a layer of bones called turbinates, lined with a mucous membrane containing around 200 million olfactory receptors (300 million if you are a Bloodhound).

The lights go on in their brain and it’s sayonara to a stash of illegal DVDs, now destined for the trash can!  Humans have only 5 million of these sniffing receptors, so dogs “rule supreme,” when it comes to sussing out a smell.

Quartz Media showcased a study by scientists at the University of Lincoln confirming that dogs have a secret filing system in their snouts that allows them to categorize the smells they inhale. This means if they come across a new-smelling DVD, they may be able to still identify what it is.

We should celebrate the day wolves came in from the wild to work with us, as they howled “we come bearing sniffing gifts that will save lives and keep the bad guys at bay.”

Training Your Dog to Detect DVDs

So how do you train sniffer-dogs to find illegal substances, electronics or DVD’s?  To begin with, your woofer needs to know which scent you want them to sniff out and how to let you know they have found it. Some dogs are taught to sit as a clear signal they’ve found a pile of DVDs hidden in a basement. The next part of the dog's sniffing puzzle is to choose what style of reward your pup will get when they locate the correct scent.

Now, training can commence as a pup is introduced to the basics. Some scent trainers use cardboard boxes so the scent of a favorite toy or treat is contained but dogs can still smell it. Dogs love playing games, so sniffing the right odor will be massive fun, especially if there’s a reward for getting it right.

It’s a good idea to have someone help you, as you don’t want the dog to visually cue where you hide the scent. When your pooch finds the toy, give them heaps of praise and play with them for a while. Remember, top detection dogs hunt out smelly marijuana, cash, and DVDs just to get that moment of adulation and play with their handler. 

International dog trainer, Victoria Stilwell, tells how this game really works, as a pooch gets instant gratification finding their toy or yummy chicken treat. Once your dog recovers the right scent, move the boxes around. Even though dogs are on-leash when working, you want your dog to find the hidden toy or treat without any command.

Dogs trained to detect DVDs are taught in similar ways as sniffer-dogs who detect anything from firearms to accelerants. It all comes down to the unique scent each item gives off.

How to React When Your Dog is Learning Scent Detection:

  • Praise them heaps!
  • Reward with a favorite toy, tennis ball, or edible treat.
  • Play with them after they have detected the correct scent.
  • Never punish them for detecting scents.
  • Read excellent articles about teaching a dog scent detection!