News Article Image of Tennessee company will produce new training device for bomb-sniffing dogs
An explosive canine officer with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency walks Cody, a four-year veteran explosive K-9 officer, during the Presidential Inauguration ceremonies. (Air Force/Eric Miller)

A small business in Tennessee is readying production of an enhancer tool for the training of bomb-sniffing dogs.

On March 22, the Department of Defense (DoD) licensed its patent-pending mixed odor delivery device, or MODD, to Per Vivo Labs in Kingsport, Tennessee. The company was founded in 2012 by Russ Hubbard, an Army combat veteran who lost friends to a improvised bomb in Afghanistan.

“The MODD is going to allow dog trainers to safely create odor mixtures with an oxidizer and a fuel,” said Hubbard. “We’re still looking at the design, but basically up to four jars of compounds will sit in separate compartments. Their smells mix together and the trainer can regulate the amount of odor released.”

New Training Device for Bomb-Sniffing Dogs
Prototypes of the Mixed Odor Delivery Device. (DoD photo)

The limits of canine detections are unknown, but are believed to be superior to any man-made instrument. Dog noses contain 50 times more olfactory receptor cells than humans’, and the canine olfactory bulb is 600 times larger.

It’s difficult to regularly train the working dogs with actual explosives, and training efforts are often focused on just half of the explosive, the oxidizer, because the other half, the fuels, are volatile. This leaves the dogs less proficient in detecting the actual mixtures.

A team of DoD scientists researched, designed, and prototyped the MODD to produce realistic bomb vapors. In 2014, they applied for a provisional patent. Further testing showed that canines were able to alert on the MODD device at the same rate as actual explosives.

This is Hubbard’s second helping of DoD technology. TechLink, a Montana-based DoD partner, also helped Hubbard finalize a license for the Army’s rate-activated tether technology in February. His company intends to sell both products to civilian and military customers.

“It’s a win for everyone, including the taxpayer, when smaller, nimble companies like Per Vivo take defense research and get it into the field quickly,” said TechLink’s Austin Leach.