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New, Improved Breed Of Bomb-Sniffing Dogs On Patrol At LAX

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The LAPD has a new breed of bomb-sniffing dogs at Los Angeles International Airport.

For years, bomb detection K-9s have been highly effective at identifying the presence of explosives but here's the catch: the package had to be stationary. But the vapor wake dog's target is the bomber who is moving.

Izzy is part of a growing new breed of counter-terrorism specialists that can detect and follow the vapors given off by explosives.

"What a Vapor Wake is specifically known for is a moving target," Officer Tom Davoren said. "So a person with a suicide vest, a backpack, a rollerbag full of explosives, the dog will pick it up like any other dog, but what separates him is he will track that vapor wake and he'll follow that person through a terminal, through a busy congested airport."

A plainclothes LAPD officer will tuck a quantity of plastic explosives into a bag. Izzy has to find it as part of his training.

"With the K-9 program, the training was always nose down, looking at articles, suitcases, abandoned backpacks, but the recognition is that people carry bombs and they're moving targets," said Deputy Chief Mike Downing, the LAPD's chief of counterterrorism.

Moving targets killed 184 people in Madrid in 2004 and more than 50 people during the coordinated attacks in London in 2005. But it was the attempted airplane bombing over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009, the so-called Underwear Bomber that prompted Downing to change tactics.

If a vapor-wake dog had been stationed in the airport where the Underwear Bomber was walking by, that day would have turned out differently, Downing said.

"Absolutely, it would have made a difference. And I think it was that one event that really made us start thinking about, how do we counter that?" he said.

They turned to the veterinary college at Auburn University where vapor wake dogs are put through a rigorous 6-month regimen. The dogs go through obstacle courses until they are comfortable climbing over baggage, searching under counters or picking up a vapor trail and chasing it down. But not all of them make it:

"Out of ten dogs you're looking at the 2-3 best dogs out of that class for vapor wake.," Auburn University's John Pearce said.

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