Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Kenneth G. Furton

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

DeEtta Mills

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Watson Lees

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Bruce McCord

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Martin Quirke

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


analytical chemistry

Date of Defense



Improving the accuracy and reliability of odor detection dogs is of utmost importance particularly for legal reasons. Field testing in conjunction with headspace analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) has in recent times allowed for these improvements, by providing scientifically based recommendations for optimum training protocols. The current project leveraged on these established capabilities to enhance three areas of odor detection: illicit drugs, explosives and mass storage devices.

With hemp being legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, legal questions have been raised regarding a dog’s ability to ignore hemp if trained to detect marijuana, as both are types of Cannabis. Results concluded that most dogs do alert to hemp; however, they can be successfully trained over time to discriminate between hemp and marijuana. Headspace analysis showed marked similarities between sets of both products with minor differences. These differences can be further investigated to determine if characteristic marijuana VOCs exist that can be included in canine training regimens. Other tests showed that dogs imprinted on current marijuana odor mimics can falsely respond to hemp as the VOC components of these mimics are not specific to marijuana. These mimics should therefore be avoided for further training purposes.

Dogs have been trained to detect and locate explosives such as triacetone triperoxide (TATP) that cannot be detected by most instrumental detectors. Headspace analysis showed TATP consisting primarily of the TATP molecule with relatively smaller amounts of the precursor acetone. Field tests determined that dogs imprinted on TATP may also falsely respond solely to the precursors acetone or hydrogen peroxide and as a result, additional training to ignore these VOCs should be considered.

Detection of mass storage device (MSDs) is a relatively new field with little understanding of optimum training methods for dogs. Headspace analysis of various MSDs showed that they do have characteristic VOCs that can allow for successful odor detection with specificity. Additionally, the validity of 1-hydroxyclohexylphenyl ketone and triphenylphosphine oxide (TPPO) as training compounds were also investigated. 1-hydroxyclohexylphenyl ketone was detected in MSDs but also in other electronic controls while TPPO was not detected in MSD components.





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