A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

START to perform research alongside Explosive Detection Dogs


START to perform research alongside Explosive Detection Dogs

The "Developing Technology in Explosive Detection Dogs" project will begin research this summer

March 23, 2015Beth Schwartz

START will soon be welcoming some furry friends to their research team.

This summer, START will begin research on an 18-month, DHS-funded project called “Developing Technology in Explosive Detection Dogs.” The project will be completed in collaboration with the University of Maryland Police Department, and headed by Sgt. Sam Jones, head of the University of Maryland Police Department (UMPD) K9 Explosives Detection Unit. START research director Amy Pate, along with a START intern, will work together with four canine handlers, Lt. Ken Leonard, and Sgt. Jones to develop deployment strategies for Person Borne Improvised Explosive Device Detection.

The intern and researchers will spend part of their time working directly with explosive detective canines. The dogs are either black or chocolate Labrador Retrievers between four and five years old, selected because of their high-drive and curiosity. In order to become certified explosive detection dogs, they are exposed to, or “imprinted” with, select substances found in common explosives. They are then trained to associate these ingredients with a reward, and put through a rigid certification process to ensure their abilities are well-developed and executable on command.

According to Sgt. Jones, the explosive detection dogs that UMPD works with are different than many bomb dogs in that they are trained to detect explosives on people in a crowd rather than hidden among inanimate objects. DHS will work with START to test new methods of training these dogs.

“The new project gives us a chance to explore a new and more applied type of research for START,” says research director Amy Pate, “and given that explosive detection dogs are not yet widely used, we have the unique opportunity of being at the forefront of exploration in the field.”

Intern coordinator Eva Coll agrees, adding “We love being able to offer our interns the chance to explore a variety of career opportunities.”

College students with a flexible schedule interested in applying for the “Developing Technology in Explosive Detection Dogs“ internship can apply online here for the Summer 2015 semester (20 hours per week) and here for the Fall 2015 semester (10 hours per week).