other illicit substances. Vapor Wake working dogs are specifically trained to detect body worn explosives on a moving target. Unlike traditional EOD teams, trained to view static objects or people as their “productive area”, Vapor Wake dogs are obedient to the odor itself.
One of the most prevalent methods of terrorist attack is the Improvised Explosive Device (IED). From crude and basic to sophisticated and complex, these IED’s have wreaked havoc across the globe. In the battle against the IED threat, highly trained K-9’s have been deployed to sniff out the hidden IED locations. However, traditional “bomb” dogs are trained to work a specific area, and most often only with the K-9 handler and maybe a few other officers or soldiers. Vapor Wake detection dogs are trained in an entirely new method to locate the most difficult IED’s – mobile IED’s in vehicles or on persons.
Vapor Wake K-9’s do not simply locate the odor of explosives and provide their handler an alert. Vapor Wake K-9’s are able to consistently and effectively do what others cannot: follow an explosive target to its source in real-time, while the target is in motion. In addition, Vapor Wake dogs are socially and environmentally raised to work in heavy pedestrian areas. With this type of socialization the Vapor Wake K-9’s can accurately screen hundreds of people passing through an entry point in a non-intrusive way.
In short, the Vapor Wake K-9’s are trained to be around lots of people, separate the odors of many people, and particularly focus on the “vapor wake” of explosives being carried on a particular person. The Vapor Wake K-9 will then trace the particular odor to its source, providing law enforcement, military, and security personnel one of the most valuable resources in detecting the hardest IED threat – mobile IED’s. Vapor Wake dogs are particularly trained for pedestrian areas, but can also be used at vehicle checkpoints as well.
How Does Vapor Wake® Work?
Scent particles are carried away from the person’s body in a “thermal plume”, produced by the body’s natural heat. A person’s natural thermal plume rises when a person is standing still, just like steam rising from a hot liquid. However, as soon as the person begins moving, that same thermal plume extends behind them like smoke from a burning torch being carried by a moving person (thus the name, “Vapor Wake”).
Vapor Wake K-9 Detection Teams work crowds by sampling the cross-section of people moving through. As soon as a Vapor Wake dog detects explosive odor, it will begin the alert by following the odor to its source: a person, a bag left behind, something carried inside and then hidden. Vapor Wake K-9’s will always follow the odor to the actual source of the threat, before fully alerting their find to their K-9 handlers.
Vapor Wake® Key Points
- Proven and patented canine technology through Auburn University.
- Capable of detecting ”moving” odor hidden explosive on a person.
- Can screen large crowds without impeding traffic flow.
- Effective and non-invasive security service.
- Affordable and friendly to the fan experience.
- Available for immediate deployment.
Benefits of Vapor Wake K-9’s Versus Traditional K-9’s
Most law enforcement K-9‘s are trained in one of two directions, with some crossover compatibility. Interdiction K-9’s are trained to sniff out a variety of illegal drugs, along with apprehension and area searching. On the other side are “bomb” dogs that are trained to sniff out explosives, and perhaps apprehension and area searching. The two disciplines are not crossed, because we don’t want officers looking for illegal drugs to have their K-9 partner alert on explosives.
In regards to the “bomb” dogs, traditional training techniques focus on specific stationary objects or persons. These K-9’s will be led along a line of luggage or mail, for instance, to sniff out potential explosive packages. They can be led around stationary vehicles as well. In other situations they have been placed in a passive position where people will walk through one at a time and the K-9 can sniff from behind a grate (like Secret Service K-9’s at the White House). In those circumstances the person and dog are separated by the grate to prevent any contact, but the dog’s sniff is particular to that one person.
These K-9’s have performed outstanding service in their own right, and Vapor Wake K-9’s are not meant as a replacement. However, the Vapor Wake dogs have the additional advantage of being able to be around people while conducting dozens or hundreds of sniff tests simultaneously. The Vapor Wake dogs don’t just alert at the first scent of explosives, but will trace the scent to its source. So a pedestrian-borne IED (PBIED) that is moving through a crowd, can still be located, isolated, and apprehended, unlike with traditional “bomb” dogs.
The combination of traditionally trained K-9’s and Vapor Wake K-9’s can provide a much stronger foundation for the security preparedness of any location or event.
Auburn University’s Role in Vapor Wake K-9’s
Vapor Wake began with years of research, breeding, and testing at Auburn University’s Canine Performance Sciences (CPS) program. The Vapor Wake dogs are specially bred and socially raised to maximize their effectiveness at explosive detection, regardless of the distracting environments they may be deployed into. AMK9 is the exclusive commercial distribution partner for Auburn’s CPS program, allowing Vapor Wake to be made available to the public.
Auburn University and AMK9 continue to work together to refine and perfect Vapor Wake’s patented technology, and together ensure any and all Vapor Wake K-9’s perform consistently across the board. Not every dog that is bred for this purpose, passes the extensive screening and testing process to make it as a final selection for Vapor Wake K-9.
So far Auburn University has identified a particular breed of labrador as particularly inclined for this type of work. The labs are able to be sociable with people, while still fully engaged in work. A Vapor Wake K-9 is definitely a breed above the rest.
