The concept of sniffer dogs has been around longer than you think, with detection dogs used by British forces in World War 2 to identify explosives. Police dogs have been used for well over 100 years, and bloodhounds even accompanied police forces in the search for Jack the Ripper in 1888. UK Police, Military forces and security teams have mastered the use of dogs for detection purposes, with the standard of training increasing over the years. Training techniques have been developed and refined, and skilled dogs are always getting better at drug detection. 


What they can smell

Sniffer dogs can smell a wide range of substances, from cannabis to heroin, to ketamine and MDMA. They are trained to identify illegal odours that emit from certain drugs. Whilst most sniffer dogs are trained to detect hard drugs, like cocaine, heroin and ecstasy, they also have the ability to detect lower-class drugs and pills. 

The list of substances that dogs can detect is always increasing in size. Currently, County Security UK’s search and detection dogs can smell: 

  • MDMA – This drug is short for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine.
  • Ketamine – An anaesthetic drug used in both medical and veterinary practises. 
  • Marijuana – Or Weed, Cannabis and Pot. 
  • Heroin – This is an opioid known for its euphoric effects. 
  • Cocaine HCL – Or Cocaine Hydrochloride.
  • Crack Cocaine – This derivative is cocaine mixed with water and another substance, often sodium bicarbonate.
  • Ecstasy – Also known as Molly and MDMA. 
  • Methamphetamines – The three main forms of methamphetamines are: crystalline, powder and base. 
  • Opioids – Examples include: Codeine, Morphine, Oxycodone and Heroin.
  • K2 – Also referred to as Spice.
  • Xanax – Used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. 
  • Adderall – A stimulant that can increase focus and/or concentration.
  • Crystal Meth – A methamphetamine that is highly addictive to the consumer. 
  • LSD – Short for Lysergic Acid Diethylamide.
  • Fentanyl – A type of opioid used for pain killing purposes. 
  • Amphetamine – These are used to treat ADHD, Narcolepsy and Obesity. 

As well as other over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Detection dogs are trained to identify these substances and their derivatives, protecting a specific area from illegal drugs. Their sense of smell is 40 times that of humans, and given their high intellect they can be easily trained to detect and identify certain odours. 


How they’re trained

Detection dogs begin training when they are still a puppy, around 6 to 8 weeks depending on the determination of the dog. Certain puppies will be identified in a litter and chosen by security, military and police forces for a specific purpose. It soon becomes clear which dogs aren’t suited to the detection lifestyle. 

From there, puppies are taught with a reward system, awarded with a treat or toy whenever they successfully detect the presence of drugs. That scent is then associated with a treat and dogs will happily seek out drugs or other substances. Trainers must be given licensing and certification by law enforcement agencies if they wish to use small samples of drugs during training, but can use alternatives that mimic the scent of various drugs. 

Sniffer dogs are trained to alert in two different ways, passively and aggressively. The former refers to a dog lying or sitting down once it has identified a scent, while the latter consists of a sniffer dog pawing or digging at the spot without damaging personal property. Passive alerts are more commonly used by handlers, as they pose less of a threat to property and possessions. 

County Security UK provides an exceptional search and detection dog service, with a team of professional and experienced handlers we can help you with your security needs. Get in touch with us today for more information on our services, or visit our Search & Detection Dog page. 

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