As a dog owner, you are probably aware of the term sniffer dogs. These dogs are in the police for various purposes. These dogs are trained by professional policemen for detecting different scents out there in public. You will see them in different festivals, public outings, protests, or any such gatherings. They are also known as drug dogs.
The intent behind having sniffer dogs with them is to recognise any individual who may possess drugs or any other harmful material. In this article, you will explore different prospects relating to drug dogs and also, know whether or not they can smell drugs inside you.
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Sniffer dogs are referred to as dogs that are trained for using their senses for detecting different items or substances. These dogs are not only trained for detecting drugs but, also for identifying diseases such as cancer, malaria, and COVID-19.
For drugs, police use drug sniffer dogs. These dogs receive training for detecting different illegal drugs. So, any drug such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, ketamine, MDMA, methamphetamine, LSD, and opioids is easily busted.
In addition, these drug dogs can also smell and sense the presence of prescription drugs like Xanax, Adderall, and Fentanyl. Police, prisons, customs, and private security firms use such dogs for catching drug traffickers.
Types of sniffer dogs
Apart from detecting drugs, there are many other purposes for these drug dogs. Here are some other types:
- Search and rescue
Search and rescue ones are trained for recognising human scent. They smell of deceased or living people. Their ability to detect body fluids or blood makes them a perfect candidate for fire service, mountain rescue and the police to locate lost people.
- Explosive detector
These dogs can easily sense and detect the presence of explosives like grenades, bombs, fireworks, and rockets. In addition, they can also identify ammunition and firearms. Military, police, and private security firms use such dogs to prevent or neutralise terrorist attacks and threats.
- Wildlife sniffer canines
To recognise wildlife faeces of invasive or endangered species, these canines receive specific training. In addition, these sniffers also detect rhino horn, pangolin scales, ivory and other illegal wildlife products. Biologists and conservationists mainly use such wildlife sniffer canines for safeguarding wildlife habitats and populations.
- Bed bug sniffers
These dogs receive training for identifying bed bugs. They are nothing but, small parasitic insects which feed on human blood. In addition, they are also capable of detecting other pests such as rats or cockroaches. Companies that provide pest control services often take the help of such canines in the elimination of bed bugs from hotels, houses, etc.
- Currency Sniffer canines
For tracking counterfeit money or cash, these canines are used by the police and Border Force. They are specifically trained for recognising large amounts of currency or cash in the country.
- Medical sniffer dogs
These dogs are trained to sniff humans and identify different diseases such as malaria, Parkinson’s, cancer, disease, and COVID-19. In addition, they can also detect changes in blood sugar levels or seizures in people having diabetes or epilepsy.
Thus, these canines are mainly used in clinics and hospitals for the diagnosis of patients suffering from different health conditions.
Can Sniffer Dogs Smell Drugs Inside You?
If you have this query in mind, either you are curious or afraid. I say this because many people who possess illegal drugs or medicines with them are always watching over their shoulders while they have them.
Some are simply curious to know if these dogs actually detect these drugs within their system or not. So, the answer to this query is no. Dogs cannot smell and detect drugs inside your system. Here are some of the reasons why they cannot:
- They receive training for recognising the smell of the drugs in the air or on a surface and not inside a body.
- Drugs within a body are usually odourless and are very tough to detect.
- The smell of drugs is only recognised by these dogs if they are excreted or metabolized. So, if there is the scent of breath, urine, or sweat, it’s possible.
- The handler’s influence is extreme and at times, they mistake their signs or get influenced in a negative way to provide a false alert.
- The scent of perfume, spices, food, or any such item in close surroundings, can create confusion and distract them while they are instructed to identify drugs.
- There is a limit to the range of smelling drugs for these dogs. They cannot smell them if too far away or deep inside a body.
- While training these dogs are trained for different drugs and medical prescriptions. So, it’s difficult for them to differentiate between illegal and legal drugs or medicines.
- If there are drugs stored inside a body, they cannot identify the type or quantity.
So, these were some of the reasons why the drugs inside the body are not detected. But, what happens when you are stopped by one of these dogs?
What Happens If a Sniffer Dog Stops You UK?
If a sniffer dog on duty stops you, then there are many possible legal prospects for such situations. Regardless, of whether you possess drugs or any illegal medications or substances, according to the government, under Article 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the police have the authority to search you if they have an indication from their dog squad.
In addition, there are many legal challenges and issues you might face if a dog stops you, especially at airports, malls, or other places. So, what makes a case for such a search i.e. “reasonable grounds” to suspect that an individual is in possession of illegal drugs and search them?
