CBS 2 Puts Canine's Incredible Sense Of Smell To The TestBy Tony Aiello

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — After spending billions on bomb-detection equipment, the Pentagon now says the best tool for the job is … a dog.

And now a new generation of cunning canine will soon be sniffing for explosives on city streets.

They’re called “vapor wake dogs” and CBS 2’s Tony Aiello recently put their amazing abilities to the test.

On a crowded street in lower Manhattan, Aiello tried to keep an explosive secret to find out if a dog can sniff out the danger.

He had basic black powder strapped around his waist.

Canine expert Paul Stapleton said “Raven,” a black lab, is unlike any bomb-sniffing dog you’ve ever seen.

“I would use the word ‘amazing,’” Stapleton told Aiello.

And better than any bomb-detection technology.

“The dog is trained to smell every possible component of explosives that has been used up to this point,” Stapleton said.

The classic image is that of a German shepherd sniffing where the handler points, trained to inspect one item at a time. But instead of sniffing a single item, Raven smells hundreds in the air all around her to detect so-called “vapor wake” — molecules of explosives trailing behind someone carrying a bomb.

“There’s explosive particles actually lingering in the air that the dog is able to pick up after the fact,” said John Pearce, who helped develop vapor wake training at Auburn University.

Pearce said what makes this so advantageous is the dog’s amazing ability to detect specific odors. The part of a canine brain devoted to analyzing smells is 40 times larger than that of a human.

So in the test, Aiello stayed across the street from the dog, keeping his distance because he was going to be a decoy during a test of the canine’s abilities. Aiello put on the black powder belt and a sport coat and glasses just to change his appearance a little bit. He even carried a jacket to try to hide the bulk of the belt.

Raven and her handler, Brian Murphy, started two blocks away. Aiello started to walk towards the dog in anticipation of the animal’s reaction as he walked by. The lab barely drew notice as she sniffed her way up Broadway.

“No aggressive behavior, basic friendly lab that you see on a standard basis in New York,” Stapleton said.

Next, Aiello started hanging out now with a crowd by the famous bull on Broadway to see what the dog could do.

Raven followed her nose right towards Aiello, picked him out of the crowd and then strained at her leash as she followed him across the street.

When Aiello finally stopped, Raven sat down, a signal to her handler to call for appropriate back-up.

Raven’s nose is so sensitive, 10 minutes after a bomb is brought into a building she can follow the “vapor wake” inside, up stairs, through the stairwell, in an elevator, what have you.

Pearce said Auburn University continues to research ways to maximize canine capabilities.

“I still don’t think we’ve tapped into what a dog’s full capability is,” Pearce said.

Before the year is out the NYPD will have “vapor wake” dogs patrolling city streets.

They are a four-legged anti-terror tool, sniffing out trouble.

After last week’s package bomb scare vapor wake dogs are being looked at for cargo screening. The NYPD won’t say how many dogs it has acquired.

Each dog costs upwards of $20,000.

Tony Aiello

Comments (9)
  1. Eric says:

    Let’s see…electronic technology that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase and operate just one machine, will be outdated the day it get’s fielded, and break down frequently, or canines with training who can do it for a fraction of the cost of electronic technology, have a longer lifespan, you have your choice of breeds, and it doesn’t matter if the canine is pure breed or a mutt from the pound. It’s a no brainer.

  2. Kevin says:

    This story is a crock! This trying has already been proven. The dog will do great things for the city of NY but this dog training has been used by the military and police departments across the country since vietnam and is being used to fight the war going on now. The reporter should have done its homework before allowing the university to rip off other peoples hard work by renaming it and calling it their own. Shame on CBS

  3. EODGUY says:

    Interesting that they don’t tell you a few things:

    1: No dog can work endlessly. Any dog expert will tell you that, except of course the ones that are selling dogs for $20000 apiece. These dogs are good at what they do but 20-40 minutes actively “sniffing” is all they can muster without a lengthy rest period.

    2: It looks like the reporter was walking around Wall Street with 10 or more pounds of “regular old black powder” strapped to his waist assuming all the little packages were filled. Black powder is commonly referred to as one of the most dangerous explosives around. Civil war ordnance packed with the stuff still retains its lethality and every once in a while someone gets blown up playing with something they shouldn’t. Gee….I wonder what would happened if it somehow ignited? Good stuff!

  4. lol over him says:

    Yes. I agree. Then to save even more money we can have firefighters catch crooks. And to save even more money we can have cops collect garbage which would be a novel idea since they’re probably tired of listening to the garbage they pick up now. Lets have sanitation go to peoples homes and clean. This way I can fire my housekeeper and save my food stamps.

  5. MM 777 says:

    A lab dog does not even cost that much! Maybe really good one is about $ 1000.00.
    Training expenses, food etc would not cost $ 20, 000.00! It’s a good idea, but don’t you think in this tough financial time that they should be conservative with their spending? There are ” homeless children ” with no food and clothes in every city! HELLO BOYS! Let’s be responsible adults here! Go to the ASPCA and adopt those dogs and train them and save their lives, and money!

    1. JC 08 says:

      they’re genetically altered… not regular labs with training… a little reading comprehension goes a long way. Have you ever seen how much genetically altered animals cost that aren’t trained for bomb sniffing? For instance, genetically altered cats who are larger and more exotic looking, and hypo-allergenic? They cost in the 100’s of thousands. You WILL NOT find these dogs in the ASPCA. Learn to read a little bit better

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