Auburn training 'Vapor Wake Dogs': Different kind of bomb-sniffing

    1:08 PM, Apr 26, 2013   |    comments
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    UNDATED (CNN) -- Researchers at Alabama's Auburn University say they're training the ultimate bomb-sniffing dogs. They say these canines can figure out there's a bomb before cops even realize a package is suspicious.

    Imagine if the Boston bombing suspects had left a trail, a trail of vapors in the air that smelled like a bomb; vapors that only a specially trained dog could detect.

    Dogs like these are now being trained at auburn university. Researchers here call them vapor wake dogs.

    The point of a Vapor Wake Dog is to detect vapor of bomb, if you will, before it's actually placed somewhere it might explode, to catch it before that. Dr. James Floyd with Auburn University says, "Exactly correct. Your standard bomb dog, your explosive detector dog, is primed on looking at an object, a backpack placed somewhere. A Vapor Wake Dog's ability is to detect the odor coming off of that backpack on the back of the person as they carry it, and to follow that plume of vapor."

    Auburn University professor Jim Floyd says vapor wake dogs are the ultimate bomb sniffing dog. they can follow a plume- or bomb vapor- stretching several football fields. a skill so unique the university hopes to patent it.

    Video from the university shows a vapor wake dog in action. Once he catches the odor in the air, he never lets up. In a crowded mall or on a city street, this technique is crucial. these dogs can potentially stop a would-be bomber before it's too late. Floyd says, "Had one of our dogs been in place on that corner with those two guys walking there with those backpacks, I think they would've alerted on them."

    Their training starts early, even as early as these puppies, which are just about 3-weeks-old. At this time, they are held a lot and socialized, so by the time their formal training starts, when they're about a year old, they are used to people and loud noises, and they don't get spooked so easily.

    Auburn has its own breeding program for bomb sniffing dogs. They rarely use shepherds and traditional breeds but lean more on Labradors and spaniels.

    Paul Hammond, whose company iK9 is working with auburn to train and deploy vapor wake dogs, explains why. He says, "We need a dog that fits into the public profile that the public is just going to walk past and ignore as if it was a domestic pet."

    Auburn's bomb dogs are being used in airports, on Amtrak trains and by police departments too. Hammond says, "Well the dogs olfactory system is 220 million sense cells compared to a human's 5 million sense cells, so that sort of gives you a real comparison. Where we might be able to smell a woman's perfume walking by, but the dog can smell not only the perfume, but the clothes, the material she's wearing, the shower gel she washed with that morning."

    In addition to vapor wake training, these dogs are also able to detect explosives in the traditional way.

    What may be a game to these dogs, could mean the difference between life and death for the rest of us.

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