MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is one of the only airports in the country that uses an all Adopted Canine Unit.
It started with a few working to find narcotics and has now grown to include dogs that can sniff out bombs. But the dogs are a little different than you might think.
They act like they don’t have any obedience training, pulling their handler through the airport. But that’s why this unit says they’ve found the practice to be a win-win.
Some of the most rejected family pets are the ones that make the best working K9s.
Ryder is the newest member of the Airport Police Department. He came on board this summer.
“He’s an explosive canine detection dog,” said Officer Keith Boser.
While he’s not certified quite yet, Ryder can demonstrate his skills.
“When the canine indicates on a bag or an explosive, he’s trained to sit, so that he doesn’t disturb the bag in anyway,” Boser said.
An older member of the team, 5-year-old Domino, still has what it takes.
“He detected a couple of grams of cocaine that we had hidden,” said Officer Amy Kilian.
These dogs may not look like your traditional drug- or bomb-sniffing dog, but that’s actually what officers want — to be able to blend in.
“Just so we don’t cause alarm or draw too much attention from the public. If we can do our job without people knowing it, that’s ideal,” Kilian said.
All the dogs are adopted locally.
“We’ve got a lot, we’ve got an English Pointer, we’ve got black labs, we’ve got some mixes,” said canine trainer Jan Ballard. “It might take me 1,000 dogs that I’ll look at before I find that one dog.”
She tracks down the right dog for the job instead of just focusing on the breed. And sometimes the smaller the size, the better.
“These dogs have to work in and out of like airplane seats and cars, and if they’re smaller it’s easier for them to get in and out,” Ballard said.
As training progresses, the handlers become smaller, too. On average, handlers lose about 40 pounds.
Trainers can usually tell in a few minutes whether a dog is going to work out or not, so they usually stay with the shelter or foster family until they know the dog is the right fit.
On a side note, they do ask the local rescue groups to call them with any leads on a dog. They’re currently looking for new team member. For more information, you can contact Canine Trainer Janet Ballard at 612-726-5115.