Can Bloodhound Dogs Smell Marijuana?

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In today's society, its common knowledge that the Bloodhound breed of canines has one of the most superb senses of smell, granting them the ability to sniff out an assortment of objects and substances, including people! Did you hear the story of the young Bloodhound pup in Hancock County woods, who helped sniff out a missing person suffering from mental illness? 

People aren't the only thing Bloodhounds have been known to sniff out, however, recently attention has been drawn to a Bloodhound's ability to detect illegal narcotics, including marijuana. The history of Bloodhounds, along with their superior scent detection abilities, dates back hundreds of years, with scientific research only recently catching up, helping us to understand how they are capable of sniffing out almost anything.

Introduction of Can Bloodhound Dogs Smell Marijuana?

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Signs Your Bloodhound is Smelling Marijuana

When a Bloodhound detects and sniffs out a desired object or item, they are sure to display some telltale signs for you to notice. As you will learn in the training section, dogs, and more specifically, Bloodhounds can easily sniff out learned scents after receiving the appropriate scent training. If you are using your Bloodhound to detect marijuana, the more you observe them during the actual detection phases, the quicker you are going to learn the signs to notice when they found what they were looking for.

Commonly noted, when Bloodhounds first set out in search for their target, they will move both their body and nose quickly and vigorously, first through the air, then over the ground in the area they are searching. As your pooch scans the room, they’re likely to run their nose over objects, people, and furniture that stand in their way. Eventually, you’re going to notice a sharp change in your pooch’s behavioral patterns, which will be the first sign they have caught a trail of the smell.

As soon as your pooch picks up on the trail, they will appear as if they are following an invisible line as they make their way towards the object being sniffed out. You will notice a heightened sense of alertness in your bloodhound at this time, with your pup raising their ears and appearing eager as their muscles simultaneously begin to tighten throughout their torso. 

Body Language

These are some signs you might notice if your dog has caught the scent of marijuana after receiving some form of scent training:
  • Staring
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Head tilting
  • Sniffing
  • Raise ears
  • Stalking

Other Signs

Some other signs to watch for include:
  • Aggressively barking or displaying guarding behavior
  • Barking or pawing at the location the marijuana is
  • Alertly approaching the area emitting the marijuana scent
  • Seeking some form of recognition or reward

The History of Bloodhound Dogs Smelling Marijuana

History of Can Bloodhound Dogs Smell Marijuana?
Bloodhounds have a long history in the scent-detection industry, being one of the most notable dogs used for their superb sniffing abilities. In general, the formal use of dogs for scent detection dates back as far as the early 1900s.  It's common knowledge, however, that since we domesticated dogs, we have been using them for a variety of purposes including hunting and herding which both involved scent detention. 

Bloodhounds have a long history with humans. Thought to be decedents from the ancient Mediterranean, the history of these pooches dates back as far as the third century A.D. Their popularity grew throughout Britain over the next 12 centuries, with emphasis being put on maintaining the purity of the breed. Their primary purpose in assisting humans was for hunting and tracking game. Bloodhounds can quickly and efficiently hunt a variety of animals, making them not only an ideal companion but also an ideal worker. 

In Westernized society, Bloodhounds soon became the most commonly used dog for detecting humans, being specifically used to track slaves and criminals throughout the early settlement of North America. Bloodhounds gained even more fame when a pack of them successfully caught the murderer of Martin Luther King Jr. after he successfully escaped prison. Today, Bloodhounds are used still in the human detection industry as well as in police narcotics units throughout the country. 

The Science Behind Bloodhounds Smelling Marijuana

Science of Can Bloodhound Dogs Smell Marijuana?

The ability for Bloodhounds to detect marijuana lies in their superb olfactory sensory system. Biologically speaking, Bloodhounds have a very similar olfactory system compared to humans, with some obvious differences. For starters, both humans and dogs have a region in their brain dedicated to interpreting smells. This region in dogs is actually 40 times proportionally larger, compared to that in humans. The fact that we have a pretty decent sense of smell should give you some insight into how much better dogs smell because of this biological difference alone.

In addition to this, Bloodhound dogs also have approximately 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose compared to humans, who have only just 6 million. These receptors are in constant communication with their brains, sending messages about what they are smelling. 

When a Bloodhound is first introduced to an object to obtain its scent, air pushes chemical vapors, also known as odors, through the Bloodhound's nasal cavity, where they are caught in mucus. The odors then repeatedly activate the scent receptors in the dog's nose, sending messages to the olfactory bulb in the Bloodhound's brain. It is here the scent can be analyzed and an "odor image" is created, in which the dog can then recognize and detect later. Pretty neat, right?

Bloodhounds, like all dogs, also have a whole additional organ known as the Vomeronasal organ located in the bottom portion of their nasal cavity. This organ gives dogs the ability to detect both hormonal and pheromone changes in other animals, and of course, in humans.

The final sensory advantage that all dogs have is an extra-large sensory epithelium, and although we also have a sensory epithelium as part of our olfactory system, it isn’t nearly as big. The size of the sensory epithelium in mammals is directly correlated with their sense of smell, helping to explain how our pooches, and especially Bloodhounds, seem to be able to detect anything with their noses.

Interestingly enough, scientific research surrounding dogs' smelling abilities is still ongoing. Every day we learn more about their olfactory abilities!

Training Your Bloodhound Dog to Smell Out and Detect Marijuana

Training of Can Bloodhound Dogs Smell Marijuana?

Listed below are the steps you can use to scent-train your Bloodhound. These steps are not uniquely used to train Bloodhounds to sniff out marijuana, rather they are the common procedure used by scent-trainers of all types of a variety of dog breeds. 

Step 1: Before you can send your dog out to look for marijuana, you need to cover some basic training first to teach your dog the command "seek".  This is as simple as playing the game "search and find" with your pooch where they locate a hidden toy or treat and receive a reward for their good deed. Before beginning, allow your pooch to watch you hide the toy, then give the command "seek". Reward your pooch each time they locate the hidden toy or treat, increasing the difficulty of the hiding spot as your pooch progresses (e.g., do not let them watch you hide the treat).

Step 2: After learning the command "seek", it's now time to move onto "guess the hand." Just as it sounds, guess the hand involved you hiding a treat in your hand after allowing your pooch to take a sniff and watch which you put it in. Next, tell them to seek. By doing this, it helps to train your pup to lead with their nose while reinforcing the seek command. If your dog is correct in guessing the right hand, reward the behavior with the treat. If they are incorrect, show them the correct hand and try again. Once your dog is able to complete this simple task, step it up a notch by hiding the treat without them seeing. Be sure to reward the behavior to keep it coming! 

Step 3: The next step is moving on to pair your "seek" item (the treat you have been using) with the desired object you want your pup to find (in this case the marijuana). The purpose of this step is for the marijuana to also acquire the smell of the treat, so that when you Bloodhound begins their search, they have two reference scents, one of which they know very well. You dog is also use to searching for the treat so this will help them understand what you want them to do. Continue training with the 'find it' game, using the pairing technique to solidify the training. 

Step 4: Over time, take away the treat or toy that you have been using for the seek object, and solely hide the marijuana you want your dog to locate. Allow them to smell the marijuana before hiding it, so they have the exact scent of it. 

How to React When Your Bloodhound Smells out Marijuana:

  • Acknowledge your pup right away, so they see that you're aware of their success.
  • Attend to your pooch immediately and remove the marijuana, to avoid any consumption of the substance.
  • Provide your pooch with immediate positive reinforcement, to encourage the behavior in the future if wanted.