Sniffer Dogs

Sniffer Dogs, Detection Dogs, Canine Nosework…they are all different names for a dog that is trained to detect substances/odors using their sense of smell.  A recent Oprah article says that “the average canine can detect scents 10,000 to 100,000 times better than the average human.”  That’s amazing!  No wonder why these animals are so well suited for working as sniffer dogs!

Sniffer Dogs


Our black Labrador Retriever, Stetson is a career changed Guide Dog and we’ve been trying to find something for him to do ever since he was dropped from the guide dog program.  We’ve looked into Therapy Dog Training (we’re still interested), Surf Dog Training, Dog Obedience Training, Agility Training (Stetson is not too coordinated), Rally Training, Splash Dog Training (Stetson doesn’t like the water), and now we’re looking into sniffer dog training!  After all we did give Stetson the nickname “Mr. Sniffers” well before we even heard about K9 Nosework Training.

In fact, we’re not just looking into having Stetson join the elite group of Sniffer Dogs, but we’ve already got him involved in his first few canine nosework training classes.  If you’ve been following us on facebook or twitter then you may have already seen some of our short tweets or images about Stetson’s sniffer dog training classes.

We recently started our fourth sniffer dog training class (K9 Nosework) and we’re finally seeing some progress out of Stetson.  So we decided to do some more research on the different kind of careers available to the elite sniffer dogs on the planet.

Sniffer Dogs

  • Bed Bug Sniffing Dogs – with the recent outbreak of bed bugs we’ve heard more and more about bed bug sniffing dogs on the news.  One of our guide dog puppy raising friends even ran into a bed bug sniffing team while staying in a hotel in Las Vegas.  We had a little discussion about it on our facebook fanpage and we were excited about the future of our small group of sniffer dogs in training.
  • Bomb Sniffing Dogs – we’ve also heard the term Explosive Detection Dogs.  We recently came across a sad story about a bomb sniffing dog team.  First the soldier was shot down by a sniper and later in the day his bomb sniffing partner died from a seizure brought on by the tragedy of the events.  For more information on this said story check out the video.
  • Drug Detection Dogs – Probably the first thing we think of when we think of drug detection dogs are those big K9 german shepherd police dogs.  Drug Detection Dog publicity:  We recently saw an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where a drug detection dog detects marijuana in Larry David’s coat.
  • Seizure Detection Dogs – We recently saw a TV show that highlighted Seizure Detection Dogs.  In the program we watched a person with epileptic seizures had a personal pet dog that unknowlingly would detect her seizures before they would happen.  Her owner noticed the behavior and had a professional service dog trainer work with her pet dog to sharpen the skills and become a certified service (seizure detection) dog.
  • Arson Dogs – way back when Stetson was a guide dog puppy in training we met an Arson Dog at our OCGDA group meeting.  His name was Denali and he was a career changed guide dog.  He happily worked with the fire department as an Arson Dog detecting accelerants at fire scenes.  In fact we recently heard that Denali will be visiting us again at our upcoming OCGDA meeting.  Here’s the article we wrote about Denali and Arson Dogs.
  • Cancer Sniffing Dogs – While watching TV we came across a program that talked a little bit about dogs that could detect cancer.  In the program they showed how they work with the cancer sniffing dogs and a spinning wheel that looks something like a lazy susan.  We saw a similar device when we were visited by the two Arson Dogs, Denali and Gator.
  • DVD Sniffing Dogs – We’ve even heard of DVD Sniffing Dogs and wrote a short article about them.  It’s hard to imagine that a dog’s nose is sensitive enough to hunt down illegal DVD’s!

That is just a short list of sniffer dogs we’ve heard of during our short time working with Stetson and the K9 Nosework team at Wags n Wiggles in Tustin.  We’re sure their are at least a dozen or more other sniffer dog careers available to dogs who excel at this discipline.

Stetson and I take sniffer dog training classes just for fun, but who nose (pun intended) maybe Stetson will someday become one of the elite Sniffer Dogs in Orange County and we can say he has career changed from guide dog puppy in training to Sniffer Dog!

Does your dog like to use his nose?  Maybe sniffer dog training is in your future.


  1. says

    That’s a great career change so we wish him luck. I’ve been wanting to get into mountain search and rescue so hopefully this type of class is in my future as well!

    • says

      @Alexis we tried to get Derby into Search and Rescue, but unfortunately they told us he lacked focus. Stetson loves sniffing class. We posted another picture (you can see his excitement in this pic) to our Facebook Page if you want to check it out.

  2. Christina says

    Awesome stuff! I know if my boy doesn’t pass his guide dog training, he could happily be a sniffer dog! He has such a good nose and is always sniffing stuff out. I know its not realistic for me to keep him, but I should he be career changed, I would love to train him for HRD (human remains detection). That way we can volunteer with FEMA and other disaster response teams.

