Don’t be surprised if something furry starts sniffing you and your luggage at the airport. These dogs are hard at work and trained to detect explosives or hazardous materials that may be hidden throughout the premises.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced in early 2013 that they plan to field 120 canine teams at airports across the nation by the end of the year. The Honolulu International Airport now has its own team that patrols the security line, as well as the plane’s cargo area.

I was able to witness a bomb-sniffing dog at work and was amazed at how disciplined he was (when compared to my dog, anyway). That’s because handlers and their canine spend 11 weeks in an intense TSA course, located in Texas. The pair learns how to handle explosives and the safety/transportation requirements within an airport environment. They graduate and undergo a certification process before being assigned to an airport, according to the TSA website.

We watched as the black labrador and his handler made their way around the line of Honolulu travelers. The program’s still so new in Hawaii that many people just stood and stared at the furry little TSA worker. Kids, in particular, squealed when he came by, but their parents were quick to remind them that these dogs were not meant for petting.

The National Canine Program itself is not new. It began in 1972, after a bomb threat on a plane. Today, the program has more than 760 teams of dogs and officers. The recent effort to field more teams comes with the additional funding received for the program.


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