Dogs in the United States are now being trained to find electronic components with their noses. Bear, an electronics-sniffing black lab, helped officers locate 16 smartphones, 10 flash drives and six laptops during a search of Fogle’s home. How are dogs able to find what to the rest of us has no smell whatsoever?
Rescue dog Bear
Jack Hubball, a chemist who discovers the chemical compounds that dogs are eventually trained to find. He identified the so-called accelerants (gasoline, diesel, kerosene, etc.) dogs should focus on to sniff out arson, and helped train dogs to find narcotics and bombs.
To fight computer crimes, Hubball tested circuit boards, flash drives and other electronics components to isolate a single common chemical in each device, which police are keeping under wraps. After isolating the chemical, it was a matter of homing dogs’ sniffers onto the telltale compound.
After months of training, the dogs were able to detect the odor of the chemical in people’s hands, concrete blocks, metal boxes and clothing. The dogs also had to ignore distracting smells such as food and coffee.
The dogs have since been involved in numerous child pornography warrants, as well as other investigations where electronic documents were key evidence. After helping with the Fogle investigation, Bear’s trainer says he’s received some 30 inquiries from police who want to buy their own electronics-sniffing dog.
Bear's trainer Todd talks about their work
Apart from electronics, dogs are putting their noses to work in a multitude of disciplines – from fighting crime to diagnosing diseases. In one of the largest studies of its kind, dogs detected the presence of prostate cancer with 98% accuracy in the urine of 600 test patients. Dogs can also detect lung cancer simply by sniffing patients’ breath. Dogs have been used to sniff out bed bugs, explosives, dead bodies, contamination in water and more.
In other words, if something smells fishy, it may be time to call on man’s best friend to lend a helping hand - or snout.