AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - Imagine if the Boston bombing suspects had left a trail... a trail of vapors only a specially trained dog could detect. Well, dogs like these or vapor dogs are now being trained at Auburn University.
Auburn University says Vapor Wake dogs are the ultimate bomb sniffing dog. They can follow bomb vapor- stretching several football fields, a skill so unique the university hopes to patent it.
"Your standard bomb dog, your explosive detector dog, is primed on looking at an object, a backpack placed somewhere. A Vapor Wake dog's ability is to detect the odor coming off of that backpack on the back of the person as they carry it, and to follow that plume of vapor," explains AU Professor Jim Floyd.
We did our own experiment at Auburn's mall with the help of Auburn's K-9 handlers.
They give the man in the red shirt a knapsack loaded with explosives inside a pressure cooker-- just like the bombers in Boston.
Just like he's trained to do, when the suspect stops, the dog stops too- then sits down, alerting his handler to the bad guy.
In a crowded mall or on a city street, this technique is crucial.
These dogs can potentially stop a would-be bomber before it's too late.
"Had one of our dogs been in place on that corner with those two guys walking there with those backpacks, I think they would've alerted on them," says Floyd.
Auburn has its own breeding program for bomb sniffing dogs. They rarely use shepherds and traditional breeds but lean more on Labradors and spaniels.
I-K9 is the company working with auburn to train and deploy vapor wake dogs.
"Where we might be able to smell a woman's perfume walking by, but the dog can smell not only the perfume, but the clothes, the material she's wearing, the shower gel she washed with that morning," explains Paul Hammond of I-K9.
In addition to vapor wake training, these dogs are also able to detect explosives in the traditional way.
"It is a game to the dog, if he thought he was looking for explosives he wouldn't do it," says Hammond.
What may be a game to these dogs could mean the difference between life and death for the rest of us.