- The amount of drug in a suspicious package or bag can make them suggest their handler regarding the substance.
- A handler’s cue on sniffing an individual at a specific location may also make the dog stop them. If the individual is resisting or attempting to escape on inspection, it’s a classic giveaway for a guilty conscience.
- If a dog smells drugs on a person’s body parts, clothes, or any other belongings, even if the quantity is small, they will be stopped by the dog and get inspected. In fact, they can also detect drugs from excreted waste.
- Along with drugs, if dogs sense the smell of other items such as explosives, firearms, or large amounts of currency, they might stop the individual.
Police Action and legal challenges
When police detain an individual on suspicion of drug possession. There is a specific procedure they follow and for the suspect, there are many legal challenges and consequences. So, you can expect the following consequences if a dog stops you:
- Property or belongings in connection with potential drug offences are seized with immediate effect. They may also charge the individual for a potential drug crime.
- An individual may also have to give their blood sample, urine or saliva sample for drug testing. If there is any illegal substance on them, they will face a prison sentence.
- Smuggling or trafficking charges are applied to individuals who are caught with illegal drugs in their body or bloodstream. These charges are worst and one may end up getting a lifetime prison sentence.
Legal Challenges and Consequences
- One will have to get an expert to appeal against the charges filed, especially if they are pertaining to smuggling, trafficking, or running a big drug network.
- If the crime is committed by a minor, then the individual may have to attend different treatment programs and drug assessments while serving their sentence or for making a case for early bail.
- The criminal record goes on permanent record of an individual and it can have a severe impact on their life. The most significant impact is they will find it tough to find a job, travel, or complete their education.
- Social life gets worse for an individual who has served time or faced criminal charges for drug trafficking or smuggling. They are continuously harassed, and face violence and their families also suffer.
So, these were some of the consequences of getting stopped by a sniffer dog. Make sure you avoid carrying any drugs or illegal medicines with you for avoiding trouble.
Sniffer Dog Training
It’s intriguing for dog owners how well these police dogs are trained for catching drugs and other harmful materials. To quench this curiosity, I have included four possible phases suggesting how these dogs are trained.
Phase 1 – Selection and Obedience
Selection of dogs is crucial and a police department considers different factors before they begin training. Normally, they pick the breed with high energetic capacity, intelligence, and eagerness to work. German Shepherds, Spaniels, Belgian Malinois, and Border Collies fall into the police sniffer dogs breed.
In addition, these dogs also receive training for obedience before they begin with the actual training. This involves some regular steps such as following commands, walking with the harness on and socialisation.
Phase 2 – Scent Association and Rewarding
The most crucial phase of training. Because if the dog fails to associate scent then it’s useless to think of using them in the field for identifying different scents. So, here the professional trainers will use their favourite toy or item while teaching them to associate with specific scents.
For instance, the trainer will wrap the toy using a towel with the scent of drugs or explosives and play with them. A dog easily learns to identify the smell of the substance. So, next time when used with different objects, or in the field, they will know the smell and react accordingly.
Further, these dogs are taught how to signal the location of their target. They are trained to bark, scratch, or bite at the source of the scent. These are aggressive behaviour traits. The dog may also sit, point their nose, or lie down towards the source of the scent. These are passive behaviour traits. But, regardless of these traits when a dog manages to indicate the source of scent, they are rewarded.
Phase 3 – Searching
The dogs will have to search for the source of the scent in different places. So, a trainer will train a dog to hide targets in different spots behind various items. After they manage to identify the target and indicate them, they are rewarded.
The reward helps dogs to associate the training with actual scenarios and they will identify the target at vehicles, airports, buildings, checkposts or forests. In fact, the police department provides them with rewards after identifying drugs or finding bombs in real situations.
Phase 4 – Ignoring another scent
While identifying scent is one prospect, eliminating is completely different. For teaching dogs to search, trainers have to teach them to ignore some scents. Because at times, the police have to search for drug products or explosives through extreme terrains in forests.
Thus, a trainer will teach dogs to identify different scents and ignore the ones which are not helpful. If dog successfully differentiates, they receive rewards.
How To Get Past Sniffer Dogs?
As I previously mentioned the training prospects for drug dogs, you must have noticed they are professionally prepared to tackle different scents. So, if you have any intention of getting past these dogs it will fail. Because they can pick up on the slimmest odour of drugs.
