Meeting Etiquette from a Vegas K-9 Handler

Canine security patrols have become a standard safety measure at many events, but one of the perks of meeting in Las Vegas is that four of these screening companions are on staff and ready for duty year-round. Thanks to a gift last year by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority (LVCVA) now has four dogs.

(Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau)

LVCVA, which operates the 3.2 million-square-foot Las Vegas Convention Center, already had two yellow labs named Cooper and Pierce—and their handlers—on staff to search stationary items such as unattended luggage. This is a skill known as “sniff and sit.” The new additions, Bo and Wells, are black labs trained as “vapor wake” dogs because they look specifically for explosive materials and can wander through moving crowds, making them ideal defenses against suicide bombers. CTA, which produces the Consumer Electronics Show and brings in no fewer than 14 dogs for their massive event, also paid for ongoing training for resources that will be available for their event and any other that comes to town—something that could save planners money and give attendees peace of mind.

Smart Meetings talked to Woody Chan, LVCVA K-9 supervisor and Cooper’s handler, to find out what he—and the dogs—wished planners and attendees knew about the four-legged security details.

They are probably better trained than your rescue pup.

Bo and Wells trained at Auburn University’s canine performance school, a 7-week course for dogs and handlers, where they go through 280 hours doing scenario training—practicing sweeps of schools and office buildings. That is followed with weekly blind search training to keep them sharp and motivated. They have only ever found agents that were planted for them—so far.

Vapor wake dogs can screen up to 100 people walking through a crowd in a half hour. They are so well trained that their sense of smell works just as well at candy, marijuana or bath products shows. Even Cowboy Christmas, which features live bulls, gets their noses going looking for what is known as “air scent”, but doesn’t result in false alarms. “They can discriminate,” Chat says. Then he joked, “The pizza expo is a bit more of a distraction for the handler.”

They are on the job; don’t feed the dogs.

(Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau)

“People get excited when they see the dogs at events,” Chan reported. They want to pet them and talk to them. If they are at a standing post and the dog isn’t working, he welcomes questions. But he suggests asking the handler before touching or engaging with the dogs. “They are friendly, but they have a job to do.”

People usually say they are grateful that they are there, Chan reports. Just their presence makes people feel more comfortable. When President Donald Trump was in Las Vegas for a rally, Cooper and Chan were stationed in the crowd and people came up to him to say, “Thank you” for keeping them safe.

They are also part of the family.

The dogs live with their handlers, go home with them, go to the park with them—they even go on vacation with them. Cooper has been to Walt Disney World twice.

They also do a lot of community outreach, visiting schools and, in one occasion, appeared at the LVCVA Board of Directors meeting.

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