Can Golden Retriever Dogs Smell Marijuana?

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Introduction

All dogs are the coolest of creatures, gifted to mankind as their furry best friend. Over time, they have been bred for both purpose and vanity with each particular pedigree offering an array of charm and ability. 

One beautiful breed that makes a stunning family pet also has a nose for the naughty stuff. This golden pup can sniff out marijuana, putting the bad guys who deal it on the back paw. Golden Retrievers are a dog of choice for finding the illegal stash at the airports, schools, and borders. Their history as hunting dogs with top tracking skills makes them an obvious choice for finding drugs. Want to know more about this cool companion and its life as a drug-sniffing dog? Read on!

Signs a Golden Retriever Has Sniffed Out Marijuana

Retrievers aim to please and have the strength and intelligence needed for long hours on the job. One of the “nice guy," breeds, the Golden Retriever is a personable pooch with a super-social aptitude. It's easy to see why they are in the top five favorite dog breeds in the US. According to the American Kennel Club, the male stands 23"-24" in height, while the female is 21”-22.” The average weight of a male Golden is 65-75 pounds with the female being 55-65 pounds.

The gregarious Golden is fairly easy to train with a sensitive personality that requires a gentle approach when teaching them commands. What makes them a great drug-sniffing dog is their grandiose sense of smell. All dogs are mad about scents and can sniff out drugs long before the electronic detectors. 

Their sniffing abilities are at least 40 times greater than ours and PBS (NOVA) proves this point, with a story about a drug-sniffing Golden Retriever that found a plastic container filled with marijuana - inside a gasoline tank! It seems a dog “has the nose that knows” and it’s no wonder the dealers are scratching their paws trying to think of ingenious ways to trick drug-sniffing pups.

If you’re coming through the airport with hand luggage, you might see a Golden Retriever with its handler ready to check you out. They’ll be super-alert, wagging their tails and panting, as they wait for their handlers prompt. Then they are off running past passengers with ears flapping, eyes staring at every bag that goes by. If you’ve taken the gamble and have drugs on your person, this dog is likely to sniff you out.

When a Golden Retriever finds a stash of marijuana, they aggressively alert their handler by scratching or digging at the luggage or parcel.They may also sit or lie down as the sign a person has the scent of drugs. If marijuana is found, the dog is given their reward, which could be a rolled up towel, ball or toy to play with.

Body Language

Signs a Golden Retriever is sniffing out marijuana include:
  • Staring
  • Alert
  • Digging
  • Panting
  • Scratching
  • Wag tail
  • Ears drop

Other Signs

More signs a Golden Retriever has found some pot are:
  • Following a Certain Person
  • Aggressively Scratching
  • Sitting by a Suspect

History of Drug-Sniffing Dogs

It looks like the wolf has created generations of drug-sniffing dogs with their colossal sense of smell, generally reserved for sniffing prey. The wolf can smell their dinner a mile or so into the distance and sniff out predators. The matriarch of the domesticated dog has a smelling machine one hundred times greater than ours!

Dogs have up to 300 million odor receptors while we have around 5 million. They literally see with their noses and have panoramic scent vision that doesn’t miss a trick. The fact that dogs can smell a ton of odors at one time makes them a scary proposition to anyone trying to smuggle cannabis.

If you were to wrap marijuana up in tin foil coated with mustard and floor cleaner, the supper-sniffer would take in all these smells and have a light bulb moment when the marijuana was detected. Dogs can’t smell through walls and rely on scents wafting out from the containers that drugs are hidden in. It’s nearly impossible to out-bluff these clever canines as they can sniff the most minute molecule and hey presto – you're busted!

Scent Tech reveals that Scotland Yard worked with trained drug-sniffer dogs in the 1950’s but it wasn’t until the early 70’s US Customs began a trial run with sniffer dogs to find illegal marijuana and hashish. From there, it was hoped dogs could detect narcotics such as heroin and cocaine.

