If you’ve recently taken a flight overseas or out of state, you might have noticed a German Shorthaired Pointer sniffer-dog hard at work. These dedicated dogs are a delight to watch as they zoom around the baggage carousel looking for narcotics. Our drug-sniffing deputies catch the crims before heroin hits the streets or get to kids in the schools. Technology is often no match for the pooch P.I., who has a nose for detecting just about anything.
Flick through the Internet and you see the prowess of dogs finding human remains for the police and ancient bones for paleontologists. The German Shorthaired Pointer is a scent-hound who loves to hunt. Can they smell heroin? Let's find out.
Signs a German Shorthaired Pointer Can Smell Heroin
The German Shorthaired Pointer is a good looking pooch with a tough work ethic and an eagerness to please. Once their nose hits the ground running, it’s a task just trying to keep up, as they track the scent they were trained for.
Let us introduce you to Spur, a black and white dappled German Haired pointer all set to sniff out drugs in the county of Klamath Falls, Oregon. According to the Klamath Falls Police Department, Spur is a K-9 and important member of the local police whose intention is to clean up the county. Past dogs were stood down due to the legalization of marijuana so Spur is one of the new kids on the block, wagging his tail and barking at the drug traffickers. If there’s heroin hidden in a school locker or concealed underneath a vehicle stopped on the highway, this stylish sniffer will find the stash.
Born to hunt, this sporty hound has tracking skills in their blood. When a handler gives the word, watch them go into action as they pant and pace through a home where heroin is suspected. When they find a scent, they’ll scratch and dig the bag or area, then sit to alert their handler. If it’s a positive hit, the pooch play-bows waiting eagerly for their prize. This could be a tennis ball, white towel or favorite toy.To get the low-down on how super-sonic a dog's nose is, we went straight to the experts. Dr. Myers, a researcher who works with drug and bomb-sniffing pooches at the Institute for Biological Detection Systems at Auburn, tells us our canine friends have around 20 times more smell receptors than humans. He also goes on to say dogs can tell you the recipe for the cake baking in the oven. We get the heavenly scent of sponge cake while our German Shorthaired Pointers are ticking off all the ingredients. That’s how they sniff out heroin in a room filled with clothes - furniture plus the scent of the people and animals that reside there!
- Play bowing
- Sitting near the find
- Excited behavior
- Exhibiting trained action
- Pawing at trainer
History of the German Shorthaired Pointer
The origins of the Deutsch Kurzhaaiger Zeiger appear to be Spanish, possibly from the Burgos Pointer, first sighted around the 16th century in a historic region called Castile.
Hunting was how early man survived the beginnings of our world. When the planets aligned and wolves put their paws in the human territory, a lightning bolt must have hit the planet as a mark of change. Working with wolves meant mankind could take on the big game - and most of the planet.
This monumental event fast-tracked humans into their new role as farmers with a new species called "dog" guarding their livestock. Humans had the hunter in their genes and enjoyed the thrill of the chase, so they went about breeding dogs that could find and retrieve.
In the late 1800’s, Germany was ruled by the Prussian Empire with an army made up of nobility and men recruited from poor families. The newly defined Deutsches heer (German army) opened the military gate to the middle class. At the same time, Europe was emerging as an economic force which saw a rise in the bourgeois and more cash in the coffers to obtain land where they could pursue a desire to hunt.
Humans sculpted a pointer with a sleek, powerhouse frame and a keen sense of purpose. These dogs were created to literally freeze and point at their prey so a hunter could throw a net over it. It’s thought the final act was a product of much cross breeding with European Pointers plus a German Bloodhound and the Grand Bleu de Gascogne, a scenthound from France.
There was more to come, as great artists are never truly satisfied until their masterpiece is complete. The dog created was a scent genius but slow on its paws. This led to the integration of the English Pointer, a dog noted for its supreme swiftness over land or water. The German Shorthaired Pointer was born and hunters must surely have celebrated the emergence of a perfect pointer, who centuries later would be in demand as a drug detection dog
In 1872, the GSP was recorded for all time in the German Kennel Club, studbook. The German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America tells us that two world wars had a negative effect on the breeding programs in Germany and once hostility had ended, a Dr. Charles. Thornton of Missouri liked the look of the GSP and brought them to the USA.
