Can Bloodhound Dogs Smell Methadone?

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Bloodhounds are a marvelous breed: their droopy noses and eyes make them seem super tired, but they are, in fact, absolute champions when it comes to scent tracking. They are, after all, scent hounds, and they rely heavily on their sense of smell. There’s even a saying about Bloodhounds that calls them a “nose with a dog attached” to it.

This isn’t that far from the truth. Their noses are so good that anything a police Bloodhound finds can even be used as evidence in court!

So the answer to the question of whether Bloodhounds can smell methadone is, most definitely, yes. Their keen sense of smell enables them to smell much more than we can, and they trump other dog breeds at it too!

Introduction of Can Bloodhound Dogs Smell Methadone?

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Signs of Bloodhounds Smelling Methadone

Although all dog breeds can easily detect a substance like methadone, Bloodhounds are particularly good at it. They owe this to their olfactory organ, located in the nasal cavity, which is much larger than in other breeds.

When a Bloodhound picks up a new scent, they will follow it until they find a source. Because bloodhounds are often used by police and military, they are trained sniffers who learned which scents to track and how to behave when they smell it.

Such trained dogs will show the following signs:

  • Alertness – The Bloodhound will become alert when they pick up a scent they were trained to react to.

  • Sniffing – Sniffing is a sign that the Bloodhound has picked up a scent. They will start following such a scent by using their nose to identify the source.

  • Raised ears – A Bloodhound following a scent will have their ears raised, or better said, they will be facing forward. One theory about their droopy ears is that they help keep the scent trail right in their face, which makes it easier to track. This is just a theory, though.

  • Scratching – When a trained Bloodhound finds the source of the smell, they will start scratching at the object.

  • Guarding – Once they locate the source, they will stay right next to it until their handler comes to retrieve it.

Body Language

Signs that a Bloodhound has made a find include:
  • Alert
  • Guarding
  • Scratching
  • Sniffing
  • Raise ears

Other Signs

More signs that a Bloodhound has detected a substance are:
  • Exhibiting trained behavior
  • Sitting near the find
  • Excited behavior

History of Bloodhounds Smelling Methadone

History of Can Bloodhound Dogs Smell Methadone?

Throughout history, dogs have relied on their keen sense of smell to locate and hunt prey. When our human ancestors befriended our dog ancestors, they realized quickly all the perks this new relationship brings. Thanks to the dog’s sense of smell, they could locate prey much earlier and even follow it over long distances. The hunts became more fruitful, and dogs became an integral part of hunting groups. Their sense of smell wasn’t used only for hunting; they could also smell danger, so catching humans off-guard became almost impossible.

It wasn’t until the 1940s, however, that the dog’s sense of smell was used for highly specific purposes. Back then, the first sniffer dogs were used to help find any remaining German mines that were scattered throughout North Africa.

Because they turned out to be very reliable with this task, dogs, and especially Bloodhounds, were trained to detect a whole range of substances—from gunpowder, illegal drugs, rare substances, and today, we know that they can even detect diseases like cancer or pests like mites.

Science of Bloodhounds Smelling Methadone

Science of Can Bloodhound Dogs Smell Methadone?

Bloodhounds are scent hounds, part of several breeds that have a superior sense of smell, even when compared with other dog breeds. They owe this superiority to the size of their olfactory organ, which is full of scent receptors and has much more of them than the average breed. Compared to humans, it’s 40 times stronger. Compared to other dog breeds, it is stronger and more accurate as well. While most dog breeds have about 220 million receptors in their olfactory organ, Bloodhounds have 300 million and more.

Thanks to this, Bloodhounds can construct an “odor image.” When they sniff out a scent, the chemical vapors rush into their nasal cavity and reach the scent receptors. These receptors then carry the information to the olfactory bulb, a neural structure in the brain that deciphers smells. The “odor image” is created there, and it’s far more accurate than sight. This enables the Bloodhound to track and not lose a scent even though hundreds of other scents are around them and could easily get in the way.

Training of Bloodhounds to Smell Methadone

Training of Can Bloodhound Dogs Smell Methadone?

Bloodhounds are working dogs, which makes them a handful for a busy family, but perfect candidates to become service dogs. Their sense of smell, combined with their urge for work, does wonders when searching for people, substances, explosives, pests, or even diseases.

One of the most famous canines is definitely the Kentucky Bloodhound called Nick Carter, who was very persistent in tracking people and helped catch more than 600 criminals.

So how does a Bloodhound become this good at detecting scents? First and foremost, a Bloodhound has to show some predispositioned traits that are deemed crucial for such tasks. These include a willingness to work with a handler, as well having a strong urge to please. They also have to be very playful; the play drive is crucial during training.

A Bloodhound with such traits will easily be trained to react to certain scents, methadone being one of them.

The first step is to play a tug game with towels that have no particular scent. The second step is to teach the dog to fetch these towels. Once they master this part, they will get different towels—some will be the same, while others will be scented. 

For the Bloodhound to learn to track methadone, the towel will need that exact scent. Through positive reinforcement, the dog is ignored when they fetch an unscented towel, and then rewarded when they choose the towel that is scented. When they realize that the scented towel means reward, the towel is switched for another item; a ball, for instance. This ball has the same scent as the towel. This step helps them connect rewards with the scent only, instead of a combination of scent and item. When they choose right, they receive a reward, either treats or a game.

How to React to Bloodhounds Smelling Methadone:

  • As a highly controlled substance, if you feel your Bloodhound has smelled methadone, you should report it immediately to your local authority.
  • If your dog isn't properly trained, you shouldn't allow them prolonged exposure to methadone as it can be harmful.