Why explosives detectors still can’t beat a dog’s nose


As of 2016, the US military counted over 1,740 military working dogs among its ranks. At Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, the military breeds its own sleek puppies—mainly German shepherds and Belgian Malinois—who are groomed for military service from their first whimper. Some will wash out; others will go on to four to seven months of basic obedience instruction before receiving more specialized training in how to guard bases, ambush enemy combatants, and sniff out explosive devices. From there the field narrows further. The US Army estimates that to produce 100 war-ready dogs, it must train 200.

Before entering buildings in Afghanistan, Thomas, a US army paratrooper who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, would often send his platoon’s Belgian Malinois in first to ensure that no enemy soldiers or other surprises waited inside. During one day of particularly fierce fighting, Thomas was in a building, looking for somewhere to treat a wounded soldier, when he heard a noise from an adjacent room. As he rounded the corner to investigate, he remembers seeing “a shadow and a flash of light.” It was a Taliban-hired Chechen fighter with an AK assault rifle aimed directly at his face.

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Source: MIT Technology Review