Oct. 22, 2008 -- Ali is a highly trained German shepherd that spent eight years on narcotics patrol with the New Jersey police force, hunting down drug smugglers at airports and drug dealers on inner-city streets. Post-retirement, he's working in the private sector, sniffing teenagers' bedrooms.
Ali and his handler are now working for a new company in New Jersey called Sniff Dogs.
The company, which also conducts business in Ohio, rents drug-sniffing canines to parents for $200 an hour. It was started this year by Debra Stone, who says her five trained dogs can detect heroin, cocaine, crystal meth and ecstasy.
The dogs' noses are so sensitive that they can smell a marijuana seed from up to 15 feet away and marijuana residue on clothing from drugs smoked two nights before.
One of the selling points of this service? Avoiding the kind of confrontation that comes with a drug test.
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Pat Winterstein of Washington, N.J., was curious about the unusual specialty and turned to the dogs to search her teenagers' bedrooms.
"Most kids will deny it and then where do you turn?" said Winterstein, who has three children, the youngest of whom is 14. "Not knowing is worrisome. It's nice to know you can have something you can turn to."
The dogs did not find any drugs this time, but Winterstein says she'll keep doing the tests periodically, if necessary, to ensure that her children stay free of drugs.
Though critics say this approach runs the risk of breaking down the trust between parents and children, Winterstein says it offers her solace.
"As a parent you worry," she said. "My kids are great. I trust my kids, but you only can trust them so far."
Drug-sniffing dogs aren't the only measures parents are using to keep tabs on their children. There are now Global Positioning System devices that can be sewn into children's clothing to monitor how fast they're driving, and software that allows a parent to read text messages.
But some psychologists say these surveillance techniques can backfire.
"There are major repercussions for this type of intervention," said Dr. Neil Bernstein, a Washington, D.C.-based clinical psychologist and author of the book "How to Keep Your Teen Out of Trouble."
"When parents do this it erodes trust and goodwill."
Drug Dogs May Spot Warning Signs
Melinda Bennington of Chatham, N.J., wishes that she had dogs to help her see the warnings signs before it was too late. Her son Tom died of a heroin overdose two years ago.
"Had I known that in eighth grade he had actually already started snorting heroin, I probably would have done some things differently," she said in retrospect.
As parents, Bennington and Winterstein agree that checking up on children is not only a parent's right, but a responsibility.
"They're kids, young adults -- they're going to make [a] mistake," Winterstein said. "And I just want them to know that I'm here for them and that I'm doing my job to love and protect them. This is my way of protecting them."