Can German Shepard Dogs Smell Cocaine?

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Dogs were designed with exceptional senses and are put to work willingly as drug detector dogs all over the world. 

The crime wave of modern times called for a smarter more efficient way of outsmarting the crims. The answer was a culmination of German craftsmanship bred to endure and serve mankind. The German Shepherd dog is a versatile soul working with police and military by sniffing out narcotics. This fine-tuned pedigree has a nose for dishonor and makes no bones about helping humans in every quarter. 

You’ll see this wolf-like pooch at airports, borders, and patrolling the schools. Originally bred to herd and protect sheep, this symbol of integrity is a dog that can always be relied upon to get the job done.

Introduction of Can German Shepard Dogs Smell Cocaine?

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Signs a German Shepherd Can Detect Cocaine

German Shepherds present a confident stance that puts fear into the hearts of people crazy enough to carry cocaine through the airport. If it’s on their person, this dog will sniff it at two paces and immediately alert their handler.

Mercury News tells us how a three-year-old German Shepherd K-9 named Pharaoh found a stash of cocaine hidden in a car - with a street value of $120,000! The vehicle had been randomly stopped and with the smell of marijuana present, Pharoah sussed out the concealed drugs.

Dogs trained to detect narcotics are chosen for their stamina, keen work ethic and ability to focus on the job at hand. They scout around the airports, tails wagging and panting in anticipation. Their job is to sniff bags and people for drugs and if their brain signals a potential find, they will aggressively scratch and dig at the bag, often barking as an indicator.

According to KKTV, a serious drug-sniffing K-9 called Widget nailed 22 pounds of cocaine from a car pulled up for speeding. The street value was around $1.1 million. With 220 smelling receptors all fired up, this drug courier didn’t stand a chance. They may have alluded the police but when a German Shepherd trained to detect the scent of cocaine goes into battle, you can guarantee they’ll find a stash even if its concealed in a dog food jar.

A sniffer pooch could tell you all the ingredients in an Indian curry and if there was cocaine hidden in the mix, they would detect it also. Dogs are rock-star sniffers and no matter how hard the guys on the wrong side of the law try to trick the sniffer mutt, they fail to realize that dogs can smell a ton of things at once. While the handcuffs are going on, the German Shepherd who busted them is jumping up or play-bowing to their handler as they throw a tennis ball as a reward.

Body Language

Signs a trained dog will give once they have found cocaine include:
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Panting
  • Jumping up
  • Scratching
  • Wag tail
  • Sniffing
  • Play bowing

Other Signs

More cues the sniffer-dog will offer upon making a find are:
  • Sitting
  • Excited behavior
  • Display trained reaction

History of the German Shepherd Dog

History of Can German Shepard Dogs Smell Cocaine?

The German Shepherd, seen walking the beat with the local police or searching for lost people after an earthquake, is a herding dog first recognized in 1899. Its ancestry goes back a lot further to an extinct grey wolf that walked the earth in the time of Saber-tooth tigers and mammoths.

Somewhere in the mix, wolves and mankind made a historical pact bringing two great species together for the good of all. Out of this great event came many breeds of dogs including the German Shepherd - also known as an Alsatian in Britain and Ireland. This bold, European breed was created in Germany by shepherds who wanted a woofer with intelligence, speed and a great sense of smell.

The Phylax society was formed in 1891 with the idea to establish a standard breed but fell apart when members could not agree whether a dog should be bred entirely for work or looks as well.

One of the members, a former Captain, took a step forward and acquired a dog named Hecktor Linksrhein, who was featured in a dog show and exhibited the entire characteristics he believed made for an outstanding working mutt. He changed the pups name to Horand von Grafrath and then began the first German Shepherd Society (Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde). A breeding program began, inspired by Max von Stephanitz, who stuck to his guns and gave us one of the best working dogs on the planet.

With Rin Tin Tin lighting up the movie screens, German Shepherds (GSD) became increasingly popular but thanks to Adolf Hitler’s liking for the breed, all bets were off as the bitter taste left by the Nazi regime saw the German Shepherd shunned as a reminder of this perilous time.

Life changes and you can hardly blame a dog for a madman's antics, so this beautiful breed that resembles a wolf began its new life as a police K-9 in the early 1900’s. The attributes that made the German Shepherd a great herding dog were now being used to find runaway offenders and sniff out drugs.

The Science of a German Shepherd as a Drug Detector

Science of Can German Shepard Dogs Smell Cocaine?

According to German Shepherd Lore, a study carried out at the University of British Columbia found German Shepherds to be the best working dogs. Information collected from obedience judges in Canada and the USA placed the GSD at number 3 for the highest intelligence in a dog breed.

Put this together with their strong muscular build plus their talent to fast-track commands and you have a loyal woofer with a snazzy sense of smell. Their ability to sniff a scent right out of the air (air-scenting) gives them the upper paw for sniffing marijuana, amphetamines, and cocaine.

This daring drug detector stands 22-26 inches in height, with a weight of 50-90 pounds making them a foreboding force against crime. They are super-fast on their paws and can run down a crook at 30mph.

Captain Stephanitz, the originator of the breed, donated German Shepherds to the police department and when the First World War broke out, they were seen on the battlefields leading blind soldiers. This was the beginning of Guide Dogs.

Their gutsy spirit and desire to protect makes them a courageous canine that was built to work. As sniffer dogs, they excel with an olfactory system that never quits. Their trainability and high levels of obedience are legendary.

Training German Shepherd Dogs

Training of Can German Shepard Dogs Smell Cocaine?

German Shepherd Corner tells us this smart breed is capable of learning a command the first time it is requested.

This gallant German import loves to please its owner, so training will be fun and rewarding. A GSD will look to its owner for guidance and that’s not to say you are playing leader of the pack because most mutts know by scent alone you are not a dog and definitely nothing like their grand-daddy wolf. When A GSD is being trained to detect bombs or drugs, there is no force training, only positive encouragement with a tennis ball or rolled up white towel as a reward.

Dogs training to sniff illegal substances start as early as 12 weeks and once they have mastered basic obedience and have been socialized, they learn to find a specified scent that is wrapped in the white towel. Some trainers use cardboard boxes with the scent hidden inside. Once the dog learns the appropriate odor, they are rewarded with their white towel toy.

Sniffer dogs have no interest in the drugs, only the fun reward. If a handler believes drugs are exposed, they will pull the dog away immediately. Most traffickers conceal cocaine and other narcotics in containers designed to throw off the dogs' scent tracking.

Dr. Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian with a Ph.D. in animal behavior and author of "Before and After Getting Your Puppy", is adamant if you use dominance to train a dog, it will never respect you as its owner. He challenges Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer, with his belief that alpha rolls, leash jerking, and establishing yourself as pack leader is not the right way to train a mutt.

According to Shibashake, it is not wise to emulate these tactics as quoted by the dog whisperer himself. Cesar Millan informs us we should seek a professional and not attempt these risky techniques at home.

How to React When Your German Shepherd Detects Something:

  • If they find cocaine or other drugs, call the police.
  • If drugs are exposed, do not let your dog sniff or consume them.
  • Praise your dog when it detects something.
  • Reward with a toy or treats.
  • Talk to a trainer about working at this talent.
  • Read awesome articles about dogs smelling drugs and other things.
  • Share your story!