Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, especially drug-sniffing dogs. After all, it’s their job to track down the scent of illegal substances, which can guide police towards an arrest for possession.
That might make you nervous, especially if you vape in a state where it’s not legal. Could a dog smell the cannabis you’re vaping?
While dogs—especially drug-sniffing dogs—can smell cannabis vapes, they’re not always trained to do so. If a police officer uses a drug-sniffing dog, it’s often to find serious substances, such as methamphetamines, cocaine, and heroin.
That doesn’t mean you get free reign with your vaporizer or vape pen. If your state hasn’t legalized marijuana, you could face legal troubles if a dog were to sniff you out.
In this article, we’ll explain how dogs can detect drugs, which states ban cannabis use, and how to make your vaping smell less obvious.
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How Do Dogs Smell?
According to PBS and many other sources, dogs can smell somewhere in the range of 10,000 – 100,000 times better than we people can. Think about that for a moment. Not 10 times better, not 100 times better, but 10 thousand times better, at least.
The human nose, on average, contains six million olfactory receptors. These let us smell cookies baking in an oven or the salt from the ocean on a breezy beach. Dogs, on the other hand, have far more olfactory receptors, 300 million.
They’d take in far more scents than we ever could appreciate because we just don’t have the capacity to.
Our means of breathing through our noses also differs compared to dogs. Canines have a special nostril tissue fold. As they breathe in, there’s either a respiration or an olfaction path for the air to travel. Most of that air will go to the lungs via the pharynx.
The air then passes through turbinates, a type of structure that sorts molecules. It is here the odor molecules get separated from the rest. Finally, the brain reviews these molecules.
Dogs constantly get fresh smells to breathe in, even when they’re exhaling. Those nose slits you see on your pup allow the exhaled air to exit in such a way that the dog doesn’t have to stop sniffing.
With a dog’s Jacobson’s or vomeronasal organ, they detect pheromones, too. These organs in the nasal passages go to the brain through nerves. By the way, us people lack a vomeronasal organ. That’s just another advantage dogs have over us in their great ability to smell.
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Can Sniffer Dogs Smell Marijuana Vapes?
That brings us to the question then, can dogs smell cannabis vaporizers? Absolutely. Dogs can out-smell us, humans, any day of the week, and that goes for just about anything.
However, what a dog will do about sensing marijuana depends on their training.
For instance, let’s talk about drug-sniffing dogs. These canines get exposed to certain drugs so they get to know the smell. This way, when they sniff these drugs out on the streets, they can lead police to a suspect.
When it comes to sensing weed, drug-sniffing dogs learn to detect terpenes. These are a type of chemical, specifically an organic hydrocarbon. Without terpenes, marijuana wouldn’t really smell.
There’s a slew of terpenes out there that give marijuana a certain pleasing scent that in turn can influence your mood.
For instance, trans-caryophyllene marijuana has a spicy, woody smell, almost like pepper. a-Pinene or b-Pinene, as the name might tell you, it smells like pine. It can affect energy levels and alertness.
Limonene has a fresh, citrusy smell and can boost mood and lower stress. The calming linaool almost smells like candy or lavender. Myrcene will also calm you down with its herbal, clove-like smell.
So yes, dogs will smell the terpenes in marijuana if you vape or smoke it. As we said in the intro, though, drug-sniffing dogs don’t always prioritize marijuana in their searches. Instead, they tend to look for more serious drugs like methamphetamines, cocaine, and heroin.
That’s not always true, as it depends on where you live and whether it’s legal to smoke or vape marijuana there.
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In Which States Is It Illegal to Use Marijuana?
In recent years, many states have made the move to fully legalize marijuana. Others have decriminalized it and allow it for medical use only. In others, you cannot smoke or vape marijuana at all legally under any circumstances, even medical ones.
Those states include:
- South Dakota
- South Carolina
- North Carolina
- Mississippi (although it has reduced decriminalization)
Other states have mixed laws. This means you can often use marijuana medicinally but not recreationally. These states are:
- West Virginia
- Rhode Island
- North Dakota
- New York
- New Mexico
- New Jersey
- New Hampshire
As you can see from that list, far more states have mixed rules on the legality of cannabis than those that ban it outright. Regardless, if you smoke or vape marijuana in any of the states above, you could face legal repercussions if a drug-sniffing dog detects it.
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What Happens If a Dog Smells Marijuana?
Okay, so let’s say that theoretically, such a situation did occur. You’re out vaping with some friends and there’s police presence nearby. The cops have a drug-sniffing dog with them. How would you know the dog has smelled marijuana?
There’s several telltale signs that will give it away. The dog might point their nose towards you or move their body in your direction. They could begin digging around you or move their paw towards you.
A dog’s body language also lets a police officer know that the canine might have found something. For instance, drug-sniffing dogs may growl, but they also do the following:
- Become ultra-alert
- Lift their paws
- Raise and stiffen their ears
If you see a drug-sniffing dog doing one or several of these things, you wouldn’t necessarily get arrested right away. The police would have to search you to make a case against you.
If the cops notice their drug-sniffing dog engage in these behaviors, though, then they’ll know to start looking for drugs in the vicinity.
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How to Make Vaping Smells Less Obvious
While we always recommend you follow the law with your vaping, you might want to reduce the smell of marijuana for many reasons. Depending on how you vape, the smell might be more or less obvious.
Oil pens smell the least strong, followed by dry herbs, & dab pens. Edibles with marijuana can have a stronger odor than any vapes, with a joint smelling the most obvious.
One such method we’d recommend then? Switch to a dab pen if you use a vaporizer. You’ll already cut down on the smell of vaping.
If in your house, You might also put a towel underneath a door before you vape. For better effectiveness, make sure you dampen the towel first. While this method doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot, it’s better than nothing.
Surprisingly, making some fresh popcorn beats out using incense and air fresheners to override the odor of marijuana. For one, no one would think a popcorn smell is suspicious, while that’s not always true for incense and air fresheners. Secondly, there’s something about popcorn that will take over all the odors in a room. Plus, it makes for a good snack.
Worried about the smell passing through your vents? That’s fair. Grab some fabric softener, then place a sheet or two over the vents. Don’t block up the vents, though, as that can be dangerous.
If you don’t already have window fans, then invest in a few. These will dissipate the scent of marijuana somewhat.
Also, clean out your vaporizer or pen when you’re done using it, every time. This will make it less odorous, which in turn makes your using it somewhat harder to detect.
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The Final Puff
Drug-sniffing dogs can indeed pick up on the smell of a cannabis vaporizer. Canines have much stronger, more efficient noses than humans.
This allows them to smell things we never could. Depending on which state you call home, you could face legal action for possessing marijuana, even if you vape it.
Think smart and you should be okay. Good luck!