How are canines (K9s) trained to detect drugs?

Last Updated:  
April 5, 2024
How are canines (K9s) trained to detect drugs?

How are Drug Detection Dogs Trained?

A lot of people find this very question fascinating - just how DO dogs smell such subtle smells? What is so special that they have this superpower of scent that humans can't even come close to? Dogs have been helping us move our civilizations forward for tens of thousands of years, and that won't be stopping anytime soon. All our advanced technology can't compare to the perfectly tuned instrument that is a trained detection dog nose.

Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose. This is what gives them such an amazing sense of smell, estimated to be 10,000 times more accurate than us humans. Imagine you are cooking beef stew. You walk in the house and smell beef stew. Dogs smell each ingredient separate, carrots, beef, onions and so on.  Their sense of smell coupled with being trainable, makes them a key tool in finding drugs and other odors. They are used by law enforcement and private companies like Doerner Investigations and K9 Detection to smell and sniff out illicit drugs.

A detection dog also known as a sniffer dog is a dog that is trained to use its powerful sense of smell to detect a variety of substances including drugs. The dogs are started by searching for their favorite toy. We evaluate their ability to be a good sniffer dog by how well and long they will hunt for that toy. We then pair that toy with the odor we want them to find.

Sniffer dogs have totally no interest in the drugs or other odors themselves. What they are actually searching for is their favorite toy. Their training program has led them to associate that toy with the smell of the target odor. The sniffer dogs strong desire to hunt drives them to seek out what they have been trained to find. Once that odor is found the dog is rewarded with their toy. We often say that toy being rewarded to them is like their paycheck. Would you work for free?

During the early stages of training the detection dog will be rewarded when it displays any form of recognition of the target scent. As the dog’s skills progress the reward will only be given when the dog responds with the correct reaction (e.g. sit, stand, stare, down, bark, etc…).  

Canine detection dogs and their handlers undergo extensive training for months in order to be certified and are successful because of their ability to work as a team. They will carry out testing and retraining throughout their entire careers to ensure their skills are reliable and up to standard.

Drug detection dogs can be used for a range of operations and assignments including but not limited to; Airports, Marine applications, drug rehabilitation centers, Hospitals, and mental health facilities together with schools, colleges and universities, events, prisons, businesses and homes, who all see the benefits of using drug detection dogs for tighter security measures. They can be used to detect drugs on individuals, within buildings, open areas and vehicles.  

Sniffer K9s can be trained to sniff out almost anything: narcotics, explosives, money, blood, human remains, even skin cancer and the Covid-19 virus! Increasingly, in the Los Angeles / Southern California area, concerned parents call in drug detection dogs to search their teen's bedroom for illegal drugs. Teen drug use has long been an issue, and making sure your child gets the help they need before law enforcement becomes involved is often the best course of action. Find drugs in your kid's room or elsewhere in the home and get them treatment before addiction sets in. Amy Doerner and her team understand how difficult a situation family drug use can be, and they handle these cases with upmost care, discretion and compassion. If you are concerned that your child may be using, selling or addicted to drugs, Doerner Investigations can help you find the truth.


For more information about our Canine Services and drug sniffer dogs please contact Amy Doerner @ Doerner Investigations & K9Detection (213) 910-4609

The Doerner Private Investigation team has the experience, expertise and discretion needed to get the job done.

Talk to a PI