As all dog owners know, our furry friends are excellent sniffers. A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more effective than a human’s, and with training, they can learn to identify unique aromas.
But can dogs smell pot cookies specifically? It would depend on the content of each batch. Dogs will certainly pick up most food odors, and they’ll display signs of detecting something familiar, but the composition of a pot cookie may not be familiar to them.
That is, unless they have had specific training. Drug sniffer dogs specializing in cannabis will likely go crazy if they discover pot cookies!
In this article, we’ll explore some of the signs that your dog can smell pot cookies, and the science behind the sniff.
Signs of Dogs Smelling Pot Cookies
The first sign that your dog has smelled something interesting is that they will suddenly become alert. This may involve raised ears, staring, pacing, jumping up, listening and whining.
The will also be sniffing around the room and may move toward the source of the aroma. Once they have found the approximate area of the cookies, they will pace around it, continuing to sniff. They may also make vocal indications that they have found something of interest, including louder whining, growling, howling, and barking. They might even try to lead you to the source.
If your dog has received training to detect marijuana, they will also perform the behavior they have learned to do in response to making a positive discovery. This will usually be stopping or sitting beside the article they suspect contains the drug.
These behaviors may vary according to your dog’s breed or individual personality. Not all dogs will make vocal indications that they have found something interesting; some may not even notice at all! You know your dog well enough to tell when something is amiss. Look out for their usual alert behaviors; this will tell you whether they have discovered an aroma that requires further investigation!
History of Dogs Smelling Pot Cookies
Dogs are naturally suited to sniffing out substances such as pot, because their olfactory systems are far more developed and sensitive than ours. Dogs have been trained to detect narcotics since the mid-20th century, although their role in law enforcement stretches back to the Middle Ages.
Sniffer dogs have proven themselves to be very reliable in the discovery of concealed drugs, including those that are baked into cookies! People may wish to circumvent sniffer dogs at airports, events, and large public spaces if they are carrying edible marijuana products. It’s almost impossible to do this successfully. There are countless stories of folks being caught out by sniffer dogs, even when a cookie looks completely innocuous!
Pot cookies can be wrapped, or people carrying them can try to disguise their odor, but dogs are more perceptive than humans when it comes to smell. Even if the person carrying the pot cookie cannot detect the presence of cannabis, a dog most likely will. This is due to the chemical composition of the active compound within marijuana, THC. In the next section, we’ll discover why this composition is so useful to sniffer animals.
Science of Dogs Smelling Pot Cookies
The canine olfactory system is amazing! Whilst humans have one channel that delivers air and odors up through the nose to be analyzed by the brain, a dog has separate channels for air and aromas. The channel for detecting smells goes straight to the brain, whilst air makes its way down the larynx and into the lungs.
Dogs have fifty times more olfactory sensors in their noses than humans; a whopping 300 million on average! The section of the brain responsible for the analysis of odor particles is also forty times larger – proportionately – than that of a human. Brain and body work in harmony to make dogs the supreme sniffers!
Whilst we may recognize the aroma of weed, which helps us to identify a pot cookie, dogs go one step further. Actually, it's more like a huge leap further. They can detect the chemicals contained within cannabis; namely, the active compound THC. Their finely-tuned receptors and analytical prowess can correctly identify the presence of THC, even when it’s baked into a cookie.
Training Dogs to Smell Pot Cookies
Whether you’re in a law enforcement role, are a concerned parent, or simply wish to give your dog a useful skill, the process of training a pup to smell pot cookies need not be as laborious as you may expect.
As dogs do not hold a natural interest in narcotics, it’s a matter of training them to detect the smell of a favorite toy. To do that, a dog must be gradually introduced to the target aroma through a conduit that allows them to make the association.
The first step is to grab a fresh, new towel and wash it to remove any traces of scent. This will be the main tool with which a dog is trained; their new favorite toy!
Take the unscented towel and introduce it into your dog’s play routine. Use it for some fun games of tug of war, and allow the dog to build its fondness for the towel. Once that has been established, the next step is to place a bag of cannabis in the towel and roll it up. Ensure that the dog cannot access the substance and monitor play carefully. This is a crucial step to prevent injury or accidental exposure to a narcotic.
Allow your dog to interact with the towel again. They will begin to associate the smell of marijuana with their favorite toy. Repeat this step several times, then hide the towel in increasingly obscure places (start fairly close to the dog to encourage their investigative nature!). The dog will sniff out their favorite toy based on its smell.
Every time they successfully find the toy, reward your dog with a fun game of tug of war. They will begin to make the association between hunting out the aroma and being rewarded. Keep repeating this until your dog can accurately detect the smell.
As a further step, you can train your dog to display a specific behaviour when they identify the smell. If you wish for your dog to present a subtle behaviour, such as sitting, rather than barking, reward them only when they demonstrate the desired behaviour. Using the same mechanism, you’ll soon have a discrete sniffer dog!
By Charlotte Ratcliffe
Published: 06/08/2018, edited: 04/06/2020