Can Drug Sniffing Dogs Detect CBD? Debunking Myths and Facts About Canine Scent Detection

Drug dogs can sniff out a variety of substances, firearms, and people, including weed or different harmful drugs. With the association of CBD with cannabis, it is natural to worry whether drug dogs can smell it. As you probably know, while marijuana is illegal to possess or carry in many states, CBD is legal in most.

Since the law can be very complex statewise, you should first check yours and the one you are travelling to before carrying CBD through a place where there can be drug dogs since they can indeed sniff it. However, there is more to it, as the dogs may not even bat an eye upon detecting CBD oil on you.

So, let’s dive more into the matter below.

Training of Drug-Sniffing Dogs 

Drug-sniffing dogs go through lengthy training that starts when they are as young as only six weeks old. Once fully trained, they usually stay in the service for around 8-9 years. A professional trainer or an officer may train them regularly.

Some common drug-detecting dogs are Golden Retrievers, Weimaraners, German Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois. Now, whether or not a drug-sniffing dog will detect any substance depends on whether their trainer trained them for it.

CBD isn’t a substance illegal enough to be specially trained to be detected by these dogs. However, there can be instances where a drug-sniffing dog picks up the scent of THC or other ingredients present in your CBD product. But it is rare since most CBD products don’t contain any of these nowadays.

How dogs distinguish substances

Training of Drug-Sniffing Dogs 

In order to be able to distinguish different substances, the trainers train their dogs by making them smell a small amount of those specific substances. For example, let’s say that cannabis is illegal in a state. So, the trainers will get their dogs to smell the terpenes in weed to make them well-acquainted with the scent.

After enough time, the dog can pick up the scent of those terpenes from a long distance and after a long time or distinguish them from various other substances or people. We also have to thank the canine’s acute sense of smell, a thousand times stronger than us, for this to be possible.

Some common weed terpenes that drug-sniffing dogs are trained for are pinene, caryophyllene, and beta-caryophyllene. If your CBD product doesn’t have them, you can probably rest assured that most drug-detecting dogs won’t smell it. That is unless the dogs are also trained to smell CBD oil itself.

Myth vs Fact

There have been many rumors and myths surrounding drug-sniffing dogs, making it often troublesome to distinguish facts from myths. So, let’s debunk some misconceptions below-

Myth: Drug Dogs Are Addicted to Drugs.

In truth, drug dogs have no temptation or interest in dogs or most substances they are trained for. They usually start to associate those drugs with negative things. Drug-sniffing dogs believe that they are doing a good job by detecting them, not because of any addiction.

Fact: Drug Dogs Start to Act on Their Handler’s Habit Instead of Always Using Their Sense of Smell

Lisa Lit published a shocking fact about drug-sniffing dogs in the Animal Cognition journal in 2011. An experiment has revealed that drug-sniffing dogs are more akin to the behaviours of their trainer or handlers and start to act on these rather than their smelling capabilities.

Of course, these raised the question about their reliability. But so far, drug-sniffing dogs have been doing a good job and are proving reliable.

Myth: Dogs Can Distinguish All Scents

Dogs usually don’t even care about most scents around them except in some instances. It is so because we are constantly surrounded by different scents, from the scent of motor engines to perfume fragrances. For a drug-sniffing dog to distinguish and target specific scents, their trainers train them for a long time.

Fact: Dogs Can Indeed Discern Scents Even When Covered by Other Odors

Many often attempt to mask certain odors from illegal substances by masking them with other odors. However, it doesn’t work in the majority of cases. The nose of a dog works way better than you can even perceive. The multilayered smelling process of a dog can pick up and discern any smell from their surrounding if they want to.

It can be trouble to travel with CBD since the laws can be diverse among the states. If you are soon to visit somewhere, you can take the following steps to prevent legal complications-

  • First things first, make sure to read the law about CBD oil in the place you are travelling to before even packing your bags. Especially check the airline’s policy of the airports you will embark or disembark.
  • Many places allow certain forms of CBD while having restrictions for others. Consider only going for those. Usually, CBD oil tends to face the most complications during travel.
  • If you must travel with CBD oil, check if there is any restricted limit to it, and keep it within that.
  • Many places may require apparent labelling on your CBD product. So, only travel with products or CBD oil bottles where its THC content, ingredients, and industry are correctly mentioned.
  • Try to only carry CBD products with zero THC content or as low as possible. It is so because a lot of countries do not allow THC at all.
  • If your medical provider prescribes your CBD, carry the prescription document or other papers with you (or at least a letter from your doctor). It can help you explain your necessity and justification for carrying CBD.
  • Many places have rules requiring people to declare if they have any CBD products upon arriving there. Check whether your destination also has this Custom Declaration rule for CBD and how to do it, and then follow the instructions carefully.
  • Carry your CBD inside transparent packaging to make the inspection quicker.
  • Keep the contact information of your CBD provider or brand, as it may come in handy when handing any complication on foreign land.
  • Keep any Certification of Analysis (CoA) with you while travelling if you have them. Many manufacturers provide them, and you can use them to show proof of your obedience to the rules.

Quotes from professionals about Drug Sniffing Dogs

Many professionals have different opinions about drug-sniffing dogs. While some find it an excellent method, others do not favour relying on dogs to detect drugs. Followed by several schools bringing drug testing dogs to check on their students, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said in a report that-

“It is a matter of concern that student drug-testing has been widely developed in the US and may conceivably be so in the UK on the basis of the slimmest available research evidence.”

Steven Brown also expressed a similar worry: “There has been the use of drug-sniffing dogs in lockers, but I’m not aware of bringing in dogs to search individual students in Rhode Island. There’s a significant constitutional problem with that, which is probably why it hasn’t cropped up before.”

Meanwhile, American comedian and actor Jimmy Fallon stated a different concern with the following words-

“I read that as marijuana legalization becomes more popular, it could affect the jobs of drug-sniffing dogs. Or, as those dogs put it, ‘Thanks, Bo Obama.”

What can throw off a drug dog scent?

It may be necessary under specific circumstances to throw off drug dog scent, especially if you must carry a substance legal in one state but completely illegal in another. The following are some measures you can take-

  • Seal your CBD with vacuum-sealing bags, which will conceal the odour emanating from it. However, use hydrogen peroxide to remove any residual smell after sealing the substance.
  • If there is a chance, try walking in crowds or taking public transport, which can reduce the probability of a dog sniffing the CBD in your bags.
  • If you have handled CBD in the near past, drug-sniffing dogs may smell that from you, too. It is better to wear new sets of clothes and wash yourself properly before travelling. Consider using perfumes with strong fragrance as well.
  • Freezing your CBD gummies can help mask their odours. However, you have to take measures to keep it frozen while travelling, or at least while going through a security checkup.

If you have legal ways to handle the matter during a security check, it is always better to stick to that instead of attempting to throw off a drug dog. If you fail to do the latter, it may lead to many unwanted law issues.


Drug dogs can indeed sniff CBD if they are trained for it. So, if your travelling destination doesn’t allow CBD, you may expect the security canine units to sniff it out from your bag. However, worry not, as most places worldwide allow CBD under particular conditions. Abiding by those rules will keep you away from many complications.

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Nazmul Nahid

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