Vapor Wake dogs are selected from Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s canine breeding program; a state-of-the-art canine research and breeding center. Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has invested years of research in developing this program into a strong and versatile explosives detection tool in the fight against terrorism. The Auburn University Canine Performance Sciences Program is the largest K9 detection research program in the United States.
In November 2012, AMK9’s Science and Technology division teamed up with the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation (ARTF) in order to merge operational background with grounded scientific theory and practice. This corporate and university alliance and collaboration in pursuit of K9 excellence was unprecedented, but it was this step which enabled Auburn University to make Vapor Wake available to the public. In 2014, the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation and AMK9 Science and Technology were awarded the Alabama Launchpad University-Corporate Partnership.
This success with Auburn University has grown into a professionally collaborative, cooperative venture that includes affiliate offices on campus, a formal partnership with Auburn’s Canine Performance Sciences program, joint business ventures, and expansion of their commercial opportunities in K9 science and technology.
Any dog going into the Auburn University breeding program is tested for the physiological, psychological, and sociological traits that allow Vapor Wake® technology to excel in any environment. Labradors are typically used for the Vapor Wake® program due to their ability to interact with the public while still maintaining a high-drive and superior scent tracking. Auburn University breeds multiple litters of puppies based on genetic research through selective breeding in a carefully controlled environment.
Once litters are born, the puppies’ training begins. Over the first 6-12 months, the future Vapor Wake dogs go through extensive social and environmental raising, supervised by the Canine Performance Sciences staff. Puppies are exposed to a variety of stimuli and environments in order to prepare them to work in loud, distracting, and crowded environments without losing focus.
At three months of age the puppies begin the human bonding process. The future Vapor Wake dogs are sent to local prisons where the inmates actually help with the training process. This initial human bonding process lasts until the K9 is one year old. This is the initial building block of our Vapor Wake® team configuration of one dog/one handler.
In addition, Auburn University’s Veterinary Sports Medicine Program provides cutting edge physical conditioning, nutritional program design, veterinary care, canine performance research and support to prepare the dogs to work in any environment. After their year under Auburn University’s social raising program, AMK9 takes over the training for Vapor Wake dogs on their 320-acre training facility in Anniston, AL. Here, the K9s hone their detection skills with patented training specific to Vapor Wake explosives detection.
How Do You Become a Vapor Wake® Handler
AMK9 is the company that provides Vapor Wake dogs to government agencies, and also provides Vapor Wake Handler training. Vapor Wake sales and training is located in Anniston, Alabama, which is only about an hour away from the source of the breeding program at Auburn University. Once the Labradors come to the AMK9 training facility these unique K-9’s are put through a rigorous advanced explosives training process, modeled specifically for Vapor Wake®. When an agency has selected their Vapor Wake® K-9, they can move on to Vapor Wake® Instruction and Certification Programs that prepare Vapor Wake® K-9 teams to be highly successful.
At this time, AMK9 and Auburn University are not cross-training currently trained and deployed K-9’s. The reason for this is the absolute need for K-9’s to be socially trained to work well in heavy traveled pedestrian environments without becoming aggressive. In addition, the science behind how the K-9’s are trained to screen, follow, and then alert on the mobile explosives threat require intensive training that so far has been much harder to successfully employ on older dogs that were previously trained in other techniques.
Interestingly, if your agency isn’t in the position to acquire a Vapor Wake K-9 on a permanent basis, but have an event that needs this type of protection, AMK9 offers the deployment of Vapor Wake® K9 Detection Teams to assist in meeting your specific needs. These Vapor Wake K-9 Teams can and will fully integrate into your daily security activity. If your agency would like to see a Vapor Wake K-9 Team in action at a real event, AMK9 can deploy “Red Teams”, that involve fully licensed explosive handlers to act as decoys, while the Vapor Wake K-9 teams sniff out the crowds. Contact AMK9 here.
AMK9 Vapor Wake dogs and handlers offer mobile explosive detection teams ideal for sporting events and heavy-pedestrian flow or high-profile events. This highly specialized K-9 program has already been deployed with great success. The National Center for Spectator Sport Safety and Security recently put Vapor Wake K9s through their Lab Test. Not only is Vapor Wake now certified by NCS4 but it also holds the first and only lab tested capability on K9 security. The VWDC are being used at several high pedestrian venues including St. Louis Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Amtrak, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Harvard Commencements.
Vapor Wake® Detection canine teams have even been utilized in the most critical areas during the inauguration of the President of the United States in 2012. Vapor Wake® Detection teams screened people entering the seating area that would be closest to the President, providing an added level of security against hand-carried and body-worn explosives.
If you are currently involved with K-9 operations, or have experience with K-9 operations, what are your thoughts on the Vapor Wake K-9 system and potential?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Both Richard and Aaron attended Auburn University and are very proud of Auburn’s Canine Performance Sciences involvement with the development of the Vapor Wake explosives detection K-9 program. However, BlueSheepDog has not received any financial compensation for this article.