Can Drug Dogs Smell Vape?

At my family’s annual Christmas get-together in Texas, a few friends flew in from San Francisco just for the party.

They mentioned they had planned to bring in some medical cannabis and smokeable weed in their vape pens but were afraid of the drug dogs in the airport.

It’s a good thing they did not bring in cannabis, even in vape form because drug-sniffing dogs are able to sniff out drugs, even in vape concentrations.

image of a drug dog with security officer

If you didn’t already know, cannabis is legal in San Francisco but not in Texas.

Here is all the information I could find about how accurate drug dogs are in sniffing out objects and substances they are trained to sniff out. It turns out, drug-dogs are more accurate than I first thought.

I put together everything I thought you should know about how effective drug-sniffing dogs are and if they can smell vape. After all, with the popularity of vape these days, this is obviously the question on everyone’s mind.

Can drug dogs smell Vape pens?

Yes. Drug dogs are quite accurate in sniffing out anything they are trained to sniff out, including vape pens.

One guy at the party even had oregano in his vape pens and the dog sniffed that out even if it wasn’t cannabis. They still asked him to step aside at the airport to make sure that he wasn’t bringing anything illegal into Texas.

Why Are Drug Sniffing Dogs Effective?

A dog’s nose is so sensitive it’s hard to explain it in a way that my next-door neighbors would understand.

Think of adding a teaspoon of sugar to coffee causing it to smell a little different. Your dog will be able to smell the sugar in two filled swimming pools Olympic-sized even if the sugar was just one teaspoonful.

The reason is that there are extremely sensitive receptors for scent on the nose of the drug dog In their nasal passages, humans have about five million receptors for scent.

In contrast, depending on their breed, dogs have about three hundred million. This astounding scent receptor number is found on top of the nose of each dog.

Thus, every time your pooch breathes in, the air directly passes the network of olfactory receptors covering his thin nasal bones. Scent molecules are captured by cilia, which are hair-like projectors. This lets dogs hold the smell he breathed with every inhalation and exhalation.

Drug sniffing dogs are effective because they have been trained for substance detection using just their senses. Aside from illegal drugs, drug-sniffing dogs can effectively also detect contraband electronics like illicit cell phones, blood, currency, wildlife scat, and explosives.

These dogs are trained to have a sharp sense of smell. Search dogs that are used to find missing humans and hunting dogs used for game searching are not considered detection dogs.

The simple training methods have resulted in very accurate sniffer dogs that can find illegal, concealed items and are trained sufficiently to become immune from detecting strategic masking scents like meat or strategic meat placement.

How Are Drug Sniffing Dogs Trained?

Drug sniffing dogs are first selected based on having a better sense of smell than others. According to the AKC or the American Kennel Club, basset hounds and bloodhounds have the most sensitive noses for scent. Other breeds include Labrador retrievers, Belgian Malinois, and German Shepherds.

Popular breeds that are trained for sniffing drugs include beagles, German Shepherds, and any dog in the retriever family.

Once selected, dogs are trained to sniff out the substance desired by getting the dog to associate his favorite toy with the smell. A small white towel is sometimes used as a toy to play tug of war with the trainers.

Once the towel is associated with having fun, the trainers then begin introducing the scent of the illicit drug they want the dog to find. This can also be money, bomb-chemicals, flash drives, or others.

The dog will eventually learn to seek out any smell of finding the source related to their favorite playtime toy. A very small amount of drugs is necessary for dogs to pick up the scent. This is because of their exceptional sniffing sense. This means that in training, there is no risk to the dog.

Once the dog has learned how to seek out the smell on command and successfully, the trainer will then move on to give the play reward once the dog has found the source. For instance, drug-sniffing dogs are trained to paw at the illegal substance spot location.

In the earlier stage of training, the dog gets rewarded when it shows any recognition for the scent of the target. When his skill progresses, the reward will only be given when he responds with the right reaction such as barking, staring, standing, or sitting down.

How are dogs trained to Smell Cannabis?

Handlers begin training cannabis-sniffing dogs simply by playing tug of war vigorously with their dog’s favorite towel. The dogs love playing with their trainers.

