In the late 90s, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) started constructing a robot nose to “replace” working dogs’ ability to detect bombs. This “Dog’s Nose” program was intended to built a machine that would not only equal, but outstrip a dog’s scenting abilities.
After spending $19 billion dollars and working for 13 years, they came to one conclusion: There was no beating dogs.
As Lt. Gen. Michael Oates, outgoing commander of the bloated Joint Improvised Explosive Device Organization, told The New York Daily News, “Dogs are the best detectors.”
Not only that, but K2 Solutions, a North Carolina-based company, offers the most up-to-date training for canines and handlers employed in the service of the military or law enforcement. It’s their belief that dogs are the future of national security and counterterrorism.
Between their keen sense of smell and their indomitable spirit, dogs are capable of performing certain tasks which human soldiers or police could not do alone.
Given that explosives are the primary method used by terrorists to inflict suffering, dogs trained to sniff out explosives have become integral to security operations on every level.
Before the turn of the millennium, K9 service dogs were used before or after a security operation, but are now critical to the process of providing security during an operation.
“Prior to 9/11, the way we used canines was more preventive and reactive,” said a former commander of the NYPD Counterterrorism Division. “We’d sweep a location when the pope was coming, or for a playoff game. Now, the dogs are proactively deployed as a deterrent. Day-to-day, they’re out there doing sweeps.”
After all, dogs can differentiate and detect odors in parts-per-million/billion, even sometimes trillion. As Barnard professor Alexandra Horowitz wrote in her book, “Inside of a Dog,” a dog can smell a spoonful of sugar in 1 million gallons of water.
K2 Solutions also believes this change in how dogs are used to provide security requires yet another change: off-leash service dogs.
On-leash service dogs have been the norm in the past, with a handler supervising the dog’s action. According to K2, dogs have demonstrated that they are intelligent enough to operate independently.
Though not as common for domestic law enforcement, off-leash employment is the norm for military K9s who often sniff out roadside bombs overseas. The nature of combat operations require that a K9, like any other member of the team, be able to perform independently of commands and rely solely on training and instinct.
Though off-leash K9s are still a subject of debate for domestic law enforcement, they have no doubt proven their abilities.
“We used to talk about the limitations of the dogs,” one K2 trainer said. “We don’t talk about that anymore.” Dogs are a force multiplier in every sense of the word, and the potential resourcefulness of dogs has yet to be fully explored.
K2 hopes to change all that.
The video below gives a more in-depth review of the K2 training process while showcasing some of their brightest pups. Enjoy!