6 min read


Can Dogs Smell Gold?



6 min read


Can Dogs Smell Gold?


If someone was to tell you there are dogs prospecting for gold, you’d probably laugh, thinking it was a joke. The truth is stranger than fiction as woofers are employed to find that elusive gold nugget and are proving pawsome at their jobs. 

Before you grab your loyal pooch and go looking yourself, there is a bit of training to be done - but once again our dynamic dogs are full of surprises. It seems they have the nose that knows and in this instance, it’s a pocket full of gold. Let’s hope their food bowls are gold-lined as payment. Can dogs smell gold? Let's find out!


Signs a Dog Can Find Gold

“There’s gold in them thar hills,” voiced the prospector of days gone by as they arrived in the town ready to cash in on their find. We’ve come a long way since the gold rush days, with high-tech equipment and furry, four-legged dogs using their sniffing powers to unearth the precious, yellow prize.

Ancient Egyptians and Greeks were aware of gold's mesmerizing power and before currency was invented and sculpted ornate jewelry and decorative items with a golden glow.

Today, dogs are trained to sniff out all kinds of ore and alert their handler to a find. You’re likely to see them running around, head turning in all directions - sniffing for the appropriate scent. If gold is suspected, they'll dig at the ground, tail wagging as they scratch around the spot with the strongest scent.

Dogs are working hard, sniffing out drugs, explosives, bootleg DVDs, and cash so we really shouldn’t be taken aback by the news they can also find gold. This priceless commodity has no real scent but is generally found in mineral deposits referred to as gold ore. Finding pyrite minerals, known as “fool’s gold,” might also lead to the treasure, as the real version is often in the vicinity of this yellow colored rock. This makes it tricky for prospectors to know the real gold from the fake.

If you’ve been training your own dog to find this millionaire-making metal, they’ll probably bark, with ears perked up knowing they’ve done their job. Their prize might be a toy or treat for a job well done, so they’ll play-bow, tilting their head to one side, excited to get their reward.

Dogs love hunting-style games so they are well-suited to finding gold and ore. Some may be trained to sit when they find the stash, a clear indication there's something to howl about!

Body Language

Some signs a pooch may have struck gold are:<br/>

  • Head Tilting
  • Howling
  • Wag Tail
  • Sniffing
  • Ears Up
  • Play Bowing

Other Signs

More signs a dog has discovered gold include:<br/>

  • Finding The Scent Of Minerals Occurring Near Gold
  • Scratching An Area
  • Sitting To Mark Their Find

History of Ore Dogs Finding Gold


In the era of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, dogs were sniffing for ore in Finland, Russia, and Sweden. A dog's sniffing powers were an asset to a thriving steel industry. Pooches were employed as they had a talent for finding the ore, often quicker than expensive machines and the skilled peopled needed to run them.

The first mining dog was called Lari and she proved her worth by beating the ore off a prospector when put the test. From the early 60’s to 1994, dogs were getting down in the mines, earning their keep by uncovering hoards of valuable minerals.

Once the steel industry waned dogs, were no longer needed until Peter Bergman, a Swedish geologist, resurrected the concept with his company appropriately named "Ore Dog".

Bergman recruited trainers that had once worked in the military and went about teaching the new breed of mine dogs, including German Shepherds and the Belgian Malinois, a favorite K9 choice for the police. The big mining companies are curious about dogs searching for minerals, as time is money and it appears woofers are fast on their paws when it comes to sniffing out the gold.

Dogs are also being trained to smell certain plants that are known to grow around mineral deposits. Crosby Buckwheat is a plant with small, yellow flowers that could lead the way to gold. Geo-botanical prospecting is the modern term for plants that highlight the possibility of ore close by. In ancient times, many prospectors were aware how plants lit the path to riches.

An ore dog named Rex has an extravagant nose for diamonds, making him worth his German Shepherd weight in gold. His owner, Peter Bergman, believes these dogs are the wave of the future, making it possible for anyone to mine for gold, silver, diamonds, and ore. It’s also a super-cost effect way to pinpoint a lucrative deposit, saving millions of mining company dollars.

Dogs are not the only animals helpful in finding the bounty. Australian Mining tells us that termite mounds hold secrets from under the ground. These tiny insects can drill down 70 meters bringing soil up to the surface. In the early seventies, a mammoth diamond mine was located through samples taken from a termite mound.

Studies About Gold-Sniffing Dogs


The discerning men and women of science have been busy checking out canine super-powers. With no kryptonite in sight, they found a dog's sense of smell is out of this world. It’s gargantuan compared to our cosmetic creations - even capable of sensing an illness. The odors we give off go straight to a woofer's nose, that screams, “imminent heart attack, seizure or cancer!”

You might feel a little exposed the next time your pupster sniffs your hand. They could be breathing in your bodily chemicals and making a quick assumption on your state of health. Dogs don’t need a certificate on the doctor's office wall to detect something isn't right.

Sniffing for gold must be a breeze, as it’s often surrounded by malachite (copper), greenstone, and stinky, pyrite minerals, possibly reminiscent of that old bone your Bichon buried under the tree. When a dog is working out in the field, the scent of all types of minerals and rocks could be a lucky gold alert.

If you’re wondering why dogs are manic sniffers, it’s because they can categorize scents and send the message directly to their brain. Your pooch might know the Indian restaurant over the road has added a new spice to their butter chicken recipe. Your fur baby’s nose can differentiate between each ingredient in a pizza or hot pot while we just get the overall scent of “YUM.” One might be a bit envious of the genius doggy nose as it breathes in a universe of things that we can’t.

Science Mag tells us dogs have over 200 million more sniffing receptors than us mere mortals. They were designed to smell and we are so happy they can as they help us sniff out the contraband - or perhaps some sparkling gold!

Training Dogs to Smell Gold


Bearing in mind gold does not have a distinctive scent, a dog can still be trained to sniff out the classic minerals often found around a gold deposit.

Sniffer pooches are generally trained to react to a certain scent. A dog sniffing for drugs might be able to smell out marijuana, cocaine, or amphetamines while a dog detecting explosives will be looking for the specific chemicals that make up a bomb.

Dogs that sniff for ore are trained to sense various metals in conjunction with sulfides. These exude a pungent smell some liken to rotten eggs. Mining Technology reports “Ore Dogs” are trained in a similar way to bomb-detector dogs. These valued military mutts are trained with tin cans holding certain explosive scents. Once the right odor is located, the dog sits, alerting their handler.

Smithsonian Mag highlights a well-known security company who trains bomb-detector dogs and the praise given when a dog gets it right. The words “Good boy or girl are used in a higher pitched tone, with a kibble reward from the trainer’s belt.

Gold-digging woofers also work in tough conditions where there are rats and snakes. As the “Ore Dog,” company run by Peter Bergman moves into countries like South Africa, Iraq, and Australia - dogs need to be conditioned to all kinds of territory.

The same scenario for a gold-detecting dog could involve cans containing ore, sulfide rocks, and minerals. Woofers can smell anything, it’s a question of getting them tuned to a particular scent.

Gold can be found in quartz veins in streams, so if you are considering making your Mastiff a gold-finding wonder dog. They'll need to grab the gold right out of the water.

You can train them with basic, sniffing strategies or get military minded with cans of this alluring metal. It could be a fun pursuit, as dogs can smell things in the water. They are often used to find missing people and whale poop for researchers to analyze. The doggy nose is a versatile machine that can pick up any scent.

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By a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Published: 04/09/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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