Now we see dogs sniffing for cash, cancer, guns, explosives, diamonds and human remains. ABC ran a story about Kenyon, a gorgeous Golden Retriever that dug up $100,000 worth of heroin in the backyard. Kenyan was made a lifetime Honorary K9 Narcotics Dog by the Yamhill County Sheriff’s office for doing what comes naturally.

Megan, a miraculous mutt who’s hauled in 30 million English pounds worth of illicit drugs over a seven-year span, could well be the super-star of drug-sniffing dogs. According to the The Daily Mail, “when Megan is on the job at a local airport she is a formidable force who finds the marijuana - wherever it is!"

Other animals that have an amazing sense of smell are the bear, who always knows where the honey is, plus sharks, moths, Bloodhound dogs, snakes, rats, and albatross.

Science Behind Golden Retrievers Smelling Marijuana

The outgoing, friendly nature of a Gold Retriever makes them a top tracking mutt for drugs in schools. Kids love them, but the Golden has a nose for kids smoking weed - or stashing it in their backpacks and lockers. A quick sweep of an entire school might reveal a student’s marijuana habit and hopefully get the guilty party back on the straight and narrow.

Dogs are designed to sniff everything in their path - and then some. Nature gifted them with the mechanics to separate smells and that’s how they can sniff out marijuana from other drugs. A dog could walk into your home and smell the freshly painted walls, dinner cooking on the stove, the cat asleep down in the back bedroom, and the bag of cannabis one of the kids has stashed in the wardrobe.

They could out-sleuth Sherlock Holmes as they know where the bodies are buried with one whiff of the crime scene. There’s no disputing our canine compatriots are genius sniffers and it's all down to the structure of their smelling apparatus, which is constantly being analyzed by scientists.

That doggy shnoz is a technical force to be reckoned with, as different scents are taken in by the discerning left and right nostrils. A study featured in “Scientific American,” showed how dogs take in new smells through the right nostril, which connects to their thought processing in the emotional, right side of the brain. 

When an inquiring woofer breathes a scent they are more familiar with (like the Golden Retriever trained to sniff marijuana) through the left nostril, it immediately connects with the logical, left side of their brain and gives them information about the scent. Two seconds later, airport security is alerted to a monumental marijuana haul.

Training a Golden Retriever to Detect Marijuana

Meet Murphy, a Golden Retriever with a mission to find marijuana wherever the courier has it hidden. According to “M Live,” Murphy was trained for around eight weeks as a detector dog with a scented towel hidden in places for this gracious Golden to find. His trainer says it’s a game of “hide and seek,” teaching the dog to consistently hunt out the chosen scent. 

Murphy was taught to sit when the correct scent was found. Once a detector dog has passed its training phase, they become certified and placed out in the field. These woofers work long hours and for six to eight years before retiring.

If your Golden Retriever loves to play ball, you might have a sniffer dog in the making. Start by teaching them to play fetch. The object can be a ball, towel like the top trainers use, or a toy they go nuts over.

The next step is to add a scent to the play object and let your woofer sniff the heck out of it. Ask your Golden to sit the way the big guns do when they’ve found the marijuana in a car at the border. Once your sniffer-pup has found the scent, let them play with the reward object. You could get your dog-ster to bark or put their paw on the find if you prefer.

Training takes time and patience to achieve the right responses and when your golden pup gets the hang of it, take the play object away, as it’s the Woodstock smelly stuff you want them to seek out. You can use the term find, search, or whatever feels good and when you have that first Eureka moment as your smart Retriever finds the weed, give them their reward object to have a blast in the backyard. As training progresses, make it harder for your Retriever to find the scent.

Drug-sniffing pups have run into a snag as Marijuana has been legalized in many US states. This entails a re-training of dogs to eliminate this scent in their search. The problem is some drugs are laced with cannabis, making it a real issue for these dogs that have been used to finding this scent.

How to React When Your Golden Retriever Sniffs Out Marijuana:

  • Praise them for finding the stash!
  • Take it off them quickly if it's not packaged - when eaten, marijuana is toxic to dogs.
  • Take it to the police if you live in a state where Marijuana is not legal.
  • See what other things your dog might be able to detect.

Tell Us If Your Golden Retriever Can Detect Marijuana!