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Dog team screens for explosives at Dulles International Airport (Photos)

Wednesday - 7/30/2014, 3:45pm  ET

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A tennis ball helps Maggie focus, even when her surroundings change regularly. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)
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DULLES, Va. -- Nobody likes a nosy co-worker, but cargo facilities around Dulles International Airport are full of them -- purposefully.

A team of nine explosive detection canines sniffs around cargo headed for nearby cities, world capitals and nations with unrest.

Airline passengers are often oblivious to or uninterested in what fills the cargo hold just below their feet.

But millions of tons of cargo annually -- medical supplies, diplomatic letters and produce -- are along for the ride on commercial flights, and all of it has to be screened.

It's just the kind of work for highly-trained dogs.

"A dog's nose is about 10,000 times stronger than a person's nose," says Rene Smith, an explosives detection canine handler.

Before the labs landed a job in aviation security, they went through twelve weeks of training. That training continues on a daily basis.

In a matter of minutes the dogs can screen and eliminate the possibility of explosives among the cargo.

"We actually identify the specific pieces that are going to be on board a passenger aircraft," Smith says. "Those are the pieces that we are going to target."

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