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Explosive detection canine operational requirements and performance degradation: expert perspectives – Presented by Brian Farr

The explosive detection canine (EDC) team is currently the best available mobile sensor capability in the fight against explosive threats. While the EDC can perform at a high level, the EDC team faces numerous factors during the search process that may degrade performance. Understanding these factors is key to effective selection, training, assessment, deployment, and operationalizable research. The utilization of and research on EDCs is often based on personal experience or incomplete knowledge. EDC practitioners (handlers, trainers, and leaders) possess the institutional knowledge necessary to understand EDC operational requirements. This study leveraged the perspectives of these practitioners to describe EDC operational requirements and determine the factors that degrade performance. The study utilized a qualitative approach with semi-structured interviews of EDC experts from across the employment spectrum. Analysis of the data revealed commonalities across all EDCs and utilization-specific differences. To be effective, the EDC team must function well on both ends of the leash, and the handler likely has the greatest impact on the EDC’s performance. Common requirements include expectations to perform at a high level in a variety of manmade and natural physical environments and under a range of climate conditions. EDCs must work through the visual, olfactory, and auditory challenges of the operational environment and the countermeasure efforts of those utilizing explosive devices. Utilization-specific differences like patrol or assault training and utilization add additional requirements for some EDCs. This study’s results can help improve EDC selection, training, assessment, and deployment and further research into sustaining performance.

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