    • says

      @Christina I bet Nicholas would make a great sniffer dog! A few years back when we went on the OCTA bus training we met a cadaver (HRD) dog in training. He was a Viszla and we snapped a picture of him and his handler and talked about it a little bit in one of our posts.

  3. says

    I talked to a friend last night and she said when she was in
    Kuwait they had the bomb sniffing dogs…said that the dogs were hooked to
    the chest of the soldier with a leash …the soldier has to be very careful as the dogs get excited and the soldier has to pull them back right away ….. a lot of the dogs get blown up as they get excited and step on the bomb. So Sad.

  4. says

    That sounds like a really exciting career change! I mostly use my nose to find the toys my humans hide around the house, but maybe if I did some more training this could be a career choice for me too when I grow up! :o)

  5. says

    @Alfie Stetson absolutely loves sniffer dog training! Although even during his guide dog training years his two favorite things were eating food and sniffing so I guess he was born to be a sniffer dog!

  6. says

    @Rita If Stetson were a bed bug sniffer dog he’d be the fastest one on the planet. Did you see Baron’s post on facebook on bed bug sniffing dogs? Baron’s dad met a bed bug detection dog at the Wynn in Las Vegas who works 25 rooms in a day.

    Here’s a link to Baron’s page and the info on the bed bug sniffer dog they met. Baron’s Page.

  7. emi says

    I talked to a friend last night and she said when she was in
    Kuwait they had the bomb sniffing dogs…she said that the dogs were hooked to the chest of the soldier with a leash …the soldier has to be very careful when the dogs got excited and pull them back right away because a lot of the dogs get blown up …guess they get excited and might even step on the bomb. So Sad.

  8. John from Dog Traininig Loki says

    Interesting fact, a Bloodhound’s sense of smell is more than a million times better than a human’s! No wonder they can smell a variety of stuff ranging from bombs, drugs, and a whole lot others you’ve mentioned.

    I also came across this video of Toby the sniffer dog, a specially trained army dog, being used to sniff out insects for use by scientists in their research. Quite propitious if you ask me!

    • says

      @John thanks for visiting our site. That’s an interesting fact about Bloodhound we saw a few at this past weekends pet expo. Wow! Toby sniffs out bumble bee nests I hope he doesn’t get stung. Stetson only sniffs for birch not quite as advanced as Toby.

  9. says

    Im constantly amazed on retrieves that dog wont believe their eyes only their nose. The white bumper is sitting in the open but until they get downwind they dont make the fetch. It must be that the association with retrieving specific objects is all by smell not sight of the white bumper.

  10. says

    I really love the idea that man bestfriend “dog” can do a lot of things now. They just not only detetc bomd as many people know for the canine dog. But know even a illegal dvd, bed bugs and a cancer they can detect that.i really salutes you guys for not stopping of rediscovering of what can a dog can do in our community. i know it takes a lot of time and effort to train a dog to obtain that.


  11. emi says

    I’ve seen Stetson in action at his sniffer training class and it is a JOB for him…he seems very serious so I think he’ll make a good Sniffer Dog!

    • says

      @emi yep, you can definitely see a change in Stetson’s attitude when he gets to his sniffing class. It’s definitely a job for him and he loves to find the odor.

  12. martin dowzall says

    Very interested to learn about Stetson. We have had 4 seeing eye puppies. Our current dog, a lab. mix came from the local shelter. We are looking to get her enrolled in sniffer school, but having trouble finding one near us in Indian county Florida. Can you help?

    • says

      @Martin there aren’t a ton of classes available at our local training facility. I’ve been trying to get my rescue dog Linus into an intro class, but I haven’t been able to find an opening for him. Here’s a list of Certified Nose Work Instructors: from the program. By the way, Stetson has been doing awesome in his class, but we’re taking the summer off because right now I have another commitment on the same night as his nosework/sniffing class. I hope you find a sniffing school for your dog. Good luck!

  13. Larry Allen says

    I have a yellow lab mix that I think is part deer and greyhound. But the nose is all lab. I’m not sure if I could let him go, he’s four years old and has a Yorkie sidekick right now. He’s only about 70 lbs. but let me tell you, Chance, that’s his name, could pass any tests, on smelling, thing that you could offer.

  14. ronald irwin says

    I am inquiring about a mixed Black Lab by the name of “Midnight” that was obtained by your department earlier this year. He was put in the drug detection program, and I have heard that his final test went very well. Is there a picture of Officer Midnight available. I know of him because I watched him in my home for approximately 16 days or so, and thought he was a special dog. thank you

    • says

      Hi Ronald,

      Thanks for stopping by. We actually train our pet dogs in K9 Nosework, but aren’t a part of the drug detection program. Unfortunately, we have no information on Midnight. I hope you are able to find someone who can send you information about your dog.

      Take care,

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