Did you know that a dog's brain is one-tenth the size of a human’s brain, but the part of a dogs brain that controls smells is 40 percent larger?
While humans have around 4-5 million scent glands, our four-legged furry companions have between 200-300 million scent receptors. Dog noses are so sensitive, they could smell the equivalent of one-half of a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic sized pool – that’s half a teaspoon to half a million gallons of water.
My partner, K-9 Cisco, can be a huge goofball romping around at home chasing his favorite ball, but that big, slobbery nose of his can sniff out some pretty incredible things, such as the illegal narcotics that he is trained to smell for our detection work.
Cisco is a two-year-old German Shepherd from the Czech Republic. He came over to Minnesota at the beginning of March this year, and, shortly after that, we started a 14-week training program for narcotics detection. His nose, and others like it, are part of the ground work for how narcotics detection works with police canines.
Cisco and I started our training by imprinting the scent of one illegal drug into Cisco’s memory. One way we started that training was by hiding a ball in a box that contained a particular scent and then leading him to that specific box, having him sniff it and making him sit. Once he sits, the ball pops up out of the box and its party time with his toy.
This instills the reaction, or alert, that I want him to have when he smells that specific smell. More boxes were added over time that were empty, and he would smell each box until he found the one with the particular scent in it and then sit down, getting rewarded with his ball each time.
Once he got that one scent down, we would add another and then another. Dogs are so smart, they are able to differentiate every odor and pick out ones that they’ve been trained to look for. From there we moved on to searching vehicles and rooms in a more “real world” training setting to prepare us for working the street.
Cisco has shown a very strong ability to detect illegal narcotics reliably in training, and, with only a short time left of training before he is tested for certification, he is showing himself to be a great narcotics dog in the making.
Check back with us in a couple of months for updates on the completion of training, or follow us on the Lower Sioux Police Department Facebook page, as we hopefully begin a long career of removing dangerous drugs from our streets and keeping our community a little safer.
– Adrianne Lamers works for the Lower Sioux Police Department, has been a sworn officer for five years and is a second-generation police canine handler.