A detection dog or sniffer dog is a dog that is trained to and works at using its senses (almost always the sense of smell) to detect substances such as explosives, illegal drugs, wildlife scat, currency, or blood. Hunting dogs that search for game and search dogs that search for missing humans are generally not considered detection dogs. There is some overlap, as in the case of cadaver dogs, trained to search for human remains. Some police dogs that are used in drug raids are trained not only to locate narcotics, but also persons who may be hiding from the police, as well as stashed currency. Some detector dogs can locate contraband electronics, such as illicit mobile phones in prisons.
In recent years, detection dogs have emerged as a valuable research tool for wildlife biologists. In California, dogs are trained to detect the quagga mussel on boats at public boat ramps, as it is an invasive species. Sniffer dogs have also been enlisted to find bumblebee nests. Other studies have employed detection dogs for the purposes of finding and collecting the feces of a diverse array of species, including caribou, black-footed ferret, killer whale, and Oregon spotted frog.
Detection dogs have been trained to search for many things, both animate and inanimate, including:
- Endangered animal species (e.g., black-footed ferret,; The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has trained an English Springer Spaniel to detect bee colonies)
- Invasive species (e.g., quagga mussel)
- Human remains
- Crime evidence
- Fire accelerants (i.e., arson investigation)
- Mobile phones (as contraband in prisons)
- Plants, animals, produce, and agricultural items (used by customs services)
- Polycarbonate optical discs such as DVDs (e.g., bootleg recordings)
- Bed bugs
- Wildlife scat
- Cancerous tumors in humans
- Hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) emergencies in humans
- Gourmet Fungi, such as Truffles, both French Black Truffles (Tuber melanosporum) and Italian White Truffles (Tuber magnatum pico), and chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), "porcini" (Boletus edulis), morels (Morchella esculenta), and the several varieties of mushroom that, when parasitized by Hypomyces lactifluorum are known as "Lobster mushroom"
One notable quality of detection dogs is that they are able to discern individual scents even when the scents are combined or masked by other odors. In one case at an Australian prison, a detection dog foiled an attempt to smuggle drugs that had been hidden in a woman's bra and smeared with coffee, pepper and Vicks Vapo-rub. A sniffer dog can detect blood even if it has been scrubbed off surfaces.
In one study, sniffer dogs had a 97.5% correct positive indication rate on detecting bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) and their eggs – with zero false positives – all while accurately distinguishing them from carpenter ants, cockroaches and termites. They could detect as few as a single adult specimen or five viable eggs, and were also able to discriminate live bed bugs and viable bed bug eggs from dead bed bugs, cast skins, and feces, with a 95% correct positive indication rate, with only a 3% false positive rate on bed bug feces.
Their use has been criticized as allowing the police to conduct searches without cause, in a manner that is unregulated. They have been criticized as a form of show-policing, motivated more by the state's desire to be seen to be doing something than any serious attempt to respond to the dangers of drug use.
In 2001 the Australian state of New South Wales introduced legislation to provide police with powers to use drug detection dogs without a warrant in public places such as licensed venues, music festivals and public transport. Repealed in 2005, it was reviewed in 2006 by the New South Wales Ombudsman, who handed down a report highly critical of the use of dogs for drug detection. The report stated that prohibited drugs were found in only 26% of searches following an indication by a drug sniffer dog. Of these, 84% were for small amounts of cannabis deemed for personal use. The report also found that the legislation was ineffective at detecting persons in supply of prohibited drugs, with only 0.19% of indications ultimately leading to a successful prosecution for supply.
During a 3-year period (from 2008) "probably more than 1000 pupils in about 90 classrooms" had been subjected to a drug dog coming into a classroom where it was "voluntary for pupils to be present with the drug dog, but those who want to leave the classroom must answer some questions to police". An article in Tidsskrift for strafferett, Norway's journal of criminal law, claims that such searches breach Norwegian law.
In the United States, Narcotic Detection dogs had to become court qualified prior to their talents becoming admissible in a court of law.
