The fight against terrorism is enlisting new recruits.
What isn’t new is the use of K9s. But what is new is how they are bred and trained to sniff out bombs at big events.
The president of the company VWK9 is training dogs to sniff out moving targets, specifically: body worn explosives. They focus on the heat of your own body to help these dogs do their job and to stop a deadly attack from happening in busiest of places.
Football season is underway and at the University of Notre Dame, the stadium can hold 78,000 ticket holders on Game Day. Add to that, the tailgaters outside and the number of fighting Irish Fans is closer to 100,000 on any given Saturday. The sheer number got Notre Dame security police thinking: They need more help.
This month, they got it in the form of Toxi and Skeet, vapor wake dogs.
There is no imminent threat at Notre Dame officials say. The dogs are just the next logical security step. And these are not your average dogs. At $50,000 each, the two purebred black Labrador retrievers were carefully bred and trained on the Auburn University campus to do one thing.
The key here is to genetically breed friendly, but focused dogs who can work a crowd without startling the people in it.
Paul Hammond says his dogs strike the perfect balance. They detect, then follow targets on the go by following more than just a scent. They follow a thermal plume that exists behind all of us - a combination of human body heat and the scent of an explosive if a bad guy is carrying one. But they do it in an unobtrusive way.
Dogs like Toxi and Skeet arrived in South Bend earlier this month and went through 15-18 months of training before they worked with their handlers from the Notre Dame security police.
That was in an addition to a grueling seven weeks of training together in Alabama this summer.
The dogs sweep the Notre Dame stadium before each home game and then work the crowds when people arrive.
Vapor wake dogs are what they are called and they are working big events, venues and games, all over the country. Disney World, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Detroit Tigers and New Orleans Saints have vapor wake dogs
For the first six months the puppies are assigned to inmates in prison cells to condition them to the noises and sounds of a big crowded and loud environment. It is a place that might be closest to those sounds at big public events.
The Chicago Police Dept has eight vapor wake dogs. The Illinois State police has two of them. At $50,000 a dog and annual certification maintenance and training, it is a real investment and commitment to security.