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Transportation Security Administration

TSA On the Job: Explosives Detection Canine Handler

Monday, July 25, 2016
K-9 Unit image

I’ve been working as an explosives detection canine handler at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) since 2010. My canine partner is Doc. He’s a male black Labrador and is 5 years old. He’s also a former Marine!

It’s a blast getting to work with him every day. There isn’t a day that goes by when he isn’t excited to come to work. I have to say that his excitement is contagious. It gets me even more excited when I see his energy. So as you would imagine, we work really well together.

Lori PotoczekCanines like Doc bring an exceptional capability to the screening process. There isn’t a machine that can duplicate what he and I can do together. We’re mobile and responsive and that nose of his can’t be beat. Think of it this way. When your mom is cooking soup and you come home – what do you smell? You smell soup. The dog smells the salt and pepper in the broth. He smells the carrots, the chicken and every other ingredient in the soup. That sensitive nose can smell more than delicious food though. It can also detect the materials that make up explosives.

TSA K-9’s undergo extensive training at the Lackland Air force base in San Antonio, TX, before being assigned to a permanent partner. Once that happens, the K-9s live with their handlers as part of their families. The handlers and dogs must develop a strong bond of trust and knowledge of each other to help handlers identify those subtle nuances their partner may exhibit when doing a search. My partnership with Doc has truly given me a worthy partner and a best friend. I spend more time with Doc than anyone else in my life. We work together, live together, and even go on vacation together!

It’s an honor to be a K-9 handler with Doc. Our mission makes a difference every single day. Most people don’t realize that without our efforts, multiple things would come to a halt at the airports and transportation systems across the nation. While extremely cute, our partner’s noses are also an extremely important tool in the fight against terrorism.

Lori Potoczek - TSA Explosives Detection Canine Handler


Submitted by Laura Monteros on

Great story!

Submitted by Coleen Mitchell on

This is wonderful to know. Great service you & Doc are doing. Thank you!
Most happy to hear that Doc is "FAMILY"!

Submitted by Bateswriter on

Good story on Doc and Lori! Thank you TSA for providing this type of close scrutiny at the airports. K9 "sniffer" dogs are amazing creatures as are their handlers who treat the animals with loving respect. I am always on the lookout for the dogs who work for TSA when I travel; once seeing a beagle alert to a pineapple in a carry-on in Customs at LAX. Thanks, too for this blog. I have learned a lot by reading what your staff posts.
Submitted by Vicki Fling on

Thank you for your service, Lori and Doc! The canines do such a wonderful job at screening passengers and baggage in a focused but non-aggressive manner. Wish TSA had many more!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Doc sounds awesome. Thank you for the work that you do. One note though. There's no such thing as "Was a Marine", Doc IS and will always be a Marine :)

Be safe !

Submitted by Adrian on

What are the false positive and false negative rates of canine alerts for explosives?

Submitted by RB on

In the article you say your dogs nose is important in the fight against terrorism. Tell us, how many weapons, explosives, or other devices has this dog found while assigned to TSA?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Hannah Cohen will not be forgotten.

Submitted by Susan Richart on

A couple of comments:

1. The photo seems to be from the "sterile" area of an airport. If TSA did its job at the checkpoint, why is this dog working the sterile area?

2. "Most people don’t realize that without our efforts, multiple things would come to a halt at the airports and transportation systems across the nation." That sentence certainly imparts absolutely no information at all. What "things" would cause a halt at airports and other transportation systems? TSA doesn't have enough canines to make that a possibility.

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

Submitted by FK on

You left out the fact that sniffer dogs are notoriously unreliable, no better than a coin flip:
"According to the analysis, officers found drugs or paraphernalia in only 44 percent of cases in which the dogs had alerted them."

Turns out, the dogs want to please their 'owners'. Alerting on things... pleases their owners. So, dogs alert on things, whether there's drugs or not. Yes, this is regarding drug sniffing dogs, not explosive sniffing dogs. But the principle is the same.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why don't you use more dogs and get rid of the naked body scanners, which have a 100% false positive rate?