Others with a passion for the German import followed suit, which saw a U.S breeding program culminating in the recognition of the breed by the American Kennel Club, in 1935. An application was made for a parent club to honor the breeding standard named the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America.
The Science of GSPs Detecting Heroin
Scientists and psychologists are licking the wounds of past philosophers who were adamant our dogs were like cyborgs from a sci-fi movie. In the modern age, science has proven differently. Pooches do have emotions and can recognize their owners at a glance.
Their wolfy-matriarch kindly passed on an insatiable sense of smell that sees our cool dogs stopping the couriering of drugs in airports, border, and businesses. German Shorthaired Pointers were designed to pick up scent, so if someone was crazy enough to carry heroin on their person or travel bag, this elitist hunting hound would be alerting their handler the moment they passed by.
Folks who try to hide narcotics need to know their history, as a GSP was modified many times during its evolution in order to get the scent-master that exists today. These drug detector pooches are trained to hone in on heroin, even if it’s hidden from view.
Science Tech tells us drug sniffer dogs were first sighted in Scotland Yard in the mid-century and in the late 60’s, the U.S military began training pooches to detect drugs on ships and planes. By 1970 Customs came on board and saw the potential for dogs to recognize marijuana. No one at the time was convinced a dog could determine more than one drug, but our pooches had other ideas.
According to the American Kennel Club, the German Shorthaired Pointer is the 11th most popular dog breed in the USA. They are live-wires and demand a ton of exercise. They make great companion dogs and are good with kids. A quick visit to Dog Time sees the GSP ranked at number nine for best smelling dogs on the planet!
A new study of dogs featured on Science Mag was set up to find out if dogs had a visual on a scent. Forty-eight police and rescue pooches were kept in a room while researchers, wanting to create a scent trail, dragged their toy across the floor. They then hid it from view
Each dog was brought into the researcher’s space and asked to find their toy. The result was most dogs retrieved their toy, making the scientists think dogs get a picture in their mind of what they are looking for. That would mean a GSP out on the hunt would see rabbits, or visualize narcotics, if they were a detector dog on duty.
Training a German Shorthaired Pointer Dog to Smell Narcotics
A German Shorthaired Pointer is a high-end, high-energy dare-devil that needs an owner to match their thirst for action. They can get up to 45mph in pursuit of their prey. Expect to go on long walks or train for hours for agility tournaments.
This woofer loves the outdoors and will excel with positive training methods. If you keep this freedom seeker chained in the backyard, they’ll bark the street down wanting to be released. The same goes if you lock them indoors. They’ll act out with chewing and chasing imaginary animals around the living room.
When you start your school of learning, make sure it’s in an area where your GSP won’t be distracted by wild animals. Their hunting genes will say, "run, point, and retrieve."
Training as a sniffer dog is ideal, as they are prompted to find the scent of drugs. They may not have the same whiff as an Elk, but for this German whiz, looking for a specific scent is what gets them up in the morning.
Make training a joy as this pooch could be easily distracted, the neighbor’s cat may streak by the fence and just as you were saying SIT, your GSP already in chase mode. Their high-prey drive is what makes sniffer dogs love their job. When the plane lands and the handler says, "go", a GSP is on the hunt for heroin and narcotics.
According to Today I Found Out, training a sniffer pup is not as hard as you’d think. Once a pooch is deemed desirable, they switch them onto a favorite toy, which becomes the reward. The white towel is a universal training tool and has the scent applied so a dog gets used to it. Over time, the towel is devoid of scent, but the pooch knows it’s the gold cup for finding drugs.
Sniffer pups are trained with a minimum of the actual drug and on patrol, deal with drugs that are generally well concealed. Most woofers are taught to signal their handler with a passive alert. They usually sit or point their noses at the area they suspect. This a dream job for the world’s best pointer pooch!
How to React When Your GSP Detects Something:
Give your German Shorthaired Pointer plenty of exercise.
Get involved with agility trials.
Read amazing articles about German Shorthaired Pointers.
Share your GSP stories.
Train with positive reinforcement.
Have fun seeing what they can find.