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If you’re planning to travel by air this year, except to see more four-legged officials working the security lines at the airport.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is more than doubling the number of canines they’ll have working at U.S. airports, the Washington Post reports, adding that currently, the agency has more than 140 Golden Retrievers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Vizslas, and Labrador Retrievers, among other breeds, working at more than 35 airports.

The dogs are trained to sniff out explosives, and often are stationed at the security checkpoints as well as the PreCheck line.

The news of the expansion of the K9 program comes just weeks after the “working dog” was named New York’s state dog, a gesture to celebrate the many different ways dogs serve and protect the public.

So why are dogs so successful using their nose to sniff out the bad guys? A dog’s nose has about 300 million smell receptors, compared with a human’s 5 million. (See an animated video of how a dog’s nose works.)

“Let’s say you have a cheeseburger. He can smell the ketchup, the bun, the burger, the pickles, bacon, mayonnaise—whatever’s on. He breaks it all up,” TSA K9 handler Michelle Ramos told The New York Daily News.

That ability, combined with the strong food drive and the high energy of the dogs selected, makes training a cinch.

“Dogs live in a world of smell. This is their primary sense,” handler Douglas Timberlake told the Washington Post. “They have the innate ability to keep the public safe.”

Want to know more about the individual dogs working for TSA? Follow the agency on Instagram, where the dogs are frequently featured:








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This article was originally published in AKC Family Dog magazine. Subscribe today ($12.95 for 6 issues, including digital edition) to get expert tips on training, behavior, health, nutrition, and grooming, and read incredible stories of dogs and their people.
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