December 3, 2020 // UrbanAroma Staff

Can Police Dogs Smell Weed?

If you've ever driven with weed in your car, you know the creeping paranoia you get every time a policeman passes. Even if you don't get pulled over, it can freak you out. If you do actually get pulled over by a cop, it can be really scary, especially if they have a drug dog. The sight of a drug dog can spark fear into the heart of anyone carrying weed.

Dogs have been trained to use their nose to track missing people. They're also used in airports to smell luggage that might contain explosives. There is even evidence that dogs can indicate when someone has cancer. And some dogs are trained to help find drugs during border crossings or traffic stops.

How Are Drug Dogs Trained?

Even though almost any breed of dog could potentially be a sniffer dog, the ones chosen most often are beagles, retrievers, and German shepherds.

A toy of some kind is used to begin the dog's training. The trainer and canine develop a bond through playing with the toy together. In many cases, a small white towel is used to play tug-of-war with the dog. Once it becomes familiar with the towel as a favorite toy, then different scents are put on the towel.

Only a small amount of the targeted scent, like marijuana, is used on the towel during training. When the dog is in search of the scent, it's not really looking for the smell, but for its favorite toy.

Are Drug Dogs Accurate?

How accurate are these canine detectives? There are some conflicting reports concerning their accuracy, or lack thereof. According to Radley Balko, a writer for the Washington Post, drug dogs could be wrong about 50 percent of the time! If this is really true, then it boils down to the equivalency of a coin toss.

Drug dogs may not always hit on something because they actually smell drugs. It has been observed that they might alert as a result of a body signal from the trainer, either intended or unintended. Dogs like to please their handlers.

Australia's RMIT ABC Fact Check says that a review conducted between 2002 and 2004 in New South Wales showed that in as much as 74 percent of cases where a dog indicated the presence of drugs, none were found. It was thought that these dogs were sometimes alerted to residue, or the smell of drugs a person had used previously but they were not in possession.

Another concerning factor about sniffer dogs is that a dog can alert when there's no search warrant. According to a Supreme Court ruling that was published on January 24, 2020, a dog sniff that is conducted during a lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of an illegal substance does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Never consent to a search unless there is a warrant.

Can You Smell Proof Weed From Drug Dogs?

Through the years, weed smokers have tried everything under the sun to mask the smell of weed from cops and drug dogs. Plastic baggies don't work. There are better options for those who need to smell-proof weed.

There are bags and jars that are designed specifically to smell-proof marijuana, and they work quite well. However, cross-contamination is a real factor. Even if the weed smell is not apparent to a person, a drug dog might still be able to smell it because you have the scent on your hands, in your hair, or on your clothes.

Whether you smoked or vaped or just placed your weed in a smell-proof container or bag, any lingering scent that is on the container or bag can give it away. Trace amounts of cannabis odor can be transferred to your car door, steering wheel, seat belt, or anything else you touch.

The bottom line is, protect yourself if you're traveling with cannabis by using a smell-proof container, washing your clothes, hands and hair, and wiping down any surfaces in your car or on your luggage carefully. Never consent to a search of your car without a warrant. And don't be intimidated by the police or a drug dog.