Environmental Effects on Explosive Detection Threshold of Domestic Dogs



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Detection canines are deployed to detect explosives in a wide range of environmental conditions. These environmental conditions may have negative impacts on canine capabilities as a sensor. This study leveraged an air dilution olfactometer to present controlled odor concentrations of four different energetic materials (double base smokeless powder, C4, ammonium nitrate, and flake TNT) to dogs working in a range of high temperature, standard, and low temperature conditions with high and low humidity conditions. The air dilution olfactometer controlled concentrations independent of environmental condition and dogs’ detection threshold limits were measured using a descending staircase procedure. We measured dogs’ threshold twice for each energetic under each environmental condition. Results indicated heterogeneity in effects based on energetic, but all odors were detected at the lowest concentrations under standard conditions. Smokeless powder detection was reduced under all environmental conditions compared to standard and was least detectable under high temperature and humidity conditions. AN detection was poorest under high temperature both high and low humidity conditions. C4 in contrast, was least detectable at low temperatures with high humidity. TNT detection was difficult under all conditions, so decrements were not statistically detectable. Additional measures were also found to be associated with detection limits. Under high temperature conditions, correlations were observed between canine mean subcutaneous temperature and detection limits, such that dogs experiencing greater temperature increases showed poorer detection limits. In addition, dog’s latency to sample the odor port from the onset of a trial was longest in the high temperature conditions. Further, longer latencies were predictive of poorer detection limits. Overall, dogs showed deficits in detection sensitivity limits under all environmental conditions for at least one energetic material when the concentration of that energetic material was not directly impacted by the environmental conditions. These results suggest that behavioral factors related to environmental exposure can have important impacts on canine detection sensitivity and should be considered in operational environments.



Threshold, Physiological, Environment, Canine Olfaction, Explosives, Odor Sensitivity