How Effective Are Drug Detection Dogs?

drug detection dogs with policeFor anyone struggling with an addiction to an illegal substance, it’s not just the physical and physiological symptoms of addiction that they have to contend with… it’s also the fact that there can be harsh consequences for being caught (often publicly) with an illegal drug. And one thing they might wonder about is how effective drug detection dogs really are when it comes to locating drugs hidden in someone’s house, bag, or clothing.While there are plenty of websites and articles claiming that drug detection dogs can be easily fooled, the truth is that these dogs are well-trained and can detect practically anything. From contraband like ivory to illegal wildlife to any variety of illegal drugs, trained dogs can and will find what is hidden much of the time. (National Geographic)

How Drug Detection Dogs Are Trained

You might wonder what sets these dogs apart from typical pets, especially if you’ve got a dog yourself. Obviously, it’s the training, but what kind of training to they go through?Before dogs even begin, trainers select drug-sniffing dogs with particularly strong scent drives and put them through a thorough medical examination. If, and only if, they pass the exam can they begin their training.

Drug-sniffing dogs are trained using a type of behavioral conditioning, meaning that they’re rewarded whenever they successfully identify a particular scent. Oftentimes they’re trained using a toy like a towel that they can play tug-of-war with. Different drugs will be rolled up in the towel and hidden in various locations, so the dogs learn that if they seek out the scent of their favorite toy, they’ll be rewarded.Dogs can even be trained to detect scents separately, so even if someone were to try to cover the scent of an illegal drug with a more powerful odor, a drug detection dog would still alert their handler to the presence of the illegal substance.

Controversy Over Drug Detecting Dogs

Sometimes defense attorneys will make the case that it’s hard to accurately measure the reliability of a drug detecting dog and that a defendant was wrongfully searched. (Statesman Journal) There has also been some debate that the use of drug detection dogs represents an unconstitutional invasion of citizens’ privacy.

However, while the debate about the constitutional nature of drug-sniffing dogs may continue, there’s no denying that in general, these drug detection dogs have a strong track record of successfully uncovering illegal substances. Their abilities should not be underestimated; it’s not a wise decision to try to sneak any type of illegal drug past them.

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