Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 406, Issue 30, pp 7817–7825 | Cite as

“Fooling fido”—chemical and behavioral studies of pseudo-explosive canine training aids

  • William D. Kranz
  • Nicholas A. Strange
  • John V. GoodpasterEmail author
Research Paper


Genuine explosive materials are traditionally employed in the training and testing of explosive-detecting canines so that they will respond reliably to these substances. However, challenges arising from the acquisition, storage, handling, and transportation of explosives have given rise to the development of “pseudo-explosive” training aids. These products attempt to emulate the odor of real explosives while remaining inert. Therefore, a canine trained on a pseudo-explosive should respond to its real-life analog. Similarly, a canine trained on an actual explosive should respond to the pseudo-explosive as if it was real. This research tested those assumptions with a focus on three explosives: single-base smokeless powder, 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), and a RDX-based plastic explosive (Composition C-4). Using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry with solid phase microextraction as a pre-concentration technique, we determined that the volatile compounds given off by pseudo-explosive products consisted of various solvents, known additives from explosive formulations, and common impurities present in authentic explosives. For example, simulated smokeless powders emitted terpenes, 2,4-dinitrotoluene, diphenylamine, and ethyl centralite. Simulated TNT products emitted 2,4- and 2,6-dinitrotoluene. Simulated C-4 products emitted cyclohexanone, 2-ethyl-1-hexanol, and dimethyldinitrobutane. We also conducted tests to determine whether canines trained on pseudo-explosives are capable of alerting to genuine explosives and vice versa. The results show that canines trained on pseudo-explosives performed poorly at detecting all but the pseudo-explosives they are trained on. Similarly, canines trained on actual explosives performed poorly at detecting all but the actual explosives on which they were trained.

Graphical Abstract

Example of a test where a series of identical, unmarked containers are presented to a trained canine. Each container may contain nothing (a blank), a substance on which the canine has been imprinted (target odor), a substance that is being tested for canine response (test odor) or a non-explosive material (distractor)


Canine olfaction Explosives detection Solid phase microextraction Explosives Pseudo-explosives 



The authors would like to acknowledge Vohne Liche Kennels for their assistance in training and hosting the animals, as well as the canines themselves: Shmonski, Jeff, Hard, Gucci, Jory, Eso, Daisy, Aaron, Hero, Pack, Gray, Tessa, Roy, Boefie, Tony, and Grim. Financial support for this research was provided by the Technical Support Working Group (TSWG) of the Department of Defense.


  1. 1.
    Furton KG, Myers LJ (2001) The scientific foundation and efficacy of the use of canines as chemical detectors for explosives. Talanta 54(3):487–500. doi: 10.1016/S0039-9140(00)00546-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Oxley JC, Smith JL, Resende E, Pearce E (2003) Quantification and aging of the post-blast residue of TNT landmines. J Forensic Sci 48(4):742–753Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ramos C, Dagdigian PJ (2007) Detection of vapors of explosives and explosive-related compounds by ultraviolet cavity ringdown spectroscopy. Appl Opt 46(4):620–627CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Sanchez C, Carlsson H, Colmsjo A, Crescenzi C, Batlle R (2003) Determination of nitroaromatic compounds in air samples at femtogram level using C18 membrane sampling and on-line extraction with LC-MS. Anal Chem 75:4639–4645CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Cragin JH, Leggett DC (2003) Diffusion and flux of explosive-related compounds in plastic mine surrogates. NTIS, Springfield, VAGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Leggett DC, Cragin JH, Jenkins TF, Ranney T (2001) Release of explosive-related vapors from land mines. U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development, Hanover, NHGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    National Research Council (2004) Existing and potential standoff explosives detection techniques. The National Academies, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Lorenzo N, Wan T, Harper RJ, Hsu Y, Chow M, Rose S, Furton K (2003) Laboratory and field experiments used to identify Canis lupus var. familiaris active odor signature chemicals from drugs, explosives, and humans. Anal Bioanal Chem 376:1212–1224. doi: 10.1007/s00216-003-2018-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Harper RJ, Almirall JR, Furton KG (2005) Identification of dominant odor chemicals emanating from explosives for use in developing optimal training aid combinations and mimics for canine detection. Talanta 67(2):313–327. doi: 10.1016/j.talanta.2005.05.019 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kury JW, Simpson RL, Hallowell SF (1997) Development of Non-Hazardous Explosives For Security Training and Testing (NESST). Paper presented at the 5th International Symposium on the Analysis and Detection of Explosives, Washington, DC, December 4–8, 1995Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Oxley JC (2005) Determination of the vapor density of triacetone triperoxide (TATP) using a gas chromatography headspace technique. Propellants Explos Pyrotechnics 30(2):127–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Oxley JC (2004) Training dogs to detect triacetone triperoxide (TATP). In: SPIE (ed) in Proc. of SPIE, Bellingham, WAGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Schoon A, et al. (2006) Training and testing explosive detection dogs in detecting TATP. Forensic Sci Commun 8 (4)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kaul P, Becher C, Holl G, Maurer S, Sündermann A, Dülsner U (2011) EMPK®—novel training aids for explosives sniffer dogs. J Vet Behav: Clin Appl Res 7 (1):55–56. doi: 10.1016/j.jveb.2011.12.004
  15. 15.
    Moore S, MacCrehan W, Schantz M (2011) Evaluation of vapor profiles of explosives over time using ATASS (Automated Training Aid Simulation using SPME). Forensic Sci Int 212(1–3):90–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kranz W, Kitts K, Strange N, Cummins J, Lotspeich E, Goodpaster J (2014) On the smell of Composition C-4. Forensic Sci Int 236:157–163. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2013.12.012 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (1996) 104 edn., United StatesGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Chino S, Kato S, Seo J, Kim J (2013) Measurement of 2-ethyl-1-hexanol emitted from flooring materials and adhesives. J Adhes Sci Technol 27(5–6):659–670. doi: 10.1080/01694243.2012.690656 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Perr JM, Furton KG, Allmiral JR (2005) Application of a SPME-IMS detection system for explosives detection. Proc SPIE 5778(1):667–672. doi: 10.1117/12.605869 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Beveridge A (2011) Forensic investigation of explosions, 2nd edn. Taylor & Francis, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    MacCrehan W, Moore S, Schantz M (2012) Reproducible vapor-time profiles using solid phase microextraction with an externally sampled internal standard. J Chromatogr A 1244:28–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Heramb RH, McCord BR (2002) The manufacture of smokeless powders and their forensic analysis: a brief review. Forensic Sci Commun 4 (2)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Lazarowski L, Dorman DC (2014) Explosives detection by military working dogs: olfactory generalization from components to mixtures. Appl Animal Behav Sci 151:84–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • William D. Kranz
    • 1
  • Nicholas A. Strange
    • 1
  • John V. Goodpaster
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Forensic and Investigative Sciences ProgramIndiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)IndianapolisUSA

Personalised recommendations