Going through security screenings can be intimidating no matter what, but the agency is doing their best to make the process a little less scary. TSA’s canine units, often utilized for sniffing out dangerous substances in passengers’ luggage, can be frightening for children, so they’re making an effort to use canine breeds that look friendlier. This means swapping out retiring pointy-eared dogs for floppy-eared ones. During a tour of operations at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, 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.”
Of the 1,200 dogs used by TSA nationwide, 80 percent have droopy ears, while 20 percent have pointier ears. Floppy-eared dog breeds include Labrador retrievers, German shorthaired pointers, wirehaired pointers, Vizslas, and golden retrievers, so don’t be surprised if you notice an uptick in the number of these breeds at airports.
TSA maintains, however, that a dog’s ears will not be the primary factor in “hiring,” but its disposition, health, and ability to do the job.
To make the dogs even less intimidating, and appeal more widely to children, TSA’s public affairs office is even printing baseball cards for each dog that handlers can give to children who want to meet the dogs up close.