Alhough only temporarily deployed at a school to fill in for another drug-detection dog, Yaska, a 12-year-old Dutch Shepherd, shows how its done. Trained to detect marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, Yaska makes her point by tapping the object with a paw, sitting, and barking — all signals that say yes, she’s sure.
Her reward: Yaska gets to play with her rubber toy for about 30 seconds — then has to give it back and is asked to start all over again looking for drugs.
When she finds more drugs, she gets to play again.
What makes Yaska an excellent drug dog is her strong prey drive, which causes the insatiable desire for the reward, says her owner and trainer Judith Powell of Longview, Texas. While most dogs will happily play with a ball, not many would opt to do that 24/7, says Powell, co-owner of Seven Pines Kennel, a facility that trains police and drug detection dogs. Only the dog that always wants to play, [earn the reward] no matter what, will make a reliable detection dog.
Pick up this month’s issue of Dog Fancy for the full story.