A sniffer dog is used by law enforcement and authorities to locate illegal drugs, blood, explosives, and other substances. These dogs may be employed at crime scenes, public places or gatherings, or at national borders or security checkpoints, to aid authorities in locating hazards and criminal activity. Sniffer dogs locate substances with their powerful noses, which are hundreds of times more sensitive than our own, and able to detect even small amounts of substances they are trained to target for. The sniffer dog then gives a signal to handlers, to indicate they have detected the substance. Signals can either be aggressive, such as pawing, or passive, such as sitting. Which signal is appropriate to teach a sniffer dog depends on what and where they are detecting.
Beagles are especially adept at being sniffer dogs, due to their very strong sense of smell and their motivation to use and work with their nose. However, because a dog that has a strong sense of smell can also easily be distracted by the same sense that makes them good at their job, training a Beagle to be a sniffer dog also involves teaching them discipline and direction so that they will be a useful tool to their handlers.
Sniffer dogs are usually motivated and rewarded for their sniffing behaviors by play. Successful sniffer dog aren't just good with their noses, they love to play ball, or tug of war. Beagles are both great sniffers and great players! This makes them ideal for learning this task. Toys are predominantly used to reinforce successful targeting of a scent and signaling to indicate location.
In addition, Beagle sniffer dogs also need to be trained to behave appropriately in public; they need to be calm around distractions, such as in crowded airports or at crime scenes, where lots of different people and activity is present, and focused on their job, sniffing and locating a target substance, such as blood, drugs, or banned substances such as illegal agricultural products and explosives. A mature Beagle with experience and good obedience and recall is required in these complex work situations. Also, sniffer dogs are trained to signal the location of their targeted substances. Signals may be aggressive such as pawing or passive such as sitting. A Beagle trained to detect explosives will usually indicate a location with a passive signal, as an aggressive sign could set off explosives. Sniffer Beagles used in public settings such as airports may be trained to use more passive signals so as not to damage private property or create alarm in a public situation.
Beagle sniffer dogs are usually motivated by play, so a favorite toy such as a ball or towel they can play tug of war with is employed. Play with the toy frequently to establish a strong motivation and desire for the toy so it becomes an incentive prior to sniffer training. Strong obedience should also be established in a sniffer Beagle that will be taken into a variety of public situations and will need to respond well to handlers. Exposing your Beagle to different situations is also useful, so your dog will be calm when working, and not excited by varying sights and sounds.