Can Dogs Smell Vapes and Dab Pens?

by Stuart | Last Updated:   March 27, 2021

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Dogs have sensitive noses with incredibly strong scent receptors. They have the ability to pick up and single out even the faintest of odours. This makes them invaluable and ideal for sniffing out stashes of a variety of drugs (and explosives); as many do in their capacity as police/security dogs.

This post includes everything you need to know about whether dogs smell vapes and dab pens.

Dogs can be trained to accurately smell and detect the presence of explosives, drugs, vapes, dab pens, and even infectious diseases in patients. Their noses are so finely-tuned that they can even smell underwater.

Dogs use a number of “body language” signs to indicate that they’re smelling something. These signs include:

  • Staring 
  • Alert expression
  • Barking 
  • Head tilting 
  • Sniffing
  • Intense focus 
  • Ignoring your commands 
  • Nose in the air or to the ground 
  • Turning head to follow scent 
  • Rapid inhalation and exhalation 
  • Scratching or pawing at source of scent
Airport canine. Dog sniffs out drugs like vapes and dab pens, or bomb in a luggage.

Can Drug Dogs Smell Vapes?

Drug dogs are trained specifically for using their noses in precarious situations. Although cocaine and marijuana are the most common substances that drug-sniffing dogs are used to detect, any drug that has the most minute scent to a dog can be sniffed out.

Drug dogs are trained to smell for specific scents. This means a drug dog can be trained to detect almost anything, provided that it has a scent. So, drug dogs can in fact detect vapes and dab pens depending on what’s in the juice and cartridge.

Usually, drug dogs are trained to only detect between two and five different substances. These dogs are able to separate odors that are mixed up. Even if cannabis/THC is in liquid form and mixed in with nicotine vape liquid, they may and likely will still be able to detect it.

The reason why drug dogs can smell your vape, no matter how well it’s been hidden, is because:

Smells seep through plastic: 

Plastics used in vacuum sealed bags are porous with microscopic holes. Scents can seep through these vacuum sealed bags. No matter how well you seal these bags, the smell of the substance inside will eventually leak.

Scents can contaminate other items: 

The microscopic elements of vapes and pens placed into a sealed container will eventually come into contact with the exterior of the container.

Also, when you, or the person packaging your vape, use your hands to put vapes and pens in vacuum sealed bags and then handle the outsides afterwards this leaves minute scent traces that can be detected by a drug dog.

Can drug dogs smell concentrate?

Dogs’ ability to smell concentrations is 10,000 to 100,000 times more accurate than ours. Where we smell an apple pie, a dog can smell the nutmeg, sugar, apples, flour, cinnamon, and other ingredients used in the apple pie recipe. 

Drug dogs are able to sniff out drugs, even in vape concentrations. They can smell concentrates such as ingredients for methamphetamine and heroin. They can even smell cannabis wax cartridges or any type of concentrate.

Dogs have even been used to sniff out cancer and help diabetic patients identify changes in their insulin before they even feel the changes.

What Drugs Can Drug Dogs Smell? 

Most drug sniffer dogs are trained to focus on the drugs and substances that are of the biggest concern to airports and police. That usually means things like amphetamines and explosives.

Here are some of the common drugs law enforcement agencies and Drug Enforcement Officers have trained dogs to detect: 

  • Marijuana: The most commonly abused illicit substance.
  • Cocaine: A strong stimulant most frequently used as a recreational drug.
  • Heroin: A highly addictive drug derived from morphine that is used to produce euphoria.
  • Opiates: Highly addictive substances derived from opium (there are prescription and non-prescription variants).
  • Xanax: A type of benzodiazepine, or central nervous system (CNS) depressant.
  • Bath salts: A group of recreational designer drugs.
  • K2: A synthetic cannabinoid also known as Spice.

Dogs’ Amazing Sense of Smell

Did you know: “Dogs have a sense of smell that’s between 10,000 and 100,000 times more acute than ours!”

