By John McDevitt


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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It takes a big security team to keep everyone safe at the airport. The unsung heroes include specially trained canines.

In addition to metal detectors and X-ray machines, there’s another safeguard in place that you may not even be aware of near passenger screening checkpoints.

Transportation Security Administration explosive detection dogs are one way the agency sniffs out potential security risks at airports across the United States.

“The passenger screening canine program came along to better detect explosives coming to the checkpoint and also to speed up the checkpoint,” said Gary Stoerrle, a TSA canine handler.

Stoerrle’s partner is Bak, a 5-year-old black labrador retriever who specializes in air flow detection.

“As you are walking, you are putting off an air current behind you,” said Stoerrle. “The dog is just sniffing the air current and if there are explosives in that current, they are going to chase it to wherever the source is.”

Todd Fox handles a 4-year-old German shorthaired pointer named Don.

As part of a demonstration, Don smelled something in a woman’s bag and pulled Fox toward the woman, who was part of the presentation.

(Credit: CBS3)

“That was actually a really good change of behavior,” said Fox. “The quick turn o the head, you’ll see the head go around real quickly once he sniffs the bag and then he does that drive and that pull to the bag.”

“Normally, I like to bounce his toy, his reward that he’s going for right off the bag. This is like a giant game of hide-and-seek to them. They want to find it.”

When the sign is up, the dogs are working. You can’t pet them, but there may be an opportunity to speak with the handler and learn more about what the dogs do and get trading cards.

Bak and Don have their own trading cards, and there are about 1,000 TSA canines working in airports across the United States.