They're a familiar sight in airports across the world—but bomb detection dogs remain something of a mystery to many people.  They wear jackets advising members of the public to refrain from petting them and wander through wide open spaces with their handlers in a seemingly unfocused fashion, right up until the moment they respond to something.  If you find their patrolling intimidating, however, you should comfort yourself with the knowledge that they're definitely keeping you safe.  It might help to know a little more about them—so here are just a few interesting facts.

They're Better Than Robots

Bomb detection dogs are effective in detecting explosives of many kinds, and their training is often topped up to include newer at-risk materials.  Scientists have attempted to replicate dog noses in order to create artificial bomb detectors, and these do work—but so far, they haven't been able to beat the efficiency of real dogs.  This is likely because dogs have over 40 times the olfactory capacity of a human.  That's not easy to replicate.

They Respond Better to Female Handlers

This is a general rule, and not true of every dog or every handler—but expert trainers have noted it as a general trend.  Because the dogs are trained using a high-pitched voice to denote a positive result and a low-pitched voice to denote a negative result, it is said that they may have an easier time understanding the positive tone in a female handler's higher-pitched voice.  Of course, this effect likely reduces over time as a dog gets used to their handler's specific voice and gestures.

They're Know When They're on the Clock

They may not count down the minutes like humans do, but explosive detection dogs do understand that there's a difference between working hours and non-working hours.  Their behaviour is significantly different during these times, and they must be signalled by their handler to switch between these modes of operation.  This is, in fact, the reason why you're asked not to pet working dogs; petting is associated with playtime, and experiencing that during work time may confuse the dog.

These obedient and clever canines simply cannot be beaten.  Both their abilities and their willingness to work are unrivalled by every alternative method humans have managed to think of—so next time you see one of these special members of the security team at the airport or out and about, be sure to remember what a great job they're doing.