US POLICE DEPARTMENTS are training police dogs to sniff out electronic devices.
Trained to sniff out everything from USB thumb drives, surveillance equipment and mobile phones, the skill is proving a significant step forward for law enforcement as Good Dogs up and down the US are trained to associate tasty treats with the smell of silicon.
A report on CNET points out that it was this kind of evidence that was key in the unmasking of former Subway bae Jared Fogle for holding supplies of digital kiddie-porn.
Originally the scheme, first rolled out in Connecticut was kept quiet to add that element of surprise to any discoveries, but now with 17 so-called Electronic Storage Detection (ESD) dogs in service around the US, it is their time to shine.
A similar experiment with two dogs is already in place in the UK.
Trainers say that the most important criteria to be an ESD dog is to be ‘motivated by food'. That narrows it down to like, every dog, ever. Another important criterion would be rebelliousness - if you've told your Doggo 100 times not to steal food from the table, yet it still does…. you could have an ESD candidate.
Dogs are then given a powder of triphenylphosphine oxide to smell before being given food, so the association is baked in. From that point, dogs will always be given the smell before any food to ensure it stays that way - some will be handfed at work as their main source of food.
They are however allowed a treat day, when they're given something that they love, but perhaps a regular dog wouldn't be allowed, such as human food - because Good Dog.
When at work, the triphenylphosphine oxide can be smelt in anything electronic with a storage. The training kicks in and if something with storage is hidden in the room, the ESD dog will find it.
Police dogs are often recognisable - but whether they're trained to search for narcotics, weapons or electronics is something you'll never spot. And if the ESDs get into your place and you have something to hide, by the time you answer the door, it'll be too late. µ
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