Can Beagle Dogs Smell Cocaine?

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Introduction

Law enforcement agencies, among others, use sniffer-dogs to find things such as explosives, bodies, blood, or illegal substances like cocaine. Sniffer-dogs are used at security points, border points, public places, and at crime scenes to help locate criminal issues. These dogs are trained to sniff out things that no human could, as a dog’s nose is hundreds of times more sensitive than ours. They can actually detect even a small amount of whatever they are trained to sniff out.

Once a sniffer dog has located a scent, such as cocaine, they are trained to provide their handler a sign. These signals can be anything from sitting to pawing. The signals that are taught to sniffer-dogs vary depending on what they are trained to search for. When it comes to breeds of dogs, there are some that make better sniffer-dogs, such as Beagles, as they have a very good sense of smell and they have the innate drive to work and use it. 

Signs Beagles Can Smell Cocaine

When a Beagle has located cocaine, for instance, they need to be able to signal it and the way in which this signal is done can vary. A signal can either be aggressive or passive. Passive signals are usually used in public locations to avoid causing alarm to the public. Another instance where a passive signal may be used is when a Beagle is locating explosives, as an aggressive sign may cause the explosives to detonate.   

Passive signals for cocaine detection could include sniffing, sitting, or raised ears.

Aggressive signs for cocaine detection could be barking, pawing, or digging at an object.

Body Language

Signs to watch for if your Beagle has detected something include:
  • Barking
  • Digging
  • Sniffing
  • Raise ears

Other Signs

More signs to watch for are:
  • Trained behaviors
  • Pawing at your leg
  • Sitting where the drugs are located

History Behind Beagles Smelling Cocaine

Originally, Beagles were bred for hunting purposes. These days, however, they can be seen having many other responsibilities, such as for therapy, as pets, and of course, for detection reasons.  

In Australia, Beagles have been used to detect termites, as well as being viewed as suitable for explosive and drug detection. As they have an average build and a gentle nature, they can also be seen in roles related to pet therapy, such as visiting the elderly and the sick in hospital.

In 2006, a Beagle that had been trained to be an assistance dog saved the life of its owner as it managed to use its owner’s mobile phone to call for rescue. Also, in 2010, after the Haiti earthquake, a Colombian rescue group had a Beagle that was used for search and rescue. This Beagle managed to locate the owner of a hotel who was buried under rubble for 100 hours!

The use of Beagles as drug-sniffing dogs is fairly new, as originally, other breeds were preferred, but now Beagles can be used to their full potential. 

Science Behind Beagles as Sniffer Dogs

Sniffer-dogs (including Beagles) can smell many different drugs aside from cocaine; for example, they can be trained to detect methamphetamine, opiates, LSD, marijuana, heroin, and ecstasy. When it comes to how far a dog can smell such drugs, it varies, and depends on the breed of a dog, as each breed has a different amount of scent receptors. If we create an analogy of a dog's scenting abilities portrayed as vision, what a human can see at one-third of a mile, a dog would be able to see at 3,000 miles away.

At the top of the list of scent receptors are Bloodhounds, who have a whopping 300 million, while Beagles and German Shepherds have around 225 million. These receptors can be found in the fold of a dog’s nose. When you think that a human only has 3 million of these receptors, you can see why Beagles and other dogs are ahead of the game when it comes to scent detection.

Training a Beagle to Smell Cocaine

Beagles are not only excellent sniffers but they are trained to know how to behave when in public. They are aware that they need to remain calm when in an area that has many distractions, such as that of a crime scene or border patrol, and to focus on finding the cocaine. For this reason, a Beagle that is mature, obedient, and has good experience is necessary to work in these difficult circumstances.

Beagles inherently like to play and this is a good motivator for them. Therefore, a favorite toy such a towel or a ball is a perfect piece of equipment when it comes to training. Before you do anything, you need to play with the Beagle and the favorite toy so that a craving to play has been created. It is also worth exposing your Beagle to various situations. That way, your Beagle is more likely to be calm when working and will not get distracted by sounds and other sights. Once all of this has been accomplished, you will now ready to begin training. Follow the steps below:

  1. Give your Beagle an unscented towel and play tug of war and fetch. This will help make them fixated on this particular toy.

  2. Scent the towel with the scent of cocaine and continue to play with the Beagle. The Beagle will soon associate the scent of cocaine with the towel.

  3. Hide the scented towel and play a game of hide and seek with the Beagle. Start with easy-to-find locations and even let the Beagle see where you hid the towel when you first begin to play.

  4. When the Beagle has located the towel, add a signal such as ‘sit.’ This will become his signal and now you can reward the Beagle with play.

  5. Slowly make the hiding places more difficult. Hide the scent under and in objects. Once the Beagle is capable of locating the scent, the Beagle will be ready to locate the cocaine on its own, and once located, remember to reward the Beagle with play.

How to React to Your Beagle Smelling Cocaine:

  • Although it's unlikely your Beagle will signal unless trained to, if you come across Cocaine, contact your local authorities and do not touch it yourself.
  • Some Beagles are not suitable for smelling Cocaine, particularly those who are very lively and difficult to train. In this instance, it's time to find them a new job.