You've heard about drug dogs and you know their capabilities, so it probably doesn't surprise you that dogs - especially trained dogs - can smell drugs through just about anything. Water? Yes. Walls? You betcha.
Well, that's weird, but actually, yes. Dogs, with their powerful noses, are able to sniff out what you want them to through just about anything. That's why so many government and enforcement organizations have specially-trained dog fleets to help them with drug detection.
Want to learn more? We thought you might! Check out our guide below for details on dogs that can sniff drugs through the stickiest of situations - that's right, even situations as sticky as peanut butter.
The Signs of Drug-Sniffing Doggos
We'll start this by saying that your dog, even if he or she isn't trained, can probably smell drugs, but won't understand that they need to detect them. They'll likely think they're just any old smell, right? But specially trained dogs are prepared and trained to give special signs to their handlers to let them know drugs are present.
The first sign is typically when your pup starts to ignore the situation around them and focus on a particular area. They might even zero in and set off toward something without any consideration for what's going on. They'll likely have their nose in the air, to the ground, or be twitching around like crazy. They'll also likely ignore people, other dogs, or things happening around them to get to the area they're sniffing out.
A specially trained dog will investigate the area they're sniffing and then give a specific signal to their handler once they've picked up on the odor they've been trained to look for. This often includes barking, jumping, scratching, howling, or even just sitting down.
History of Detection Dogs
People have been capitalizing on doggos' awesome sniffers since the early 14th century. Back then, dogs were used for hunting and guarding primarily, but a few modern police forces (like London) included special breeds in their fleets to help sniff out suspects (that's how they got Jack the Ripper in the 1880s!).
Some of the earliest detection dogs were also used in North Africa during World War II to help detect German mines as well. By the late 1980s, using dogs to sniff out drugs like heroin, concaine, and marijuana, as well as explosives and other devices, was common practice!
The Science Behind Smelling Through Things
Did you know that dogs are set up to analyze smells? Their physiology is built to do it! Human beings have just one route for their noses, but dogs have more! Whereas we have a route that we smell through and breathe through, dogs have separate systems.
One route delivers air to the dog's lungs and the other route is purely for smelling. This works hand in hand with a dog's olfactory cortex to help analyze and separate which smells are occurring. So, while a peanut butter scent might mask drug smells for us, dogs are able to smell each particular scent and separate them.
Training Your Dog to Use Their Nose to Detect
If you're interested in training your dog to be drug-sniffing-certified, you'll definitely have to work with a licensed trainer to get him accurately trained. If you're just looking to train your pup how to find things around the house or detect simple things, you can certainly accomplish this on your own.
First, associate a specific toy with playtime. Use this toy as a reward for basic obedience commands to get your dog used to the idea of play as a reward. Next, hide that specific toy from your dog and teach your pup to find it. Progressively make this more difficult.
Then, hide the toy with whichever scent you're hoping to train your dog to detect. Repeat this process and continue using play as a reward. Gradually make these spots a little bit more complex and slowly but surely remove the toy from the hiding process. Soon, your dog will be hunting down just the scent and getting his or her toy as the reward.
Written by a Great Dane lover Hanna Marcus
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 04/26/2018, edited: 04/06/2020