These best boys and girls just graduated from the ATF's National Canine Academy


Category:  Pets & Animals

Via:  hallux  •  2 weeks ago  •  8 comments

By:   Ryan Lucas - NPR

These best boys and girls just graduated from the ATF's National Canine Academy

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

All across the country over the past month, proud high school and college graduates have been beaming as they strut across stages to collect their well-earned diplomas.

The same held true in Front Royal, Va., on Friday, where a group of seven Labrador retrievers collected their degrees from the National Canine Training Center of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

At a graduation ceremony held in the academy’s warehouse-like main hall, friends and family snapped photographs of Class 148, five black Labs and two yellow Labs, who collected their certificates and shiny new ATF badges.

“Every team here has passed the highest standards and exceeded the expectations of the ATF canine program,” lead instructor Shawn Crawford told the crowd. “They’re ready to hit the streets, serve the public and protect their communities.”

During the speeches, some of the graduates rolled around on the concrete floor. Others sat quietly at attention and panted.

The dogs have just completed a 24-week program. The first phase involves basic obedience skills and detecting various explosives, compounds and mixtures. In the second phase, the dog is matched with its handler, an ATF special agent, and together they train to search for explosives in operational environments like schools, vehicles and warehouses.

After the ceremony, as families snap photos with the dogs, Crawford said the canines are now trained to detect, in theory, 19,000 different explosive compounds.

“They get about 25 odors while they’re here,” he said. “We base our methodology on a six-family theory. And if it’s commercial, homemade or military, it’s going to have to have one of these six base ingredients.”

He uses an analogy to explain: “If we train the dog to find pure white sugar, think how many different things sugar is in,” he said. “Everything has sugar in it, and they could pick that sugar out.”

There are only 45 ATF dogs in the country with this top level of training, he said.

“These dogs work traditionally just like any other bomb dog in the United States, except they can work off-leash when need be if there’s a high threat,” Crawford said.

One of the graduating teams, Special Agent Lindsey Bates and K-9 Maggie, did a quick demonstration. Crawford had placed four roller suitcases — one of them with an explosive material inside — on the ground 20 feet away.

“She’ll stand here, tell Maggie to go out and check those bags,” Crawford said. “When she finds the explosive, she’s going to sit down, get really happy, and then she’ll run back and get a big handful of food.”

Special Agent Bates knelt down and focused Maggie on the suitcases, then gave the command: “Bag!” Maggie ran over to the suitcases, sniffed a few of them before putting her paws and one — the correct one — and wagging her tail.

“Yes!” Bates says to her, and Maggie runs back go get her treat — a handful of food. “Good girl! That’s a good girl!”

This is how Maggie and the rest of the graduating dogs will eat for the rest of their careers. They don’t get a bowl of food. Instead, every day throughout the day, the handlers will put out shell casings or hide explosives at a training site, and only after detecting the explosive odor will the dog get its food reward, Crawford said.

Despite the intensity and rigor of the training, these canines are still just dogs.

They live with their handlers, which often means they are ATF bomb-sniffing dogs by day and a family dog in their off time.

Such is the case with Special Agent Corey Wells and his K-9 Tara.

Wells’ parents as well as his wife, Selena, and two kids, 9-year-old Lucy and 5-year-old Owen, made the trip to Front Royal for the graduation. After the ceremony, the kids were down on the concrete floor hugging Tara and climbing on her.

Asked whether they were excited about taking a new dog home, Lucy popped up and said “obviously!”

ATF canines have supported major events across the U.S., including the Super Bowl, the State of the Union and presidential inaugurations. But they’re also used in the bread-and-butter of ATF’s work: solving gun crimes.

“Honestly, what we’re going to use her most for in Oklahoma City is responding to crime scenes. So, like, the suspect tosses a gun, she can go find the gun,” Agent Wells said.

Even something as small as a shell casing, he said, the dogs can track down.

“Shell casings are the big name of the game right now for us because we can link them to certain crimes,” he said. “I mean, just a single shell casing, they’ll go out and find. It’s really impressive.”

First though, Wells said he has to take Tara home to Oklahoma where she can settle in her new family life, all the new smells and then, of course, into her new job.


jrDiscussion - desc
PhD Principal
1  seeder  Hallux    2 weeks ago

Lotsa pics at the link and it's NPR so no paywall.

Every year I donate to CNIB which trains dogs for the blind.

Professor Principal
1.1  Tessylo  replied to  Hallux @1    2 weeks ago

Who's a good boy??!!

I love animals as well and wish I could donate to a lot of worthy causes like that. 

I also would like to have a dog and a cat but can't really afford the expenses around that, especially now.  My employment situation has changed over the last year or so and in the last couple of weeks again changed so I'm going to have to cut back even more around the household.  

Professor Quiet
1.1.1  shona1  replied to  Tessylo @1.1    2 weeks ago

Morning Tess...yes understand completely how you wish for a dog and cat and I did have both..

But my health issues have now brought an end to that..my Scotch Collie Shona departed Jan 2021 and my cat Mishka will be 14 in November..

As much as I would like another dog I know I could not cope with it now and my main ambition is to our live my cat as she would not go to anyone else..

Sorry things sound a bit grim for you at the moment but you are a very responsible person for not getting an animal when economic circumstances don't allow it..

As with everything things change and in the near future your wish may just come true to the sound of pattering paws..

Speaking of which I have to go and clip its claws, WW3 will break out shortly...😺🐾🐾

Professor Principal
1.1.2  Tessylo  replied to  shona1 @1.1.1    2 weeks ago

Thanks shona!


Greg Jones
Professor Participates
2  Greg Jones    2 weeks ago

I can't imagine a world without dogs. This young lady is a Canadian who does so well on YouTube, that she can donate grooming to various clients who need her services. And there is no shortage of dogs and kittens together.

A MASSIVE Dog Breed I've Never Even Heard Of Before | Šarplaninac (youtube.com)

Kitten Goes From Being Afraid of Golden Retrievers to Snuggling to Sleep (Cutest Ever!!) (youtube.com)

PhD Principal
2.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Greg Jones @2    2 weeks ago
I can't imagine a world without dogs.

Dump politics and we would have a lot in common.

Greg Jones
Professor Participates
2.1.1  Greg Jones  replied to  Hallux @2.1    2 weeks ago

I know!

Professor Quiet
2.1.2  shona1  replied to  Greg Jones @2.1.1    2 weeks ago

Morning... everyone would have alot in common if people dumped politics...

And there probably wouldn't be half the problems in the world...


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