Can Dogs Smell a Dab Pen?

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Introduction

Whether at the airport, a train station, or another security checkpoint, it is likely that you have seen a drug-detection dog. These pooches are highly trained to use their superpower noses to sniff out all kinds of odors, ranging from illicit drugs and explosives to lost humans. 

So if you're wondering whether dogs can smell dab pens, the answer is an unwavering yes. Whether you're inhaling marijuana or tobacco, dogs are able to sniff it out, even if the vape pen is small and discrete. Read on to find out why!

Signs that Dogs Can Smell Dab Pens

Dogs are trained to react to the scent of drugs in a multitude of ways. Even further, the level of accuracy in scent detection may vary slightly depending on the dog. In identifying a particular scent, dogs are first given a scent of the drug they are looking for. When a scent catches a dog's attention, they will alert their handler. 

Some dogs are trained to alert their handler with barking, while others are not. Common "alerts" are: touching their noses to the area where the drugs are hidden, sitting in front of the location and staying there until their handler comes by, or digging/pawing at the location of the scent.

Just like there are some humans that are naturally good at things, there are some breeds of dogs that are naturally better with scent detection. German Shepherds, Basset Hounds, Beagles, and Bloodhounds are known for their superior smelling abilities. You will see these breeds are commonly used as security or police dogs.

Body Language

Here are some signs you may notice when a dog detects a scent from a dab pen:
  • Ears up
  • Paw raised
  • Sniffing
  • Jumping up
  • Whining
  • Barking
  • Alert
  • Staring
  • Growling

Other Signs

These are some other signs you may notice if a dog detects drugs:

  • Pawing at the object or location
  • Digging
  • Standing in front of the object
  • Touching their nose to the location

The History Behind Dogs Smelling Dab Pens

Dogs have incredibly powerful noses, and us humans have taken full advantage of these super-human abilities. For instance, bomb-sniffing dogs were introduced in the 1940s in order to detect German bombs. In the 1970s, dogs were trained to sniff out other contraband, as drug use in the United States was on the rise.

Today, dogs are mostly only used to detect contraband and illicit drugs rather than medications or other legal drugs, for instance, tobacco. "Dab pens" are a popular form of vaporizers; used to inhale forms of nicotine, including tobacco (vaporizers are more commonly used to inhale marijuana). Dogs are not utilized to sniff out tobacco use, however, if dab pens are being used to inhale marijuana, dogs can certainly sniff out that scent.

However, as states and municipalities are increasingly legalizing marijuana use, police officers are not training drug-detection dogs to detect marijuana. Instead, training has become focused on the detection of hard drugs, like heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, or methamphetamine.

The Science Behind Dogs Smelling Dab Pens

A dog has the ability to smell 10,000 to 100,000 times better than us humans (that's pretty incredible!) Because dogs have such a strong sense of smell, they can easily be taught to detect certain smells through intense training methods.

It is also important to understand that drug-detecting abilities can really depend on the breed of dog. For instance, Bloodhounds have at least 300 million scent receptors in their noses, while German Shepherds or Beagles have about 225 million. However, most dogs (even if they weren't bred for scent detection) are capable of recognizing illicit compounds at a ratio of five parts per billion.  

Trainers also note that the personality of the dog can matter even more than the breed. Hunting and tracking abilities might be obvious strengths to have, but drug-detection dogs also need to be fit, independent, agile, and hardworking  Dogs that tend to be easily distracted or simply uninterested working are not fit for the job. Hornbecks.net, a K-9 training center, requires a drug detection dog to know how to alert their handler, find illicit substances in 10 minutes or less, and show proficiency in searching a variety of indoor and outdoor areas - rather than specify a required breed.

Training Dogs to Smell Dab Pens

The National Narcotic Detector Dog Association is a nonprofit organization that handles the certifications for drug-detection canines. Certifications can be for a whole range of abilities - for instance - police units, body searches, explosive devices searches, and drug searches.  However, it is important to understand that the dog and trainer must both be a part of the Federal Armed Forces or Armed Force reserves in order to obtain a certification through this organization. A standard certification includes the ability to identify marijuana and cocaine; however, you have the option to certify your dog in the detection of other drugs as well. 

There are also private organizations you can reach out to, organizations known for providing drug detection training for parents, businesses, and halfway houses. Although the dogs are not certified through the National Narcotic Detector Dog Association, dogs still go through the same vigorous training processes that dogs at the Narcotic Detector Dog Association must go through. If you are interested in training your dog for scent detection, reach out to your local private organization for details.

Safety Tips for Drug-Sniffing Dogs:

  • Always ask the handler if you are able to pet the pup.
  • Professional drug-detection dogs must be trained properly.
  • If off duty, ask their handler to say "hi" before you touch or pet the dog.

We Want to Hear About Your Dog's Detection Abilities!