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According to the Transportation Security Administration, floppy-eared dogs are less intimidating than dogs with pointy ears.

That theory is the basis of a new TSA initiative to put air passengers more at ease around the growing bomb-sniffing units at airports around the country. TSA Administrator David Pekoske said at a recent visit to Dulles Airport (IAD) in Washington, DC, that the agency is making a “conscious effort” to deploy floppy-eared canines because they are less frightening to some flyers.

“We find the passenger acceptance of floppy-ear dogs is just better,” Pekoske told the Washington Examiner last week. “It presents just a little bit less of a concern. Doesn’t scare children.”

The Examiner reports that of the 1,200 dogs the TSA employs, 80% are floppy-eared breeds, which include Labrador Retrievers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Wirehaired Pointers, Vizslas and Golden Retrievers. German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois breeds account for 20% of the pointed-ear counterparts. Favoring the friendlier-looking canines was an informal internal decision that was not submitted on any paperwork the TSA told the Examiner.

About one-third of the TSA’s bomb-sniffing dogs interact with passengers in the airport, the Los Angeles Times reports, while the remaining dogs perform duties like sniffing cargo and baggage. At some airports, the agency has been striving in recent months to use more explosive-detecting canines to sweep passengers and create separate, expedited security lines for flyers that have been sniffed by the dogs.

TPG‘s requests for comment from the TSA were not returned by time of publication.

Featured image by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

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