Gun-sniffing dogs are becoming increasingly more popular to help law enforcement keep airports, concerts, and even schools safer. These special dogs are trained to use their noses to sense and sniff guns and alert their handlers they have located a gun on a person, in a bag, or hidden elsewhere.
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Signs of a Dog Sensing a Gun
Many times on TV and in movies, we see the dog barking viciously at the intended target. Although some dogs may bark a bit, they are generally not trained to bark when they find the object, like a gun in this case. Rather, a dog is trained in two main ways to alert their handler - a passive way and an aggressive way.
If a dog alerts to a gun in a passive way, they will search for the scent they are looking for and when they happen upon that scent, they will sit, stand, or stare right at/in front of the person or object where the gun is located. The dog will not bark, whine, or alert to the gun's presence in any other way.
On the other hand, if a dog alerts to the gun in an aggressive way, they will claw, dig or paw at the box or location where the object is hiding to let their handler know to look there. The dog is trained to never physically harm a person or an object where the target object it located.
- Standing and Staring
- Touching Nose to Location
- Pawing, Digging, or Scratching
History of Dogs Sensing Guns
Today, specially trained police and military dogs can sniff out bombs, drugs, electronics, people's scents, and even guns. With gun issues on the rise in the United States, we have seen an increase in training various K9 units to sniff out guns and ammunition. Guns and ammunition have a distinct order when they are fired and the remnants of the odors remain on the gun. When dogs are trained to recognize that scent they will be able to locate a gun in most circumstances.
For example, a trained K9 police dog in California, an 18-month old German Shepherd, was able to alert her handler of a gun hidden under a carpet by poking and nudging her nose at the floor. The police officer, the dog's handler, saw the dog's actions and indeed found a small handgun hidden under the carpet where the dog pointed. This is only one of many examples of dogs being able to correctly locate guns and help prevent acts of future violence.
Science Behind Dogs Sensing Guns
In fact, scientists believe dogs are able to smell scent particles at the parts per trillion level. With noses this powerful, sometimes the only way for law enforcement to catch criminals, get illegal guns off the street, and bring killers to justice is to use the strength of a dog's nose to help them do something we would never be able to do.
Training Dogs to Sense a Gun
Gun-sniffing dogs are trained to smell and find a few different types of gun-related odors. They are often tried with guns that have not been fired for many months and have not even been touch by someone for the same period of time. They also train these dogs to sniff out handguns, assault rifles, and more.
More specifically, gun-sniffing dogs are trained in the same way they would be trained to find bombs or drugs. They are given a scent. They are taken somewhere where that same scent/object is hidden and they must seek out the location where it is.
In the first phases of training, they will be rewarded for even slightly acknowledging they can sense the object. Training will progress from there and eventually they will only be rewarded if they find and locate the object properly and let their handler know in the proper way - often this means the dog needs to nose the area, stare and sit/stay in front of the kocation where the object it, or even scratch or paw at the object where the gun is located.
Safety Tips for Dogs Searching for Guns:
Let the dog do their job.
Never pet a dog who is at work.
Never interfere with an investigation.