TSA to deploy more floppy-ear dogs because they’re less scary than pointy-ear dogs

Holiday travel
TSA officer Cedric Belvin and German shorthaired pointer Angus search departing passengers for explosives at Miami International Airport on Nov. 21. The head of TSA says the agency is trying to employ more dogs with floppy ears because they are less intimidating.
(Carl Juste / TNS)

In its effort to make the airport security screening process faster, the Transportation Security Administration is employing new high-tech baggage scanners, facial-recognition cameras and “automated lanes” to eliminate passenger gridlock.

But TSA Administrator David Pekoske said the agency is also making at least one new change to reduce traveler stress: deploying more floppy-ear dogs, rather than pointy-ear dogs, to sniff out explosives in public areas.

During a recent tour of Washington Dulles International Airport, Pekoske told the Washington Examiner that his agency believes floppy-ear dogs are less intimidating to travelers than dogs with pointy ears.

“We find the passenger acceptance of floppy-ear dogs is just better,” he said. “It presents just a little bit less of a concern. Doesn’t scare children.”


Briggs, a one-year-old chocolate lab, enjoys the newly reopened Paducah Dog Park at Stuart Nelson Pa
A chocolate lab with the kind of ears the TSA is looking for.
(Ellen O’Nan / AP)

The TSA has more than 900 teams of officers and explosive-sniffing dogs either screening passengers at airports or sniffing cargo and baggage behind the scenes. About a third of those dogs interact with passengers in airports, according to the TSA.

The agency says it trains seven breeds of dogs: German shepherds (pointy ears), Labrador retrievers (floppy ears), German shorthaired pointers (floppy ears), wirehaired pointers (floppy ears), Vizslas (floppy ears), Belgian Malinois (pointy ears) and golden retrievers (floppy ears).

Because of the federal shutdown, TSA representatives could not be reached to comment on how the agency will transition to more floppy-ear dogs.


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