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Transportation Security Administration employs friendlier-looking dogs

TSA explosives-detection dog Howard, at Reagan National Airport

TSA explosives-detection dog Howard, at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., has the floppy ears the agency seeks out. Photo Credit: The Washington Post / Astrid Riecken

The dogs deployed by the Transportation Security Administration at airports nationwide use their noses to sniff out explosives and contraband. But pooches selected for duty these days are picked not just for the ability of their snouts — the shape of their ears matters, too.

TSA officials say the agency is increasingly replacing retired pointy-eared dogs — think German shepherds — with floppy-eared sorts including Labrador retrievers. The recruits have a friendlier look, officials say.

"We find the passenger acceptance of floppy-ear dogs is just better. It presents just a little bit less of a concern," TSA Administrator David Pekoske told the Washington Examiner. "Doesn't scare children."

About 1,200 TSA dogs from seven breeds are used to screen U.S. passengers and baggage, TSA spokesman James Gregory told The Washington Post. Five are breeds whose ears rest softly on their heads: Labs, golden retrievers, German short-haired pointers, wire-haired pointers and Vizslas. Two have ears that shoot skyward: German shepherds and Belgian Malinoises.

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