Technology Tracking Dogs Really Are a Thing

Mary Simpson
by Mary Simpson
Photo Credit: Soloviova Liudmyla /

We’ve all heard of dogs that can sniff out drugs and explosives or locate missing persons from a simple whiff of their clothing… but what’s all this about technology trackers? Can I seriously teach my pooch to hunt down the TV remote that went missing over the weekend?

Actually, it’s not that kind of technology. You see, this highly specialized dog is trained to detect a compound called triphenylphosphine oxide (TPPO) and with a dog’s approximately 400 million olfactory receptors (humans have closer to 50 million) these super sleuths can smell that stuff through pocket material, duffle bags, a shoe insole, and even drywall. Now, if you’re wondering what TPPO is, it’s the compound used to cover circuit boards in storage devices ranging from hard drives to USB sticks, memory cards and even those tiny SIM cards that store data on our cellphones. Essentially, it’s the all-important coating that prevents these gadgets from overheating and because of that, it’s a compound that will never not be present on electronic devices.

But as to why this specific training is growing in K9 units worldwide you need to consider the increase in cyber-terrorism. From drug and human trafficking to child pornography and weapons offences, the need to locate a criminal’s “tools of the trade” such as computers, burner phones, and hard drives is essential to securing a successful conviction. And while internet use and location trackers have made it easy to trail an individual, many perpetrators now work on darknets – an overlay that uses the internet but requires special software for the person to access illicit data.

Of course, even a darknet involves a computer system and that’s where the TPPO-sniffing pooch steps up to the plate. Find the perp and let this specially trained K9 agent track down the concealed storage system. I mean, when you’re dealing with something as easily hidden as a SIM card, having a secret furry weapon that detects the scent, then sits, barks and wags his tail saves a heck of a lot of time.

Truth is, technology-tracking dogs are becoming more and more common in the execution of this type of warrant because police often get just one shot at finding the much-needed evidence.

No surprise that the best dogs for this type of work tend to be the usual suspects – Labrador retrievers because of their heightened sensory skills, innate hunting traits and their gentle disposition – important if there are younger family members present during a search. Other faves include the stately Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd dogs for their tenacity and handler loyalty. I’m not convinced my Schnoodles would rank but as with most family pooches, they’re ace at hunting down an errant chip between the sofa cushions… and that’s good enough for me.

Mary Simpson
Mary Simpson

Sharing space with three seriously judgy Schnoodles and two felines who prefer to be left alone. #LivingMyBestLife

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