Border Patrol and Police Dogs-How Do They Teach Them to Look for Things?
Go find it boy....
One day a very long time ago, I was coming back into the United States from Mexico. Something ahead of us was held up and we ended up sitting in a long line of cars waiting to be inspected, asked questions and allowed back into my country.
Several cars ahead, one of the guards, or officers went inside and came back out with a small to medium sized mixed breed dog on a short lead and he talked to him for a minute. Then he opened the car doors and allowed the dog to go through the car, systematically, sniffing for contraband. I watched with interest as the man, obviously had worked with the dog before as they seemed like buddies. The officer indicated with a point for the dog to sniff a couple of places he had missed, and it was over and they let the car go through.
They must have expected something to come through, because they started running the dog through every single car after that, and the cars were lined up not only in length of lines, but there were about ten or so lines of cars on top of that. You can imagine how slow the cars were moving at that rate.
Should I Ask, Would They Tell Me?
After the interest wore off a bit and I noticed how slow this process was moving, I decided to just go see what was going on. I was the third car in line, but like I said there were eight or ten lines.
I walked up to the offices, and found someone who looked like they might know something, and sure enough, someone had called in a tip that there would be a vehicle with drugs passing through at this location. The officer said that they were waiting for several more dogs to come from the local police in a near by town to help, and things would move along more smoothly after that.
Well, the other dogs came, and in my boredom, the first officer and dog had taken a break to his pickup, where he was giving his partner water. I approached him and told him he had a very talented partner, indicating the animal. He looked like a lab, Shepard, and maybe collie mix dog. The man said to me, "Thanks, but he isn't as talented as he would appear."
That off remark puzzled me, and I asked further, "What do you mean?"
He said, "Do you know how these dogs are trained to do this job?"
Now he had my full interest, for any animal subject was right up my alley. "No," I said. "I always did wonder though."
The Big Secret
The officer went on to tell me, that the dogs are simply looking for their favorite toy, usually a tennis ball. He said that a towel that was knotted up, or a tennis ball because it absorbs dampness and odor, are buried in whatever drugs that they want the dog to search for. When they take the dog out of the car or crate, they simply whisper in their ear, to go get their ball, or toy, whatever they call it.
The dog then is given a car as a place where to look, and they are looking for their toy. How clever, very simple, but clever. He went on to tell me that they have people that get these dogs as pups, make sure they are obedience trained the first year, and are socially fine around people, and then are trained one substance at a time to go fetch. They were paying at that time, which was in the eighties, about two thousand dollars per dog, but only from bonded trainers.
Go get your ball boy.