The 'Explosive Detection Dog' Employment Guide

By John Cannon May 24, 2018

Click here to download a copy of this 'EDD Employment Guide'

The Explosive Detection Dog (EDD) capability is a proven and effective aid to search operations, available for use within the Combat Engineer Regiment (CER). The EDD team (EDDT) is compact, mobile and can work in a variety of environments, including confined spaces and difficult terrain. It will reduce the manpower required for many operations and increase the speed of searches. However, teams should only be employed after a careful appreciation has been made of the operational situation, climatic conditions and terrain.

The role of an EDD team is to provide EDD support to the ADF and civilian agencies, in the detection of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), explosives, ammunition and weapons caches during proactive and reactive search operations. EDDs are not to be employed as mine dogs, guard dogs or mascots.

1. they can detect a variety of explosives, weapons & ammunition caches
2. they can conduct four types of search (building, area, route & vehicle)
3. they work off lead so they can cover a greater area & provide “stand-off”
4. they can work during the day and at night
5. they can be used where metal detectors are of little use (rubbish tips)
6. they can travel in all forms of transport

1. they have a reduced ability to detect target odours above a height of 1.2m
2. their buried hide capability varies depending on training & the environmental conditions
3. they cannot detect target odours on personnel unless trained to do so by The Special Operations Engineer Regiment (SOER)
4. they are in danger of initiating an explosive device, especially tripwire devices
5. their work performance may be affected by adverse weather conditions
6. their work performance may be affected by excessive distracting elements within or close to the search area (animals etc)
7. they may be reluctant to search areas that are harmful to themselves (glass and chemicals). Dog boots are used to mitigate this.

Planning factor: 30 – 40 minutes, with a 5-10 min break, for a total of 3 - 4 hours per day.

Environmental factors have a significant effect when searching for explosives as detailed below:
1. Temperature. Dogs are more efficient at generating a high body temperature in cold weather than reducing body temperature in hot weather. Therefore in cold temperatures the harness time of the EDD will increase but scent detection will be more difficult due to the condensing and freezing of the odour pool. Hot temperatures are more favourable for scenting, however harness time is considerably decreased.
2. Humidity. If the soil surface and the air are extremely dry, this will greatly reduce the transportation of target molecules from the soil to the air, making detection more difficult. Humid conditions will have the opposite effect.
3. Soil type. Hot and wet soil provide optimal vapour detection conditions. Snow can restrict scent although it is known to hold the scent well. When snow is melting, it may release encapsulated scent, which may make vapour detection favourable. Conversely sand is extremely difficult because it is generally dry and has no air pockets.
4. Wind speed and direction. The EDD must be searched into the wind whenever possible. Strong wind speeds (above 18m/s) may reduce the ability for the dog to indicate accurately.
5. Rain. A heavy downpour will force explosive odours deeper within the soil. A short light rain will have minimal impact. Sunshine will cause evaporation and enhance detection.
f. Vegetation. Dense vegetation is a limitation due to the dog and handler having restricted access and visibility to the search area.
6. Environmental contamination. Smoke, burning materials, explosive residue and pollution may disturb the dog and prevent it from working effectively. EDD’s can be employed post blast and post assault if trained to do so.
7. Soak Time. The longer an explosive is placed in the environment, the larger the developing odour pool will be, thus enhancing detection.
8. Container type. Explosive substances are released into the soil or atmosphere at different rates due to differences in the construction and design of the exterior casing.
9. Explosive size. The amount of explosive material that is present, and its surface area, will affect the release of explosive molecules into the air.
10. Explosive type. Some explosives due to their chemical nature are more easily detectable than others.
11. Explosive age. The scent picture produced by any explosive will start to degrade when buried and will vary with time.
12. Explosive depth. A shallow hide (less than 50mm) will be more easily detected by the EDD than a deeper hide.

1. EDDs do not verify suspicious items
2. allow EDDTs first undisturbed access to the search site when possible
3. EDDs must be allocated time for continuation training and rest
4. Explosive Detection Dog Handlers (EDDH) do not carry the ECM (electronic countermeasures) when working a dog
5. EDD teams require a No 2 as a cover-man and
6. do not pat or distract the EDD when they are working.

- dogs are not infallible and are subject to burn-out & off days,
- searches should remain vigilant and not focus on the EDD when searching,
- do not use EDDs indiscriminately and
- include the handler during the planning phase for advice on the EDD capability.



John Cannon

Warrant Officer John Cannon is the Explosive Detection Dog Capability Manager at the School of Military Engineering.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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