This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)
How do you train a dog to detect a threat and issue an alert?
Dogs are known for their highly keen sense of smell. While the human brain is dominated by a large visual cortex, the dog brain is dominated by an olfactory cortex. The olfactory bulb in dogs is roughly forty times bigger than the olfactory bulb in humans, relative to total brain size, with dozens of millions of smell-sensitive receptors. Some breeds of dogs have hundreds of millions of receptors. Consequently, it has been estimated that dogs, in general, have an olfactory sense ranging from one hundred thousand to one million times more sensitive than a human’s.
A joint project involving the Ministry of Internal Security focuses on reading dogs’ brainwaves. Using track dogs to detect drugs is worldwide, but it is likewise common enough that dogs sense the drug yet do not issue their handlers any warning – whether due to fatigue or sloth.
Academic research has shown you can read dogs’ brainwaves and decipher the signals. Dogs may get tired or lazy, but their brainwaves nonetheless continue to transmit signals. Efforts are currently underway to develop an electrode, a kind of sensor that will be attached to the dog’s head – a totally non-invasive action – that will transmit the handler the results of the dog’s track and search.
The study is jointly conducted by the Ministry of Internal Security, the Tel Aviv University, the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure and the Israeli police. The bulk of the research focuses on relating the algorithms that will interpret the dog’s brainwaves to what the handler is ultimately after: an alert about the existence of a drug or any other object – explosives, contraband, etc. – or an alert about some other kind of threat.