Change in Mood: TSA Recruits Floppy-Eared Detection Dogs


Katie Popp, Web Content Manager

The last time you were at the airport did you notice a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) dog sniffing your luggage and carry-ons? It was sniffing for drugs, explosives and other contraband. But did you notice the breed of dog it was?

Traditionally, the TSA has used German Shepherds, Belgian Malinoises and other pointy-eared dogs. However, the TSA said that they’re now recruiting other breeds as well – breeds with floppy ears, including Labrador retrievers. TSA Administrator David Pekoske said, “We find the passenger acceptance of floppy-ear dogs is just better. It presents just a little bit less of a concern and doesn’t scare children.”

TSA Spokesman James Gregory added that approximately 1,200 TSA dogs from seven breeds are used to screen U.S. passengers and baggage. Five of the breeds have floppy ears: Labs, golden retrievers, German short-haired pointers, wire-haired pointers and Vizslas; and two have pointed ears: German shepherds and Belgian Malinoises. He also said that about 4 in 5 recent recruits have floppy ears, and the agency hopes to stick to that ratio. The consideration of ear position, he added, was an informal internal decision “that is more about adapting to people’s perceptions about floppy-eared dogs (sporting breeds) being more friendly vs. pointy-eared dogs (herding dog breeds) that may appear to be more aggressive-looking.” The TSA’s understanding of passenger views on detection dog ears is anecdotal and not based on survey data.

All the dogs, regardless of breed and ear position, wear “Do Not Pet” vests. While these dogs should not be approached and petted, Gregory added that there should be a balance. “We don’t want people to shy away because they’re scared.”