Acorn the arson detection dog visits the Animal Care Club

All eyes were on Acorn

Over twenty students and a half dozen teachers sat around the perimeter of John Jay Middle School’s theater entrance, watching expectantly as the black lab trotted through the door. Acorn went to the back of the room, doubled back, and beelined to Sara Martinez—or more specifically, to the tip of her boot, where Detective John Peters had put a drop of gasoline—and sat down.

“Wowl” “That was so fast!” “That’s amazing,” the students said.

Acorn offers clues ... and cuddles

Seeing Acorn in action expanded students’ view of what dogs can do

The lovable, playful and highly trained arson detection dog visited John Jay Middle School’s Animal Care Club recently with his partner Westchester County Police Detective John Peters. The visit was arranged with the help of KLSD School Resource Officer Brett Schlosser, who is also a Westchester County Police Officer.

“The students saw firsthand how Acorn uses his keen sense of smell and extensive training to detect accelerants and help solve arson cases,” said Club Advisor Jane Williams.

“How did you train Acorn to find the gasoline?” one student asked Detective Peters.

“He has to sniff an accelerant like gasoline before every meal,” answered Detective Peters. “That’s the only time he eats. We don’t want him to lose desire to find gasoline.”

Detective Peters explained that while Acorn is trained not to eat food from the floor because it could be a dangerous substance, such as rodent poison, he is never disciplined for pulling. “When he is at a fire scene, we want him to pull,” Detective Peters said to the students.

“What happens when you go to the gas station?” another student asked.

“He doesn’t go crazy because he is not in work mode,” said Detective Peters. “When we go to a building that’s just burnt down, he knows.”

trained by positive reinforcement

lovable, playful and highly trained

While petting Acorn and getting dog kisses, students learned that a dog's sense of smell is 50 times that of a human. Dogs can be trained to find anything that has a consistent smell, a category that includes cell phones as well as Legos.

“When Acorn retires, we’ll continue to play hide and seek,” said Detective Peters. “It’s so much fun! It’s not only a police job, but also a game.”