In 2011, the Chicago Tribune reviewed the traffic stop data from Chicago-area police departments, and found that "false alerts" were strongly biased against Hispanic suspects. For example, in Naperville, Illinois, an average of 47% of all positive detection dog alerts resulted in subsequent discovery of narcotic drugs or drug paraphernalia. Looking specifically at Hispanic suspects, however, only 8% of the dogs' positive alerts resulted in similarly fruitful searches. The report concedes that some – but not all – of this disparity can be attributed to "residual odors", which linger even after contraband is removed from the vehicle. But given that the dogs themselves harbor no racial bias, the Tribune concludes that the dogs' response is influenced by the biases and behaviors of their handlers. Further still, the report points to the fact that very few states have mandatory training, testing or certification standards.
In June 2012, three Nevada Highway Patrol officers filed suit against Nevada's Director of Public Safety, alleging that he destroyed the police dog program by intentionally training canines to be "trick ponies" – to falsely alert based on cues from their handlers – so as to enable officers to conduct illegal searches of vehicles. The lawsuit claims that in so doing, he and other top Highway Patrol officers had violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
Bed bug detection dogs
Bed bug detection dogs are specially trained by handlers to identify the scent of bed bugs.
With the increased focus on green pest management and integrated pest management, bed bug detection dogs are gaining popularity in North America. Dogs are a safer alternative to pesticide use as a management strategy. If operators can find out exactly where bed bugs are located, they can minimize the area that needs to be sprayed. Dogs smell in parts per trillion, something a human cannot do, and detect bed bugs through all life cycle phases from eggs to nymphs to adults.
Bed bug detection dogs are quickly becoming mainstream. In 2011 the National Pest Management Association released their "Bed Bug Best Management Practices"  which outline the minimum recommendations regarding not only treatment, but the certification and use of bed bug detection canines. The NPMA Best Management Practices emphasize the importance of having a bed bug detection dog team certified by a third party organization with no affiliation to the trainer or company that sold the canine.
Bed bug detection dogs are a viable and scientifically-proven alternative to traditional methods of pest detection. A 2008 report by the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology endorsed bed bug detection dogs by stating that the “reliability of the dogs has been impressive provided they are properly trained.” Scientists at the university reviewed studies on the dogs and concluded that although expensive for operators, canine detection dogs were promising.
Bed bug detection is complicated by the fact that the insects can hide almost anywhere. Bed bug detection dogs solve this problem because they are small and agile, finding bugs in places humans cannot such as wall voids, crevices and furniture gaps.
With the increase in global travel and shared living accommodations, bed bugs have become more prevalent. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held a bed bug summit in April 2009 to address the ongoing problem of bed bugs and how to eradicate them. The certification of bed bug detection dogs was discussed.
Wildlife scat detection
Scat is abundant in the wild and contains valuable data. Additionally, it represents a fairly non-invasive method of study for many species where previously live-capture predominated. Compared with other methods of scat collection, dogs are able to survey larger areas in less time, at decreased costs. Detection dogs have also been used with success to locate killer whale feces, northern spotted owl pellets, and salamanders.
- "THE BRITISH ARMY IN NORMANDY 1944". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
- Jenkins, Austin (22 July 2009). "KPLU: Dogs Used to Sniff Out Cell Phones in NW Prisons". Publicbroadcasting.net. Archived from the original on 19 September 2012. Retrieved 11 November 2010.
- Wasser, Samuel K; Keim, Jonah L; Taper, Mark L; Lele, Subhash R (2011). "The influences of wolf predation, habitat loss, and human activity on caribou and moose in the Alberta oil sands". Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 9 (10): 546–51. doi:10.1890/100071.
- Reindl-Thompson, Sara A.; Shivik, John A.; Whitelaw, Alice; Hurt, Aimee; Higgins, Kenneth F. (2006). "Efficacy of Scent Dogs in Detecting Black-Footed Ferrets at a Reintroduction Site in South Dakota". Wildlife Society Bulletin. 34 (5): 1435–9. doi:10.2193/0091-7648(2006)34[1435:EOSDID]2.0.CO;2. JSTOR 4134282.
- King, Anthony (24 August 2013). "The nose knows". New Scientist.
- "CADA Home Page". Canine Accelerant Detection Association (CADA). Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- Anderson, Jessica (10 July 2008). "Prisons enlist dogs to keep out phones: Canines part of effort to keep contraband out of state facilities". Baltimore Sun.
