Myth or Fact: Do Airport Security Dogs Actually Sniff for Drugs?

Myth or Fact: Do Airport Security Dogs Actually Sniff for Drugs?

Published on 2/20/22

It's every stoner's worst nightmare: get up at the crack of dawn for a flight to a great vacation, only to find yourself at the airport realizing that you've got a few crumbles of your dankest nugs in your suitcase or carry-on bag. You're already in the security line, and the airport dogs suddenly perk up their ears and come over to your bag, sniffing and whining. In this scenario where the TSA and the police are about to pull open your bag and demand an answer, what do you do?

Good Dog


Dogs are employed as sniffer agents in airports because of their incredible sense of smell. A German Retriever's nose contains about 300 million sensory nodes, compared with "just" six million in a human's nose. That's how a dog can not just smell what's inside a sealed bag, but they can smell many details. The reason why dogs pee on the side of trees is that their urine leaves behind scents and hormones that we humans can't possibly smell, giving off a wealth of information to other dogs like their breed, size, sex, and even what they ate for breakfast that morning. A dog could easily tell you what one strain of weed is just by a whiff of their terpenes, something that only the most experienced stoner could manage. While they can only see colors from yellow to blue on the visible light spectrum, they more than make up for this sense with their potent smell.

There's a reason police choose dogs as sniffers, even though we live in an age when sensors can tell a lot of information about anyone passing through. For starters, dogs are very fast. They can tell when a new smell enters the room, even if it is concealed, while a sensor may take a long while before it determines what a substance is. These dogs are trained to discern the smallest details; while the scent of skunk weed does indeed resemble a skunk and might even fool a human, it's not going to get past a trained dog. Not only can dogs smell edibles, but they can also smell different flavored edibles because the individual ingredients are as different to a dog as two different-colored T-shirts are to a human's vision.

Ruff Mission

When it comes to what airport dogs sniff for, the good news is that cannabis is very low on the list. What are dogs in airports looking for? Primarily explosives: the K9 units of the TSA and the police are trained to detect the individual smell of bomb components, like nitroglycerin. After all, bombs are a much greater threat than narcotics and can be concealed in ways that bulky narcotics may not be able to. Bomb-sniffing dogs are the ones you'll see at the airport, and they aren't interested in your weed, whether it's ditch weed or top-shelf leaf. They've got more important things to deal with, even if they know you're sneaking some green into the blue.

Drug Dogs


However, drug-sniffing dogs do exist at other places, such as concerts, where the owners want to control what goes into the venue. Drug dogs vs bomb dogs is about the equivalent of a pee-wee team against a professional team: bomb dogs receive much more vigorous training, including training to attack a dangerous suspect. By contrast, a drug dog will do nothing more than sniff out a substance and go sit down by it. This alerts their handler, who then is tasked with dealing with the problem. Their sense of smell is perfectly fine: if you wonder if drug dogs smell vape pens, the answer is an easy yes. Not only that, they can tell you how much you have left in your vape pen - if only they could talk.

Drug dogs can sniff out just about any substance: not just marijuana but also cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, heroin, etc. They specialize in this type of detection because smugglers increasingly get creative; perhaps you've heard urban legends of cocaine shipments wrapped in steaks so that handlers think the dogs just want the meat. Drug dogs aren't trained to attack, however, and since their handlers often aren't cops, you can just walk away if a pooch snitches on you.

Pot on a Plane

So what happens if you do bring some pot to the airport? There's a chance you'll get away with it: you can find plenty of anecdotes on the Internet about people who flew with a decent amount of chronic. However, if TSA does find some mary jane, they might bring federal charges against you - which is extremely bad news. In other countries, airports may have drug dogs with the police, and how the police deal with you is subject to their laws. No matter the place or the circumstances, the best solution is to eat, drink, or smoke up all your marijuana before you get to the airport.

Have you ever had an experience where you accidentally left some marijuana in a bag while traveling? What were your emotions like on the trip? Let us know in the comments below!

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