Davi Ottenheimer January 19, 2006 2:51 PM

Ah, another excellent example of how ambient noise and environmental issues undermine even specialized detection controls. I guess the article put it better:

“tired, cranky dogs will sound false alarms in crowded places”

STL January 19, 2006 3:44 PM

Not security related but – Relating to the end of the article where they talk about how dogs can smell cancer on someone’s breath – I swear that my dog always smells my breath in a strange way, as if he is fascinated by it, when I am sick. I always thought he could smell the germs on it. Pretty amazing.

Roy Owens January 19, 2006 5:50 PM

I wonder how NYC subway dogs will do with the daily multitudes when so many will have cat smells on them and their clothing. (Other interesting pet smells as well?)

Roy Owens January 19, 2006 5:52 PM

It just occurred to me a prankster could tag many people’s clothing and the items they carry with buck lure, just to drive the dogs nuts.

Roy Owens January 19, 2006 5:52 PM

It just occurred to me a prankster could tag many people’s clothing and the items they carry with buck lure, just to drive the dogs nuts.

ikegami January 19, 2006 5:58 PM

They use a chemical sniffer similiar to the one described in the article at the CN Tower — the world’s tallest freestanding building — in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Before going up, you are randomly taken through one of two paths. One path brings you to a device that looks like a cross between a portal and a shower. In this one, you are blown by short blasts of high pressure air. Presumably, this loosens “bomb” particles which can then be picked up by sensors.

The other path brings you to a guard which swabs you with what looks like a fly swatter, but flimsier. The square part of the swatter is placed in the slot of a machine, followed by a prompt notification from the machine that no explosives were found.

This is the experience, as seen by a layman. I don’t know anything about explosives.

New England Patriot January 19, 2006 8:38 PM

I took a class with a MA state police K-9 team once. (The trooper will tell you he’s the “thinking” part of the team.)
She was a beautiful animal, but the trooper had this story to tell:
He’d taken the call to aid another trooper who’d stopped a car- the suspicion was there were drugs in the vehicle. The dog went to work and quickly caught a scent under the front seat. The trooper let her dig a bit, and then thought “she’s been under there for awhile.” When he tugged her away, he realized the search was over, for sticking out of her mouth was most of a carton of french fries.
She was very well trained; but at the end of the day, she was still a dog, easily swayed by the same things that have swayed dogs for millenia.

Ian Eiloart January 20, 2006 6:25 AM

Ok, so there are some issues to be aware of – and dogs aren’t perfect. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be used.

Entering New Zealand, a few years ago, we were stopped because my travelling companion had a couple of apples in her bag. We’d walked past a lot of signs saying we couldn’t bring fruit or vegetables in, and bins to dispose of them. A sniffer dog found her out in a busy arrivals lounge, and the apples were confiscated.

another_bruce January 20, 2006 11:50 AM

channeling the thoughts of a k-9 bomb detective:
oh boy, i get to go outside with ricky, my handler. i love my handler! is he going to give me a liver treat now? dammit ricky, give me a liver treat now! hey, he’s taking me underground down these stairs! sure are a lot of people down here, what are they doing? is that a train? i smell carne asada! ricky, give me a liver treat right now or i will attack the man with the carne asada burrito in his backpack and take it from him! sure smells better than the stuff i was exposed to in training, all those weird chemicals that were no good to eat. now she’s a pretty lady! i’d like to stick my cool wet nose under her dress and give her a love kiss! she smells like attar of roses! whoo, that guy hasn’t taken a shower since 2005! i wanna sit down, but they trained me not to sit unless i smell one of the weird chemicals, wait a sec, what’s that, it’s…it’s nitroglycerin! i’m going to sit down next to the old guy on heart medicine, maybe he’ll give me a liver treat. hey ricky, why are you hauling him away? he hasn’t had an opportunity to pet me or feed me yet!

Anonymous January 20, 2006 5:34 PM

Among others the dogs would alert on any landscaper who rode the subway home from work. In Washington that would be dozens of Hispanics every evening. Fortunately for me I moved out of the area.

Michael Slater January 25, 2006 12:15 AM

I don’t believe these dogs are so impartial and honest anyway. So people stipulate that dogs can smell just about anything, that you can’t hide the smells from the dogs, and so on.

Well, rubbish. Look, the military can decontaminate someone from poison gases where one part in a billion is lethal, so why can’t smells be adequately hidden from a dog which must have sensitivity at least an order of magnitude worse.

My thought, that at least part of the K9 drug-sniffing stuff is like Clever Hans the counting horse. The policeman thinks he knows there are drugs, gives off informal/subconscious cues, the dog detects those cues, so the dog acts excited knowing that’s what the cop wants, then the cop is free to dig around with his own hands and find if there is anything.

It’s like a way to launder an illegal/illegitimate search.

Saul Tombuk January 25, 2006 6:43 AM

In London, I see dogs at Liverpool Street Station every morning.

It would interesting to find out exactly why the Transport Police have them there. It’s not to reassure the public, they have loads of other officers and CSO’s about to do that.

Any ideas?

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