Not a Flight of Fancy: How Airport Dogs are Really Working to Keep You Safe

Posted on: 22 August 2017

Anybody who flies frequently will have seen an airport dog strolling around at least once or twice.  Wearing their reflective coat that declares they're working and not to be disturbed, they nonetheless attract attention from both children and dog lovers alike as they make their way through the security halls and terminals.  However, those reflective jackets tell no lies.  The dogs you see in airports really are working hard to ensure the safety of every person in the building.  Here's how.

It's Not All Drugs

You may assume that any dogs on the premises of the airport are there to detect illicit and illegal substances in passengers' luggage.  This is not the case.  In fact, dogs can only be trained to smell for one drug at a time; as such, you're unlikely to meet a drug-sniffing dog in the security queue or walking through the terminal.  Most of that legwork is done behind the scenes in the baggage handling areas.  In fact, the dogs you see are much likelier to be engaged in bomb detection - but different companies train dogs for many different things.  The airport is likely to have contracts with many different companies and providers to ensure a wide range of detection capabilities.

Important Training

While human security checks are designed to ensure no dangerous items or explosives can get past security, many airports make use of bomb detection dogs as a double-checking measure, both in their security queues and in the airport in general.  These dogs are able to detect various kinds of explosives and their component parts, giving their handlers and security staff an expert 'second opinion' with regards to the contents of passengers' hand luggage, and any traces they may have on their person.  Anybody who does have explosive traces on them will be noticed by the dog; that person can then be taken aside for additional screening.

Is This Cause for Concern?

The dogs are trained to alert their handlers to any traces at all - even if they're not absolutely certain.  As such, it's possible for dogs to indicate a 'false positive' result.  This is why any interest the dog shows is followed up by manual human searches and checks - and why you shouldn't be immediately concerned if you or a fellow passenger is pulled aside for additional screening.  Consider it a standard part of the process, just as some passengers are pulled aside for random extra checks.  It's all part of the same system, designed to keep you safe.

With all this in mind, nervous fliers should feel at ease whenever they see dogs passing by in the security line, or walking by them in the airport.  With their highly-trained noses on the case, it's even more unlikely than usual that anything unsafe could pass through the security procedure - so you can feel safe catching your flight.