The towels have been washed so they have no scent. After a few training sessions of pure-play, a rolled bag of marijuana is slipped inside the towel.

The dog will then begin to recognize the smell of marijuana as his favorite toy. The trainer or handler then hides the towel in various places and the dog keeps searching for his toy.

Once he finds it, he scratches and digs to try and get it. Once he gets it he gets a reward which is his favorite game of tug-o-war with his trainer.

The National Narcotic Detector Dog Association certifies narcotic detection dogs to find mainly cocaine and marijuana. Dogs need to be able to detect a minimum stash of ten grams in an area of a thousand feet to get the certification.

Further certification can be for the detection of opium, methamphetamine, and heroin detection. Each year, the handlers and dogs need to renew their dog’s certificate.

Can Dogs Smell Cannabis Vape Cartridges?

Yes, dogs trained to sniff drugs can smell vape pens and vape cartridges depending on what’s in the cartridge and juice. Some law enforcement agencies train dogs specifically to find nicotine and cannabis in vape pens.

Dogs trained to sniff out substances, cartridges and pens will be able to find them when their trainer gives the search signal. Remember, drug sniffer dogs can be trained to detect anything that has a scent, including vape pens and vape cartridges.

How many substances can a drug dog smell?

Drug dogs have very sensitive abilities for sniffing out drug varieties. The most common substances that drug-sniffing dogs can smell are marijuana and cocaine. However, any minute scent of any drug can be sniffed out by a drug dog.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do airport dogs smell for drugs?

Airport dogs serve a vital role in maintaining the security in the airport before boarding to that final check through border patrol and customs.

After months of training, airport pups learn to search for dangerous and illegal items such as contraband electronics, explosives, communicable diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, cancer, and malaria, stacks of cash, poached creaturs, rhino horn and ivory, wild, live animals.

Can dogs smell concentrate?

Dogs can smell concentrates such as ingredients for methamphetamine, ecstasy, and heroin. They can even smell cannabis wax cartridges or any type of illicit concentrate.

Trainers can train their drug dogs to smell concentrate by slipping the specific concentrate into the favorite toy-towel of the dog and having the dog find it.

Then, having associated their favorite plaything with the concentrate, the dogs waste no time in hunting for their “toy” concentrate when their handlers ask them to.

Can dogs smell illegal substances that have been vacuumed sealed?

Drug dogs can smell anything that has been vacuum-sealed, despite what you may have heard. Their refined sense of smell is so sharp they can even smell vape juice inside cartridges.

The reason is that the same hands that packed the vape juice in the vacuum-sealed bags are the same hands that would have zipped up the suitcase.

Also, vacuum-sealed bags have microscopic holes and are porous so smells can seep through. No matter how tightly you sealed a vacuum bag, the substance inside it would eventually have a leaked odor.


There you have it! the answer to whether dogs can smell cannabis vape cartridges or not.

Drug-sniffing dogs are generally chosen for their extra “smelling” ability and trained to find their favorite “toy,” containing the smell of substances they need to look for. Depending on what substance or scent is put on their “favorite toy,” dog’s will search accordingly.

This makes the airport and borders extra safe and there have been legendary dogs that have found items that the airport security teams have actually given up on. Because of these excellent, trained pooches, you can be assured that going in and out of airports are safer than if there were no drug dogs.

This article has put together everything you need to know about whether dogs can sniff out vape pens or not. I hope all the information I found and compiled help you feel safer on your next flight.

Jennifer Cosculluela

Jennifer Cosculluela

Jennifer Cosculluela graduated magna cum laude in Marketing from the State University of New York’s F.I.T and was a Presidential Scholar, specializing in Shakespearean Studies. She also has an AB Psychology Degree from De La Salle University Bacolod and when not writing, loves to spend time with her daughter Margarita and bake cookies and lasagna for her loving husband Sebastian.

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Jennifer Cosculluela

Jennifer Cosculluela

Jennifer Cosculluela graduated magna cum laude in Marketing from the State University of New York’s F.I.T and was a Presidential Scholar, specializing in Shakespearean Studies. She also has an AB Psychology Degree from De La Salle University Bacolod and when not writing, loves to spend time with her daughter Margarita and bake cookies and lasagna for her loving husband Sebastian.

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