Monday, October 28, 2013

So What Can Drug Dogs Smell

Drug dogs are used by police to search for illegal drugs.

According to reports from CNN, dogs have highly developed olfactory senses that can be used to detect a wide variety of smells, including those produced by narcotics and other illegal drugs. A dog's sense of smell is often so highly developed it can sense a smell that a human nose cannot. According to the Connecticut State Police, German Shepherds are one of the most highly preferred dog breeds for drug detection.

Canine Olfactory Senses

According to experts at Alabama A&M University, a dog's sense of smell can be 1,000 times more powerful than a human's. A dog has approximately 220 million receptors in its nose, while humans have closer to 5 million. Dogs also have a specialized organ called the vomeronasal organ that works to enhance their sense of smell.

Narcotic Detection

According to one report by ABC News, dogs can be trained to detect and identify illegal drugs such as heroin, crystal meth, ecstasy, marijuana and cocaine. Dog noses are so sensitive that they can smell marijuana seeds from up to 15 feet away, and they can also smell residue on clothes for up to two days after a person smokes marijuana.

Training Dogs for Detection

According to experts, dog trainers are able to teach dogs to smell and locate various narcotics and illegal drugs. Dogs are first taught basic commands using positive reinforcement, such as rewards. Dogs learn to sit, walk, dig, bark and find on-command from a trainer. Once they learn these commands, they are exposed to "pseudonarcotics" that contain smells similar to controlled substances, such as cocaine, heroin or marijuana. The dogs are taught to differentiate the smells and alert a handler to the location by barking or making other physical signals with their bodies.


Individual police associations have specific standards that dogs must meet in order to be certified for the detection of narcotics. Drugs will be hidden in a variety of locations, such as vehicles, luggage or buildings, and a dog must properly identify the smell and alert his handler to the location. Dogs are tested in a variety of settings with a variety of smells, and they are scored on the results. The dog is then passed or failed for certification as a detection dog.

Common Substances Seized

Dogs are able to detect a wide variety of substances related to the illegal sale and distribution of drugs. One study of a police dog training program in Texas reported that dogs identified drug tainted currency, as well as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD and peyote.

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