Most of the puppies are faring well in training, though one female, Cayman, is lagging a little behind.
"To expect all the dogs to be superstars is far-fetched, but we're not giving up on her either," Anderson said. Whereas the other puppies have a natural desire to hunt scents, Cayman's will be a trained desire, he said.
To encourage Cayman, who doesn't always actively pursue the towel, Anderson and Cayman's handler Sgt. Eric Kretzer sometimes involve another puppy.
The competition for the towel raises Cayman's interest.
Ruger is the largest puppy at about 40 pounds. He is the furthest along in his training. He was the first of the puppies to try a training exercise in which marijuana is hidden inside one of a series of boxes. He is expected to eventually patrol two state prisons in the Cumberland, Md., area.
His handler, Sgt. Craig Blank, had Ruger stop at each box to see if he picked up a drug scent. Once a dog picks up the scent, it is told to sit and then is given a reward. This exercise teaches them to sit whenever they find a drug scent, drawing their handlers' attention to their findings.
When puppies complete a task successfully they are rewarded by their handlers with high-pitched praise similar to baby talk. The dogs respond to voice inflection, Anderson said ? high-pitched pleasantries for positive re-enforcement and a harsh tone to correct a dog.
Before the handlers work with the puppies they work with 5-gallon buckets to learn leash control and timing.
"You don't feel so foolish talking to a dog in high-pitch tones after you've talked to a bucket for a few days," Anderson said.