Submitted by Anonymous on

You still won't address the Congressional report on misconduct among TSA employees. It wasn't flattering, so I can understand why you won't put up a blog post about it.

But you're also censoring comments on the subject. Like you're afraid that people might find out about it.

I suppose your little internet PR campaign would suffer a hit when people find out that nearly half of TSA employees have been cited for misconduct.

Submitted by Fix The TSA on

Bob, a puppy post? Really? I'm sure Lori is a nice person who loves dogs, but is this supposed to be continuation of the "Screeners Are Super!" posts you started and then stopped immediately a couple of months ago?

What latest TSA failure from which you are trying to distract the American public? The sick Seattle screener who was taking pictures up women's skirts? Donald Trump's claim that the TSA is terrible?

When will comments be allowed on this government website again?

Submitted by Susan Richart on

Vicki Fling wrong: "The canines do such a wonderful job at screening passengers and baggage in a focused but non-aggressive manner."

To me that acknlwledges that her fellow screeners are aggressive in doing their jobs. Thanks for the confirmation, Vicki!

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

Submitted by Fix The TSA on

West, this incident was reported by the DFW CBS affiliate on July 22, 2016. At that time, "Neither the TSA nor DFW Airport has commented on the incident."

West, will you provide any links to DHS or TSA comments, press releases, or any other data, info, words, Tweets, blog posts, Instagrams, etc. on this incident?


Submitted by RB on

Not a single mention of the TSA screener accused of taking upskirt photos at SEA.

What does Lori think about that?

Submitted by Gerard Wetzel on

This is great!

Dogs do a better job than humans at searching for narcotics, weapons etc.
I applause the TSA for doing their best to try to be as efficient as possible. I know most people will not understand, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

I personally think that is is better to wait an extra hour, even two, for a better guarantee of safety and security for me, my family and all other passengers.


Submitted by Andrew on

So great to see the inside workings of how the dogs are being used to help prevent crimes in the TSA

Submitted by Anonymous on

Let's hope Doc and Lori weren't part of all those tests that prove the tSA can't detect diddly squat and got Melvin Carraway fired.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Another day, another tSA scandal:

"Acting TSA director reassigned after screeners failed tests to detect explosives, weapons"

"U.S. airport security equipment improperly managed"

"Hidden cameras reveal airport workers stealing from luggage"

"This machine could cut airport wait times in half, but the TSA won't buy it"

"Man Steals TSA Bin, Now Uses it as Sock Drawer"

"Shocking security lapses let man walk through TSA checkpoint unnoticed"

"Hackers thwart TSA luggage locks"

"Report reveals extent of problems at TSA"

"Employee Misconduct at TSA Threatening Aviation Security"

"What’s Longer: TSA Lines or TSA Employee Retention?"

Submitted by Wintermute on

What crimes are they preventing, exactly?

Submitted by Wintermute on

Except you're not getting it. Ask an actual security expert. Everything the TSA does is theatre.

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

Why are you sniffing bags that have already been screened? Are you admitting that the screening misses dangerous things?

Submitted by Berenice Carissa on

I had my first experience with this at the Orlando airport about a week ago. It worked out great. We did not have to remove anything from our bags or take off our shoes or belts. Just get sniffed as we moved through security.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Would be nice if the guest writers would answer some questions about the articles they wrote.

Submitted by Mary Nielsen on

Seems that Doc and Lori provide a very important service to all of us, thank you guys!

Submitted by BadgerGal on

Man wouldn't it be great if dogs could replace those awful airport screening machines? I'd happily let a doggie sniff all over me and my stuff instead of having to get almost totally undressed in the middle of the airport! Keep up the good work! :)

Submitted by Commonsense Jet on

1. They were taking photos and doing an interview. Perhaps that is why they were in the so-called "sterile area." You realize you would not receive an answer to your questions from TSA because this is a news piece, not Q&A.
2. If there were no explosives sniffing canines at the airports, there would be searches of every single passenger and luggage before any departing flights and panic at every suspicious piece of luggage, suspicious person, etc. That would bring just about everything to a halt, while suspicious persons and things were searched. You can bet that a number of suspicious items would make it onto your plane then....goodbye to you!