Meet our CIA spy dogs!

Ok, well, technically they’re not “spy dogs.” But our CIA K9 Corps serves an important role in our mission. They sniff out explosives and protect CIA officers and our buildings from bombs and other explosive threats.

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Dogs can find bombs!

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell that makes them perfect for finding explosive odors. That’s because their noses are 10,000 times better than yours or mine! Imagine two million barrels of fresh apples: A dog could find a single rotten apple hidden among them.

Once a dog learns the scent of a particular explosive, it can pick out that scent even when that explosive is mixed with several other chemicals. In fact, our dogs can learn to recognize a few dozen individual explosive odors over a period of several weeks, and with that knowledge, they can detect more than 20,000 different explosive mixtures!

Watch the video below to find out how we train dogs to find bombs and become “spy dogs!”

Brave pups

Our dogs practice searching for explosives in all kinds of strange places, including under huge machines like tractors! That way they’ll never be scared during a real search.

Training your dog?

Would you like to learn some tricks on how to train your own dog? See our top 10 dog training tips.

Where do our spy dogs come from?

Our CIA dog trainers pick out the new puppy recruits when they are between one and three years old. Most pups come from either a service dog training program or a program like Puppies Behind Bars, where prison inmates care for the pups and train them basic obedience.

Most of our dogs are Labrador Retrievers because labs are known for their high energy, friendly personality, and love of food. Our program uses only food-based, positive reinforcement training methods, so a strong food drive and a high level of energy are extremely important for any CIA spy dog wannabe.

The trainers do a lot of really silly things to keep the pups interested and to help them learn. When the pups do something right, the trainers erupt into squeals of delight (sometimes cartoon voices too!), jump around, and praise them like the dogs just found a pot of gold. Then the pups get kibbles of dog food, followed by a lot of belly rubs and maybe even games of tug-of-war… whatever the dogs love and get excited about. Just like with kids, when the pups are having fun, they learn more.

“What you’re feeling runs straight down the leash to the dog. If you’re having a bad day, your dog will behave accordingly.”

And they only learn a few dozen scents?

How’s it possible for a dog to learn only a few dozen scents, yet be able to detect so many different explosives mixtures?

Let’s say you and your dog walk into your grandmother’s house and smell beef stew cooking on the stove. You might be able to pick out a few ingredients, but generally you smell the delicious stew as a whole. When your dog sniffs the pot of beef stew, however, she smells the carrots, salt, beef, celery, onions, paprika and anything else in it. She can pick out each ingredient and can tell the difference between them all. Yet to you and me, it just smells like stew.

If, for example, your dog was taught to pick out the scent of carrots and tell you whenever carrots where nearby, she would then alert you when your grandma showed up at your house with a batch of beef stew. Your dog could pick out the carrots from the rest of the ingredients that make up the stew.

Pretty incredible, right?!

On-call 24/7 to keep Americans safe

Our dogs help local police and other government agencies search for bombs. We also train detection dogs for police, fire departments, and even the FBI!

Spy dog collectors cards

Do you want to take our spy dogs home with you? Then you’re in luck because our dogs have their very own trading cards! Download the entire set or view the cards online. (Remember to click on the online cards to view the dogs’ stats.)

Can’t get enough of our CIA critters?

In addition to “spy dogs,” we also have pigeons who fly secret missions, spy bugs (listening devises) who are actual bugs, and even a robotic catfish. Explore our site and see if you can find them!

Puppy class!

Even spy dogs have to go to school.