Sniffer Dog - How Training Works and How They Work

The sniffer dog is a constant character in the solution of police cases and in several other situations that refer to the rescue of victims. Celebrated by their keen and precise sense of smell, dogs used as a tool in this type of situation are trained in a specific way, further developing their olfactory sensitivity and allowing them to become great allies for the solution of varied cases.

In addition to great sensitivity and olfactory capacity, characteristics such as loyalty and courage are also taken into account to define a good sniffer dog, and some breeds gain prominence in these aspects - presenting themselves as the ideal animals to carry out the various tasks involved in this type of work.

German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Shepherd are some of the most popular names among sniffer dogs preferred by the police and firefighters, being used both in investigating possible threats and in tracking suspects and in rescuing and victims. In addition to these, breeds such as Labrador, Golden Retriever, Fox-Terrier and Rotweiller also enter the list of the most efficient sniffer dogs to solve cases.

Although the gender of the dog is not an obstacle to this type of work, females are known to stand out more as sniffer - since they do not suffer from distractions quite common to males, who usually run after bitches in heat and mark territory with more frequency. Get to know, in this article, some of the most efficient breeds such as sniffer dogs, and learn how the olfactory cells of these animals work so useful for police investigative work.

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How the sniffer dog's sense of smell works

The sense of smell is the most developed sense in dogs, and this is not a unique privilege of the breeds considered among the good sniffer dogs. There are clearly differences between the olfactory cells that vary according to the breed of the dog, however; when compared to humans, dogs are infinitely more sensitive, allowing odors that go unnoticed by people to be quickly picked up by animals.

While humans have about 5 million olfactory cells in their bodies, dogs have an average of 200 million of these cells in their structure, and in some cases - such as the German Shepherd's - that number can reach up to 220 million . In animals with a shorter snout, this sensitivity is considerably less, and a Basset dog, for example, highlights about 120 million animals. olfactory cells in their body structure - and that explains the preference given to other breeds in the item “sniffer”.

Being able to identify smells in concentrations up to 100 million times lower than those detected by people, dogs are able to perceive a drop of blood diluted in up to 5 liters of water, greatly facilitating the identification of suspicious items in any types of investigation.

To give you an idea, while the human body has an olfactory lobe that resembles the size of a pea, dogs - which have a brain much smaller than that of humans - have this system the size of a walnut nut, making your perception much greater and even able to register different odors without destroying efficiency.

Normally used in the search for food, threats and sexual partners, the dogs' sense of smell can be encouraged according to their needs, and the training carried out for the preparation of sniffer dogs is precisely aimed at that; betting on training that prioritize rewards and direct animals to search for specific items and odors.

The main sniffer dog breeds

Although some breeds of small and medium size also have an extremely developed olfactory sensitivity - such as Beagle, Setter and Pointer - large ones are the most popular and efficient sniffers. Labrador, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Belgian Shepherd and Rottweiler are some of the breeds most used by the police in criminal investigations, highlighting valuable characteristics that go beyond the great canine olfactory sensitivity.

Courage, loyalty, obedience and energy are extremely important factors in a sniffer dog, and the breeds mentioned above have that to spare. Trained from puppies, these dogs are the type who love to work to please their owners and, encouraged to develop their sense of smell from an early age, can be used to identify and search for the most different items.

The training of sniffer dogs

The great olfactory sensitivity of sniffer dogs it must be well crafted and trained so that they can be of great help to the police and firefighters in the solution of different cases and in rescues and, therefore, the process of training these dogs starts very early, while they are still puppies.

Working with techniques that stimulate the dog's sense of smell, trainers usually make the animal look for its food, throwing it on the ground in a scattered way so that the puppy can discover its food through odors.

THE sniffer dog training it evolves according to the age of the animal and, therefore, it is only after about a year of life that the training related to the obedience of the dog begins - preparing it to receive and promptly attend to the commands of its owner. Around that same time, training with toys began to be introduced into the dogs' lives, proposing a relationship of action and reward so that the animal learns to identify and search for specific odors.

According to experts, the most difficult part of this process is to make the dog understand what kind of action is expected of him and, to make this possible, different training actions are mixed. To start the process, the dog is presented with some form of reward (which can be a toy of his liking, for example) and the odor of illicit substances, and it is from this that the training of sniffer begins to take shape.

In one of the most used techniques, the dog trainer hides his toy inside a box, along with the dangerous or illegal items that the animal wants to recognize. Looking for his prize, the dog ends up finding it with other odors that, over time, will be assimilated by the animal as the focal point of your search.

In the case of dogs trained to sniff out drugs, there is a basic order that is followed by the police when presenting the substances and, most of the time, the list goes on starting with marijuana, moving on to cocaine and, finally, crack. Obviously, none of these substances comes into direct contact or is consumed by the dogs in training, ruling out any possibility of addiction on the part of the trained animals for this type of situation.

As the dog recognizes the odor of the substances, the toys and boxes where they are hidden are left aside, making the dog look for the specific smell presented to him, and no longer for his final prize. Specific attitudes are also taught to sniffer dogs, so they can always behave the same way when they identify something that could be considered a threat - be it barking, scratching or even biting the suspect.

This technique is adapted to the most diverse situations, such as rescue, where the animal is presented to the smell of a specific person, for example, being encouraged to look for any sign of that same smell. In this type of operation, the toy adored by the animal once again enters the scene; since, when its owner shows the prize, the dog already assimilates that it is time to work to receive what he desires so much.

In addition to training focused on the recognition and search for specific odors, dogs that work in this type of situation also undergo frequent physical activities, such as swimming, and have a very balanced diet; bearing in mind that they need good physical conditioning to be able to act efficiently. The average age at which a sniffer dog “Retires” varies between eight and ten years of life.

The performance of a sniffer dog

It is very misleading to think that a sniffer dog is only able to find illicit drugs hidden in suitcases or people, since, when properly trained, dogs can be responsible for identifying various objects and people.

The search for narcotics and explosives is, most of the time, the main ones where sniffer dogs act; however, search and rescue work is also included in the list of tasks greatly facilitated by the highly developed olfactory sensitivity of these dogs, which can help in apprehending suspects, as well as in tracking missing persons.

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