Training dogs to detect bombs, drugs and cadavers

Sometimes, you just have to take advantage of what nature provides, and for dogs, that advantage is right at the end of their nose.

“Their olfactory system is just so superior,” says Eldon Presnell, who trained and worked with dogs for the Greensboro Police Department for 20 years.

Presnell is now retired and judges dogs at work, as he did at the National Detector Dog contest in Raleigh.

Dogs ran through simulations of bomb, drug and cadaver detections under the watchful eye of judges like Presnell. And Presnell knows how hard their work can be.

“Every time they go to work to do a search or track or whatever, they're in a totally new environment, so they have to stay totally focused on the game that we're playing with them,” he says. “You may be in a house, an apartment complex, you may be in a train station, you may be on an airplane - on a jet - so the dog has to be very stable to go to any of these environments and still be able to perform at a high level.”

“You put in countless hours of training, you want to come up here, you want to smoke it,” says Deputy Justin Stegall, who works with a German Shepherd named Jango for the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department. “A lot of people get into K-9 for the wrong reasons - they think it looks cool, maybe K-9 looks cool on the side of the car or it's cool to have a dog to take home with you.”

Jango did well – but all the dogs at this level are true professionals.

“They prove their value over and over and over,” Presnell said.

See them at work, in this edition of the Buckley Report.