Dog Who Flunked Out of Service-Animal Training is Now Sniffing Out Arson Fires in Texas

John and Sheldon are one of seven active State Farm arson dog teams in Texas.
Heather Paul

Sheldon the Labrador mix "flunked out" of service-animal training because he was too distracted by scents. Now, he is able to use those skills to help the Texas Saginaw Fire Department.

Sheldon the dog started training to be a service animal a few years ago, but he flunked out because he was sniffing everything in sight. After he left the training school, the Michigan State Farm Arson Dog Program took him in and trained him to sniff out accelerants and the fuel used in arson fires.

"He had a strong drive to find things. He needed a job that could use his superhero nose," State Farm Arson Dog Program said in an email to Inside Edition Digital.

After Sheldon was assessed by trainers, they found him the perfect job and not long after, Sheldon was paired up with Lieutenant John Tadlock of the Saginaw Fire Department in Texas.

There he serves as the department's first accelerant detection canine. The two have been inseparable ever since.

Heather Paul

Arson dogs help "confirm or eliminate the possibility" of arson use in a fire, according to the training program.

An average dog's nose is "tens of thousands of times more sensitive to odors than human nose is," the program said in a statement. Arson dogs are trained using a food reward method and high, positive praise. Teams are required to recertify their dogs every year.

Sheldon, a Labrador Retriever mix is the perfect breed for arson jobs because the breed has "a superior ability to discriminate scents at a fire scene."

The breed can smell in parts per quintillion, and they are often known for having a good disposition and an outgoing personality, the program said

Most arson dog teams work 5-10 years, which means Sheldon has many years of service ahead of him. But when Sheldon retires he will live at Tadlock's home on a full-time basis and enjoy the rest of his life.

State Farm Arson Dog Program

State Farm has provided funding for the training and acquisition of more than 425 arson dog teams in 46 states, three Canadian provinces and the District of Columbia since 1993.

As of April 2021, there are 100 certified teams trained through the State Farm Arson Dog Program investigating suspicious fires throughout North America.

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