6 min read


Can Dogs Smell Cash?



6 min read


Can Dogs Smell Cash?


Dogs have been sniffing their way to success, hauling in the illegal loot at airports, borders and train stations. Their nifty noses already find illegal substances, cancer, and help track people that are lost. Now, we discover there are cash-sniffing canines, working to nab a criminal’s stash. 

Our dutiful pups are invested in their jobs as currency detection dogs, trained to sniff out the dollar bill and put a paw on the currency couriers moving money from state to state and worldwide. It's an intriguing concept and one that needs a further look. How do dogs know what money even smells like and can they really sniff out different versions of currency?


Signs a Dog Can Sniff Out Cash

Crime has become an out-of-control issue, with money flying out the door as people evade their tax, launder money, and try to shift cash gained from criminal activities.

The solution was to train dogs - renowned for their incredible sense of smell - to stop the crooks circulating money and whisking it over the borders. Labradors were the preferred breed of choice, for their personable natures. These tail-wagging pooches are actually hunting dogs so they have a strong prey drive, making them ideal for finding the banknotes.

Dogs are smelling machines and can whiff that scent thousands of times better than we ever could. Pet MD tells us dogs have dynamic noses with around 300 million scent glands, compared to our 6 million or so. Their brain is designed for super-smelling and can pick up a scent 40 feet under the ground. Dogs are pretty much in a sniffing league of their own. Better hope you haven’t buried a pile of cash next to the neighbor with a cash dog!

These loyal Labs find the hidden dough in baggage, cargo, packages and concealed on peoples bodies. If they detect a pile of cash they alert their handler to the suspicious item. A trained cash dog may stare and dig at the spot but not enough to cause any damage to property. Some put their paw on top. Currency detection dogs are also trained to follow and block a suspect who might be carrying a lot of cash.

The Daily Mail featured a play-bowing story about Ruby, a gorgeous Springer Spaniel who has nabbed around 10.5 million English pounds at Heathrow Airport. This intelligent, outgoing pup has put the criminals back in the kennel by using her sniffing gift to get the cash. Ruby is considered the rock-star of currency detection dogs and when she sniffs the dollars or Euros, she’ll freeze and point with her nose. 

It's not always easy for these pups, as people wanting to move big amounts of moola hide the cash in the craziest of places, like the lining of shoes or inside fake food. Luckily, the cash canine has a nose for the bad guys next move and can generally detect the scent.

Body Language

Here are signs a dog has located a large amount of cash:<br/>

  • Digging
  • Sniffing
  • Body Freezing
  • Tail Up
  • Play Bowing

Other Signs

More signs a currency detection dog can smell dollar bills are:<br/>

  • Pointing With Their Nose
  • Following And Blocking A Suspect
  • Putting Their Paw On Top Of The Suspicious Item
  • Alerting Their Handler

History Of Detection Dogs


Detection dogs serve their country well, saving lives and stopping drugs from hitting the streets. In the 1940’s dogs were trained to detect bombs in the Second World War, and in the early 70’s, dogs were taught to find narcotics and explosives.

K9 Handler informs us that police dogs were used in France as far back as the 14th century, but it wasn’t until the late 1800's that the contemporary police dog emerged in Great Britain and was employed to search for the elusive Jack the Ripper, with two bloodhounds on the trail. These mega-sniffing hounds are the canine champs of scent. They have super-powers of smell and it’s been heard they can track a whiff for over 100 miles.

A dog’s keen sense of smell makes them a fast learner and the perfect tracker of people, drugs, and currency. Researchers have found they can tell you when a storm is coming by changes in barometric pressure and woof you to run when an earthquake is imminent. Dogs are trained to smell cancer, diabetes, seizures, migraines, and heart attacks. They also help stop the illegal trafficking of wildlife.

The lawbreakers are always thinking of new ways to smuggle money across borders, but it’s hard to get past the stylish sniffers who can detect cash hidden in anything. Dogs can also tell one unique scent from another, so if they are searching for money, they won’t be deterred by the aftershave in your luggage.

Dogs have a complex sniffing apparatus that features a Jacobson's organ in the upper part of their mouth. This phenomenal scent machine acts like an aroma collector, giving our mutts the sniffing edge over humans.

The Science of Detection Dogs


Science appears fascinated with a dog’s sense of smell, as studies all over the world have raised a paw to the possibility that our mighty mutts could be the best sniffers on the planet.

A dog-cognition researcher at Barnard College says a dog's sense of smell is so great, they could sniff a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water. That’s pretty impressive and explains why they can sniff out people trapped under rubble, cash at the airport, and follow a week-old scent. The part of a dog’s brain responsible for picking up an odor is 40 times larger than ours.

Sniffer dogs are taught the difference between illicit substances and ones that are okay for canines to eat, as crafty drug dealers have tried to conceal narcotics and cash in dog food cans in an attempt to throw off the hound dog’s scent.

A study at the University of Lincoln in the UK found dogs categorize smells in a similar way to us. Researchers wanted to know if dogs could be trained to recognize odors as a group, making the training of detection dogs more efficient. The study was a success as dogs were able to categorize odors and recall the scents weeks later.

Training a Dog to Smell Cash


Training a dog to sniff cash is a little tricky, as cash can be handled by a lot of different people. US dollar bills are made of a cotton-linen makeup and it is the ink that dogs are trained to sniff out. Every dog has to differentiate between various currencies and the ink used.

Pooches are chosen for an enthusiastic scent drive and taught to find the cash. Training a detection dog is intensive and based on the reward, which is usually a toy or a rolled up white towel. The dog has no interest in the money; their job is to show the handler where the bills are buried or hidden.

In the early days of training, a dog will be given a reward when they show signs of finding the elusive dollar bills. As time goes on, the toy will only be presented when the pup gets it exactly right. Cash detection canines may also be trained to detect narcotics.

ABC reported the story of a customs dog named Gordo who is trained to detect drugs and cash. His handler revealed how Gordo operates. If he smells wads of money or drugs, he’ll sit and stare at the person of interest. Gordo is then taken away and if his handler is told it was a positive hit, he takes Gordo back to the area, praising him, and then throwing down the toy.

Handlers begin working with the dog in the early stages of training to create a bond. Dogs like Gordo start training at 12 to 18 months and work for 6 -8 years. Often a detection dog is retired to their handler.

If you would like to train your dog to find goodies in the backyard, ask your woofer to lie down or sit, then hide some yummy treats in the grass. Create a scent trail from the dog to another point in the garden, dropping chicken bits as you go. When you get to the end of your trail, drop their favorite toy on top of the last treat. Come back to your pup and ask them to go find it or get it!

Your dog has a mish-mash of scents to evaluate, from the chicken, grass, toy and their owner’s aroma. Once your sniffer dog gets the hang of it, start creating scent trails in all directions. The idea is to get your detective dog to find the scent you want without prompting.

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Written by a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 03/06/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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