Well, this sounds epic! Right? It’s just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s put some icing on the cake and check out some more amazing facts about dogs’ sense of smell.

Olfactory Receptors: 

A dog has 220 million olfactory receptors in its nose. When a scent enters a dog’s nose, it passes through, over, and around those 220 million receptors. Many of these olfactory receptors are connected to nerves leading directly to the olfactory lobe of the brain. In comparison, a human possesses only about 5 million olfactory receptors.

Once a dog has processed a scent, it will be stored in the olfactory lobe and this amazing canine will remember it for the rest of its life.

Nasal System:

Dogs have a far more complex nasal system than humans. Just behind the external part of a dog’s nose there lies a circulation chamber. While we don’t differentiate between breathing and smelling, a dog treats them as two separate functions. When a dog exhales, the air exits through the sides of its nostrils and doesn’t interfere with its ability to smell.

Nose Sensitivity: 

Nestled throughout a dog’s entire muzzle are nerves leading directly to the part of the brain responsible for scent identification, processing, and storage.

Dogs’ remarkable sense of smell continues to astonish experts and scientists. Professor Alexandra Horowitz at Barnard College explains the dog’s powerful sense of smell. He says that we might be able to tell if a teaspoon of sugar has been added to our cup of coffee. Dogs would be able to smell that same teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water; roughly the equivalent of two Olympic-sized pools.

Super Memory Bank and Brain Capacity:

The super canine is also equipped with incredible brain-development for analyzing smells. So, they rely on their nose more than any other sense. A dog uses its scent memory bank to connect specific scents to specific situations so it knows how to respond.

Can Dogs Smell Drugs Through an Airtight Container? 

With super sensitive noses, dogs can sniff out scents in the most difficult of locations. However, they cannot smell through airtight containers. As airtight containers are vacuum sealed, they keep any air from escaping. If no air can escape, neither can any odor; thus restricting the aroma of the drugs inside.

However, if someone stores the drugs in the airtight container, the scent in their hand will stay on the outer surface of the container. It can immediately raise suspicion and dogs are absolutely brilliant to detect it!

Breeds with the Best Sense of Smell

All dogs have superior scent receptors, but not every breed is trainable. Trained dogs have been helping law enforcement institutions for years. Our four-legged pals have helped protect us, signaling to their handler when they find something interesting.

Many dogs can be trained to be a sniffer dog, but some breeds like herding dogs, hounds, hunting dogs, and sporting dogs have the most scent-sensitive noses and smell better than others.

Let’s have a look at the most popular and brilliant scent dogs:

These breeds have strong prey drive and maintain a steady temperament. This helps motivate searches and allows them to detect scents.

Scent Work Sport for Dogs

Training your dog to follow a scent takes time, consistent training, and patience. It can be an incredibly amazing experience for both you and your furry pal!

While all dogs sniff things, it takes specialized training to teach a dog to detect and alert to specific odors. Using a system of rewards, trainers teach a dog to mentally link the scent of a specific substance with its favorite reward.

AKC Scent Work is an amazing sport that mimics the task of working detection dogs to locate a scent.

Scent Work is a positive, engaging, and challenging activity. It allows dogs the opportunity to use their powerful natural sense of smell. Scent work builds and strengthens a foundation of trust between the handler and canine.

AKC Scent Work | Intro to Dog Sports

Final Thoughts 

Dogs can smell vapes and dab pens. However, their reaction to the scent depends on whether and how they have been trained to react, as well as what substance is in the vape juice itself.

A dog’s nose has become a powerful weapon in detecting and distinguishing all different kinds of scents. These odors can range from drugs, to people, to explosives.

The olfactory sense is incredibly valuable to dogs as it tells them far more about their environment than we can ever imagine.

We hope all the information we found and compiled helps you understand much about dog’s incredible scent receptors and sniffing capabilities.

Until next time everyone!

Stuart loves blogging about his hobbies and passions. Sir Doggie is a place for him to share what he learns while being a pet parent. Click here to read more.
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