4 min read


Can Dogs Smell Xanax?



4 min read


Can Dogs Smell Xanax?


Drug-detection and sniffer dogs play a critical role in law enforcement. Detecting drugs can be very difficult for a human because we would physically have to see where drugs are being hidden since we cannot use our sense of smell to detect them. However, a trained drug-sniffer dog is able to use their incredible and powerful sense of smell to pinpoint exactly where drugs are hiding. 

These dogs are able to save thousands of lives by alerting law enforcement to look in certain conspicuous places so they can confiscate the drugs and stop them from being sold to the public. 

But can a sniffer dog detect Xanax? As of now, most dogs are not trained to sniff out Xanax, but it is possible for a dog to be trained to do so.


Signs of a Dog Detecting Drugs Like Xanax

You likely have some familiarity with a drug dog working on a crime scene. Whether on TV or even in person at the airport, drug-sniffing dogs show up in a lot of places. Although the stuff you see in movies and TV has some accuracy, how a dog reacts when they find a drug stash is slightly different. 

The very first thing that happens is they are given a scent of the drug so they know what they are looking for. The dog is then released to search for the drug. Sometimes they are leashed as well. The dog is mainly using their sense of smell to detect the drugs and will sniff around until something catches their attention. 

When the dog is ready to alert that they found the scent hiding somewhere, most dogs are not trained to bark, although some are. Rather, they are trained to put or touch their nose to the area where the drugs are located. They may also be trained to just sit in front of the location and stay there until their handler comes to the location. Many people may think the dog has simply not located any drugs because we expect drug-sniffing dogs to bark like crazy, but this is not the case in most real-life scenarios. 

However, some dogs are trained to alert to a stash of drugs or other contraband in an "aggressive way." In this case, the dog will dig or paw at the location of the drugs, but the dog also knows they must never harm the location or the person who has the drugs. 

Body Language

Here are some signs you may notice when a dog detects drugs:

  • Staring
  • Alert
  • Guarding
  • Pacing
  • Stalking

Other Signs

These are some other signs you may notice if a dog detects drugs:

  • Standing In Front Of Something
  • Touching Their Nose To Location
  • Pawing, Digging, Or Scratching At Certain Location

History of Dogs Smelling Drugs


Humans have worked with dogs for many many years. This is because a dog has very strong senses that can be taken advantage of.

We first saw the introduction of bomb-sniffing dogs in the 1940s when they had to detect German bombs in North Africa. Then, in the 1970's, dogs were being trained to sniff out other contraband such as marijuana, heroin, explosives, and cocaine - drugs were becoming a big issue in the United States. 

As time progressed, dogs were also trained to locate other things with their sense of smell. Dogs were trained to sniff out things like pests and agricultural products,qazsqsQSSZs so those things were not able to make it across US borders. 

Today, dogs are mostly only trained to detect illicit drugs and not medications that many people now use are drugs and not as medication. Xanax is a medication that is prescribed to individuals that suffer from anxiety and depression and is not considered an illicit substance like cocaine or heroin. 

Even though dogs are not trained to sniff out medications like Xanax on the regular, it is likely we will see the future turn to dogs being trained to sniff out medications like Xanax regularly since this type of drug issue is very much on the rise in the United States. 

Science Behind Drug-Sniffer Dogs


Dogs have not been trained to smell medications such as Xanax because many people use these types of medication and they are often prescribed by a medical professional. Furthermore, these substances are around in more abundance, so dogs would be detecting these medications very frequently. 

Sniffer dogs use their keen sense of smell to detect if there are any drugs around them. A dog's sense of smell is about 10,000 to 100,000 times better than a human's sense of smell. Science is still not exactly sure how much stronger their sense of smell truly is. Regardless, if a dog's sense of smell is this strong, they can easily be taught to detect certain smells through intense training methods. 

Training Dogs to Smell Xanax


Drug-sniffer dogs go through an intense period of training before they are able to go out and work in the field. A dog must be ready to sniff out any kind of drug or other contraband efficiently, effectively, and without many mistakes. They must be trained to sniff out these drug pads through walls, suitcases, makeup bags, and much more. 

Although most dogs are not trained to sniff out pills and medications, there are some dogs who are trained for these purposes and this is likely to increase within the coming years. Dogs can be trained to smell and detect any object or substance. For example, a sniffer dog could theoretically be trained to sniff out a bag of apples or even a sunflower. 

Many people worry that dogs are trained to sniff out drugs because they are actually addicted to the drugs themselves, but this is absolutely not the case. Sniffer dogs are never given the substance they are searching for and they never come into direct contact with the drugs under any circumstances. Rather, the dogs are trained in a way to make them feel like they are trying to locate their favorite toy or are playing a game. When training first begins, the dog will be heavily rewarded when they show any sign they have smelled or sensed the drug they are in search of, like Xanax. 

As training progresses, the dog will eventually solely be rewarded if they appropriately alert to the drug they are assigned to find and if they are actually correct in finding the right location. 

Training is extensive and takes an average of a few months of practice for both the dogs and the handlers. The dog must become certified and have the ability to work well with a team. 

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Safety Tips for Drug-Sniffing Dogs:

  1. The dogs must never harm a person or object where the trugs are located.
  2. The dogs must be trained properly.

Written by a Samoyed lover Kayla Costanzo

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 04/16/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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