How to Train a Dog to Be a Drug Sniffer

Written by jason dickey
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How to Train a Dog to Be a Drug Sniffer
Dogs associate finding drugs with getting their favourite toy. (police body and dog image by Sergey Galushko from

Dogs are capable of being trained to distinguish one particular scent out of the millions of scents. According to Ken Nelson, a training expert at Global training academy in Somerset, Texas, there are no shortcuts in training drug dogs; each canine requires weeks of individual training. Only certain breeds of dogs, such as the German shepherd, are capable of becoming drug sniffers and usually the dogs are very energetic. Depending on the personality of the dog, it will be trained to sit when it smells the scent of drugs if it is passive, or trained to bark and scratch if it is an aggressive dog.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Dog toy
  • Pseudo drugs
  • Box with four holes

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  1. 1

    Get your dog's favourite toy. This will be used to reward the dog.

  2. 2

    Put a packet of pseudo drugs in front of your dog for it to sniff. As soon as the dog sniffs the packet, tell the dog to sit or bark. This will train the dog to indicate to you that it has found drugs. Pseudo drugs are commercially available and have the scents of such drugs as marijuana, cocaine, LSD and heroin.

  3. 3

    Make a box by taking four small cardboard boxes that will fit side-by-side into a larger cardboard box. Glue or tape the small boxes on each side of the inside of the larger box. Cut a hole through the larger box and into the smaller box that is large enough to fit your hand into.

  4. 4

    Put the packet of pseudo drugs in one of the holes of a box without your dog being there.

  5. 5

    Speak the command "go show me" or "find it" to let your dog know to begin sniffing for drugs.

  6. 6

    Encourage your dog verbally when it moves toward the correct hole. When the dog sits or barks in front of the correct hole, immediately give your dog its favourite toy and reward it with additional praise.

  7. 7

    Move the box or packet of pseudo drugs to different locations and repeat the process. Make the locations more challenging each time by adding other scents to the training area or covering the hole in the box to contain the odour. You can also add other such distractions as noises and people to make it more difficult for the dog.

Tips and warnings

  • Pseudo drugs are fake drugs that smell the same as real drugs to dogs. Therefore, you can train your dog without possessing illegal drugs.
  • Drug dogs are not trained to consume drugs as some rumours would indicate.
  • Do not be discouraged if your dog is not successful at becoming a drug sniffer. Only a small percentage of dogs are able to complete their training and be certified.

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