- Dietsch, Deborah K. (26 August 2004). "You Can Teach a Mold Dog New Tricks". The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
- Tsutsui, Neil D.; Choe, Dong-Hwan; Sutherland, Andrew M.; Tabuchi, Robin L.; Moore, Sara E.; Lewis, Vernard R. (2013). "Researchers combat resurgence of bed bug in behavioral studies and monitor trials". California Agriculture. 67 (3): 172–8. doi:10.3733/ca.v067n03p172.
- Saville, Sebastian (9 July 2008). "Sniffer dog checks bite into our civil liberties". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
- Marks, Amber (31 March 2008). "Smells suspicious". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
- Race, K (2009). Pleasure Consuming Medicine: The queer politics of drugs. Durham: Duke University Press.[page needed]
- "Police Powers (Drug Detection Dogs) Act 2001 No 115". New South Wales. 14 December 2001. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- "Review of the Police Powers (Drug Detection Dogs) Act 2001 No 115". New South Wales Ombudsman. 14 September 2006. ISBN 1-921131-36-5.
- Dunn, Matthew; Degenhardt, Louisa (2009). "The use of drug detection dogs in Sydney, Australia". Drug and Alcohol Review. 28 (6): 658–62. doi:10.1111/j.1465-3362.2009.00065.x. PMID 19930020.
- Svarstad, Jørgen (19 November 2011). "Over 1000 osloelever narkosjekket" [Over 1000 Oslo students drug checked]. Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 11 September 2012.
- Hinkel, Dan; Mahr, Joe (6 January 2011). "Tribune analysis: Drug-sniffing dogs in traffic stops often wrong". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
- Vogel, Ed (26 June 2012). "Officers file suit alleging wrongdoing in police dog training program". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
- "NPMA Bed Bugs Best Management Practices website home page". National Pest Management Association. 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
- Potter, Michael F; Romero, Alvero; Haynes, Kenneth F. "BATTLING BED BUGS IN THE USA" (PDF). International Conference on Urban Pests. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
- "EPA's National Bed Bug Summit – April 14–15, 2009" (PDF). Retrieved 11 November 2010.
- Wasser, S K; Risler, L; Wasser, L M (1986). "Use of techniques to extract steroid hormones from primate feces". Primate Report. 14: 194–195.
- Wasser, S. K.; Monfort, S. L.; Wildt, D. E. (1991). "Rapid extraction of faecal steroids for measuring reproductive cyclicity and early pregnancy in free-ranging yellow baboons (Papio cynocephalus cynocephalus)". Reproduction. 92 (2): 415–23. doi:10.1530/jrf.0.0920415. PMID 1886098.
- Wasser, Samuel K; Davenport, Barbara; Ramage, Elizabeth R; Hunt, Kathleen E; Parker, Margaret; Clarke, Christine; Stenhouse, Gordon (2004). "Scat detection dogs in wildlife research and management: Application to grizzly and black bears in the Yellowhead Ecosystem, Alberta, Canada". Canadian Journal of Zoology. 82 (3): 475–92. doi:10.1139/z04-020.
- Ayres, Katherine L.; Booth, Rebecca K.; Hempelmann, Jennifer A.; Koski, Kari L.; Emmons, Candice K.; Baird, Robin W.; Balcomb-Bartok, Kelley; Hanson, M. Bradley; Ford, Michael J.; Wasser, Samuel K. (2012). "Distinguishing the Impacts of Inadequate Prey and Vessel Traffic on an Endangered Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) Population". PLoS ONE. 7 (6): e36842. Bibcode:2012PLoSO...736842A. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036842. PMC . PMID 22701560.
- Wasser, Samuel K.; Hayward, Lisa S.; Hartman, Jennifer; Booth, Rebecca K.; Broms, Kristin; Berg, Jodi; Seely, Elizabeth; Lewis, Lyle; Smith, Heath (2012). "Using Detection Dogs to Conduct Simultaneous Surveys of Northern Spotted (Strix occidentalis caurina) and Barred Owls (Strix varia)". PLoS ONE. 7 (8): e42892. Bibcode:2012PLoSO...742892W. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042892. PMC . PMID 22916175.
- "New Mexico Shelter Dogs Come to the Rescue for Rare Salamanders". The Nature Conservancy. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
- NPR's All Things Considered: Using Dogs to Sniff Out Bed Bugs
- Fox Philadelphia: "Bed Bug Dog and Bed Bug Control Experts discussing use of Bed Bug Dogs"
- Media related to Detection dogs at Wikimedia Commons