Also, if these scents are masked, they are easily detected by these dogs. Now, I don’t support this notion of one trying to sneak past sniffer dogs regardless they have drugs on them or not. So, why am I sharing views on such a notion?
Many people have been caught without them having drugs on them also, many believe they have a right to autonomy and privacy over their own bodies. So, these views or considerations are only suggested from an ethical perspective.
Following are some suggestions for avoiding detection:
- Maintain good hygiene
If you plan on travelling or visiting public places which may have Sniffer dogs, you must make sure you – take regular showers, use odour-neutralising soap, and avoid using colognes or perfumes, because certain fragrances may cause dogs to stop you.
- Eat proper food
You must make sure you don’t eat or drink any food item or substance which may cause your sweat or body scent to smell like drugs. Having onion, coffee, garlic, tobacco or alcohol can cause such issues. Now, if you have eaten any of these items or drank them, you can brush your teeth for getting rid of the odour. Try chewing gum.
- Use repellents
You can use repellents such as vinegar, chilli pepper, or citrus for masking the scent but, remember, these dogs are trained well and can detect the scent after differentiating. So, it’s best not to have any medication or drug which may cause issues.
None of these methods is guaranteed to provide results. In fact, I hope you don’t have to use them in the first place. Because even if a dog makes a mistake and gives a false alarm, the authorities will not charge you with anything unless you have any illegal drugs or medicines with you.
How to get drugs past dogs?
If you have watched movies or tv shows, you may have encountered many episodes or scenes, showing criminals getting past these dogs quite easily. It’s obvious you may have thought of this – how to get drugs past dogs like these folks?
Well, again, it’s not something I would encourage you to do, but, I will explain in brief how these criminals manage to get away with such illegal drugs.
- They make use of air-tight or vacuum-sealed containers made of glass or steel for storing their drugs. These air-tight containers make sure the scent doesn’t spread outside. Hence, they easily get past the dogs.
- Storing the drugs inside their body, for instance, within internal cavities.
- Tak drugs that are less likely to be detected. For example, LSD, or cannabinoids.
- Maintain their distance while in close proximity to sites with police patrols. Nowadays, these criminals totally avoid such sites that are susceptible to police patrols.
- Include items such as meat, pepper, or coffee to irritate and distract the dog. This either works or not.
- Use the opposite-gender dog for distraction.
You must not attempt to use these methods in any circumstance. Not even for fun or a prank. Because it may get ugly and you will end up in jail, unlike criminals. Because sometimes they also exploit weak links within the system and bribe the authorities to get past them.
Yes, dogs can smell coke. They can even identify the presence of coke in an airtight container even if they are covered with diluted substances or other smells. This happens because these dogs are trained well and can detect all sorts of drugs. Cocaine, heroin, opiates, ecstasy, marijuana, LSD, and methamphetamine. In addition, dogs can even smell coke on your body, breath, hair, or clothes.
From dog breed to temperament, there are many factors contributing to the selection of a detection or police dog. Also, the gender of the handler is also taken into consideration before picking a dog for the K9 unit. Because the dog will have to follow the handlers’ cues all the time. But, the majority of the time, female dogs are picked over males as they are not easily distracted.
Yes, they can! These dogs receive training from top professionals. So, not only they can smell pills, but, also other substances. Their training is intense because they have to identify the source in different places. For instance, in bags, pockets, or containers. Their smell sense is 10,000 times better in comparison with humans.
Dogs aren’t exactly motivated to work for the police or find drugs and explosives. But, because they have natural instinct to chase, hunt, and find stuff, not to forget their loyalty towards humans makes them perfect for working in such a situation. They are motivated by the excitement and challenges which such critical situations offer.
Sniffer dogs can smell different drugs, or medicines but, cannot smell what’s inside you. This doesn’t mean you must exploit this prospect and have illegal drugs on you. Because it will be disrespectful and irresponsible behaviour from your end. Not to mention, it’s illegal and dangerous.
As per the Police Act 1996, Section 89, you may face one-month imprisonment or a fine of £1,000 if you try and obstruct or interfere with the official police officer using a dog on duty. Distracting, lying, or worst, hurting them may even make your case worse, especially if the offence is directed at the dog. You may end up having 6 months imprisonment or an unlimited fine.
Thus, as a UK resident, you must abide by such guidelines and completely avoid having illegal drugs. This will make sure you stay out of trouble and not face any legal repercussions. Teens get thrilled by the notion of testing these police dogs after watching some tv show or movie, so, their parents or guardians must make sure they don’t act on such impulses.