The short answer: yes, sort of. Dogs' noses are insanely powerful. Dogs have about 25 times more smell receptors than people do and can smell concentrations at about 100 million times lower than human beings can. To put that in perspective, if you took the sensory skin tissue off your dog's nose, laid it flat, and spread it out, you'd have about 450 square feet of sensory tissue - that's about the size of a tiny studio apartment. Within that square footage are over 200 million scent receptors, 15 million of which have infrared detection, too
For the longer answer about doggy-sniffing capabilities, read on! We've got all the information about drug dogs, how dogs sensory receptors work, and information on how you can train your dog to become a drug-detecting-machine. Enjoy!
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Signs Your Dog has Smelled Drugs
So, what will a trained drug-dog do to let you, the police, or their trainer know that they've detected the drugs they're looking for? First, they'll do a ton of sniffing. When your dog catches the familiar scent they're looking for, you better believe they're going to investigate. Expect a sniffing frenzy.
Next, your dog will definitely bark up a storm. Your dog has been trained to sniff out something familiar, and when they find it after sniffing like crazy, they're going to want to get your attention. Barks, growls, and other howls are not off-limits, and you can certainly expect your doggo to do those things.
You can also expect your dog to do a ton of scratching in the area that they have found the drugs! Expect your pooch to just go absolutely wild with scratching, growling, barking, and jumping when he or she finds the drugs they're looking for.
History of Dogs Smelling for Drugs
Our use of detection dogs started in 1940 when the US used pups to sniff out German bombs in North Africa. Then, in the 1970s, we evolved our use for doggo sniffers and created fleets of drug-sniffing dogs that were designed to find methamphetamines, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and more! Now, police forces, goverment organizations, and even private companies train and mantain fleets of pups for this exact purpose.
The Science Behind Dogs Smelling Drugs
Instead of dogs smelling through things, consider that odors permeate from everything. Odors create whats called a scent cone which is not restricted by its container. That means everything creates a scent and generally, that scent cone will emanate from a static location up to a cylindrical configuration that will be affected or distorted by heat, moisture, air, sun, shade, and more.
Odors are detectable and this happens because of molecular movements from solids and liquids into the atmosphere. So, each odor will create its own scent cone outside of whatever it's being stored in, and your dog is trained to track down that scent cone specifically.
Training Your Dog to Sniff Out Drugs
That being said, consider working with a trainer to get your pup certified as a drug dog. For starters, make sure you're taking your dog to a trainer while he or she is still young. They need to have outgrown most of their puppy tendencies, but must have that youthful desire to run, play, chase, and sniff instilled in them.
Once your trainer has developed a relationship with your dog, he or she will start the training process in a surprising way - by playing. Your trainer will have a specific toy or towel and they'll get your dog hooked on playing with it.
Gradually, they'll introduce drugs into that toy or towel so your dog associates that scent with their favorite toy. That's right - when drug dogs detect drugs, they don't know that they're finding something bad. Instead, they think they're finding their favorite toy and that it will be playtime soon enough!
How to React if Your Dog Smells Drugs:
Make sure you contact the authorities.
Reward your dog immensely.
Ensure your dog didn't ingest any of the drug that they found.
Consider training your dog for drug sniffing.