Can Dogs Smell a Wax Pen?

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Introduction

You've likely seen a drug-detection dog, as they frequent airports, train stations, and other security checkpoints with law enforcement officers not too far behind. These canines are highly trained to use their sniffers to smell out all kinds of odors - including but not limited to drugs, explosives, and even humans.  

As smoking alternatives get more and more creative, one can only wonder whether drug dogs are able to keep up. So if you're wondering whether dogs can smell wax pens, the answer is an unwavering yes. Whether you're inhaling marijuana or tobacco, pups are able to sniff it out. Read on to find out why!

Signs that Dogs Can Smell Wax Pens

Handheld vaporizers, commonly known as wax pens, are designed for inhaling waxy oils, whether tobacco or marijuana, in a discrete manner. Wax pens resemble e-cigarettes, enabling consumers to inhale wax concentrates. 

Drug-detection dogs are trained to react to many scents, including those of drugs, in a variety of ways. Some common "alerts" include barking, 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.

Here are some of the common drugs Drug Enforcement Officers have trained dogs to detect:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Heroin
  • Opiates
  • Ecstasy
  • LSD

Body Language

Dogs use a number of body language signs to indicate that they're honing in on a scent, including:
  • Growling
  • Staring
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Head tilting
  • Whining
  • Jumping up
  • Sniffing

Other Signs

Other signs that a dog has caught a scent include:
  • Digging
  • Focused attention
  • Standing in front of a location
  • Scratching or pawing at a location
  • Following a scent nose first
  • Rapid inhalation and exhalation

The History Behind Dogs Smelling Wax Pens

As descendants of wolves, dogs have always had incredibly powerful sniffers. Thankfully, dogs have fulfilled their role as man's best friend and have assisted humans with scent detection for years. Bomb-sniffing dogs were introduced in World War II, while drug-sniffing dogs made their debut 70's as drug use in the United States was on the rise (we truly don't deserve dogs).

Today, dogs are mostly used to detect illicit drugs and contraband rather than medications or other legal drugs, for instance, tobacco. "Wax pens" are a popular vaporizer used to inhale forms of nicotine, including tobacco; however wax pens are more commonly used to inhale marijuana as well. 

Dogs have not been utilized to sniff out tobacco use, however, if wax 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 refraining from wasting time and resources on training drug-detection dogs to find marijuana. Instead, training has become focused on the detection of hard drugs, like heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, or methamphetamine. 

The Science Behind Dogs Smelling Wax Pens

Research confirms just how amazing our pooches are, noting that dogs have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses; while we only have around 6 million. Even more impressive, the part of a dog's brain responsible for analyzing smells is, proportionally, 40 times greater than our own. This ensures that dogs have an acute sense of smell that is anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times better than ours.

To really get into the nitty gritty — dogs use their wet, spongy noses to capture scents, and they exhale through slits in the side of the nose, a mechanism that helps circulate new air through the nostrils. Once the air enters through the nostril, it encounters a fold of tissue that diverts the air along two separate channels — one is used for breathing and the other route is used to analyze scent. 

It is also important to note that sniffing 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.

Training Dogs to Smell Wax Pens

If a law enforcement dog can smell drugs, it means that pup has been trained to understand that if he tracks down a target scent, a treat will be given. Training a drug detection dog takes several months and focuses on teaching the dog to identify and find specific illegal substances through positive reinforcement.

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, in order to become certified through this organization, the dog and trainer must both be a part of the Federal Armed Forces or Armed Force reserves. 

Now, more commonly there are also private organizations you can reach out to in order to help train your dog. Although the dogs are not certified through the National Narcotic Detector Dog Association, pups 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-Detection Dogs:

  • Always ask the handler if you can pet their pup.
  • Professional drug-detection dogs must be trained properly.
  • Do not try to out-smart a drug-sniffing dog.

We Want to Hear About Your Dog Detecting Things with Their Nose!