Crime & Courts

Dogs train to sniff out the bad guys

Nyxx the bomb dog went to work Thursday, sniff, sniff, sniffing for the odor she was trained to hit on.

Led by her handler, Nebraska State Patrol Trooper Mark White, Nyxx stuck her nose into a canister, then quickly pulled it out. She did it again, then stopped and sat — her trained sign that she had hit on the odor — shell casings.

"That's a good girl," White said to Nyxx, a 6-year-old Belgian Malinois who was rewarded by getting to play with a ball for several seconds before moving on.

Nyxx, with her handler, was one of several explosive-detection dogs who participated in a canine diagnostic test Thursday in Wichita.

The training was part of the annual regional conference for the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators. More than 80 law enforcement officers from across the Midwest attended the conference, held at the Holiday Inn at Kellogg and Rock Road.

In addition to the canine detection test runs, the conference also featured some of the newest technology — including robots — used for law enforcement explosives work.

The tests for the dogs were done inside a large open conference room with several canisters arranged in a circle. The dogs have been trained to detect certain smells — such as the gun powder residue found on the shell casings and smokeless powder.

Nyxx was four for four.

"She did very well," White said. "I'm very happy with her."

Nyxx is used primarily for preventative purposes — checking for possible threats before sporting or political events.

"If we can get a little bit of additional training," White said, "maybe we can keep one step ahead of the bad guys."

That's the idea, said Michael Hayes, director of strategic global initiatives for Michael Stapleton Associates, which was leading the dog training.

The dogs are another tool that law enforcement officers "can use to help locate and find explosives and firearms... shell casings, things like this," Hayes said. "It helps on a myriad of events and (in investigations), it's a great tool to use."