AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) — After more than a decade of development and multiple years in use, Auburn University’s Vapor Wake technology now has a designation program. The university hopes the program will bring greater implementation and availability of the technology.

“The designation program will allow licensees to train their own dogs using the Vapor Wake [(VW)] methodology, relieving what was a previous bottleneck to getting more VW dogs to the market,” said Dr. Troy Brady, director of commercialization at Auburn.

In the past, only one company was licensed to give Vapor Wake training. That licensee used a dog bred at Auburn, which does not breed canines for large-scale, commercial use.

“Vapor Wake is a unique system that lets a highly trained dog lead the search for a target of interest,” said Brady. He explained this approach differs from what people typically see in airports, when a handler leads a dog to sniff an already-identified target.

Brady has been involved with the Vapor Wake program for the past year-and-a-half as its designation program gets off the ground. He said it was a transition which made sense, due to his past working with Auburn’s Veterinary College since he came to the university 10 years ago.

“Really, Vapor Wake technology can be applied to the detection of essentially anything that leaves a vapor trail,” said Brady. He added dogs trained using this technology are able to track guns, bombs, moving targets and more.

Currently, there are three companies which are licensed to provide Vapor Wake services, sales and certifications, according to Auburn’s website. These are the Global K9 Protection Group (GK9PG), The Parker K9 Group LLC and K9 Guild LLC. While all offer Vapor Wake certifications and re-certifications, only the GK9PG is licensed to sell Vapor Wake dogs.

According to Brady, Vapor Wake dogs need more than just a good nose. He explained the dog’s personality type and training all factor into whether it will be successful in the program. Brady said most Vapor Wake canines begin their training only a week after birth.

GK9PG’s notes on its website that it purchases dogs from Auburn University‘s Canine Performance Sciences (CPS) program.  The organization’s screening process for dogs tests each canine’s social and environmental behaviors, desire to search and levels of aggression. Each dog also undergoes a medical evaluation from a veterinarian.

As the designation rolls out, Brady said Auburn’s goal is that it will partner with more companies who will provide Vapor Wake dogs in the future.

Auburn’s director of commercialization also hopes Vapor Wake implementation will go beyond airports and train stations. Brady said he’d like to see Vapor Wake dogs at “any public place where security might be needed, or where there might be a threat of a moving target.” He listed examples of event venues, schools and hospitals.

The Vapor Wake designation program was announced by Auburn on June 29, 2023.

“The development of Vapor Wake detection technology by Auburn University showcases the institution’s commitment to research and innovation, emphasizing the profound impact that can be achieved through collaboration between academia and industry,” said Brady in the press release.

He continued, “This new designation program will serve to broaden those impacts while preserving the unique methodology and practice at the core of genuine Vapor Wake detection services.”