Can Sniffer Dogs Smell Drugs Inside You?

police sniffer dog

Sniffer dogs, also known as drug detection dogs, are specially trained canines that are often used by law enforcement agencies for detecting the presence of drugs. These highly trained dogs have a keen sense of smell and are capable of detecting a wide range of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. They are commonly used in airports, train stations, ports, and other locations to sniff out drugs that may be concealed on a person or in luggage. 


However, sniffer dogs are not capable of smelling illicit drugs inside the human body. Their training focuses on detecting the odour of drugs in the air or on surfaces. They are not trained to detect drugs that are concealed within the body. This is because drugs inside the body are typically odourless and not easily detectable by sniffer dogs. Therefore, if you are carrying drugs inside your body, such as by swallowing or inserting them, sniffer dogs are unlikely to alert to their presence.

Can Sniffer Dogs Smell Through Sunscreen?

Drug sniffer dogs are trained to detect the odour of illicit drugs. They are generally not affected by common substances like sunscreen. Sunscreen typically contains chemicals that help to block or absorb UV radiation from the sun, but these chemicals do not emit strong odours that are detectable by sniffer dogs. Therefore, it is unlikely that sniffer dogs would be able to smell drugs through sunscreen that is properly applied to the skin.

Training Received by Sniffer Dogs

In order to train a dog to detect drugs, the process typically starts by linking the odour with the pup’s favourite toy. As the animal grows more familiar with certain smells, it is given treats as praise. With enough positive reinforcement, the dog will be motivated to succeed without the need for treats. It is important to keep in mind that when a dog is sniffing around you, it is likely just looking for its toy and trying to be obedient.


The canine isn’t aware of illegal drugs or the law, but is just acting in accordance with its training. Moreover, it is not taught to attack or cause harm, even if it identifies something suspicious.


Sniffer dogs have different ways of signalling to their handler that they have detected an odour. Drug dogs and those trained to catch fresh fruit at airports might paw at the area where the scent is, but those trained to detect explosives should remain passive. Beagles are typically used for this purpose not because they have better noses than other breeds, but because they are small and non-threatening. This makes it easier for their handler to get close to people without any objections.

Accuracy of Sniffer Dogs

The accuracy of sniffer dogs can vary depending on various factors such as their training, experience, and the specific conditions in which they are deployed. Overall, sniffer dogs are considered to be highly accurate in detecting the presence of drugs when properly trained and used in appropriate circumstances.


However, false positives and false negatives can occur. A false positive occurs when a sniffer dog alerts to the presence of drugs when no drugs are actually present, while a false negative occurs when a sniffer dog fails to detect drugs that are actually present. Factors such as environmental conditions, distractions, and handler influence can all impact the accuracy of sniffer dogs.

Your Legal Rights if Approached by a Sniffer Dog

The law states that if police dogs indicates that a person is in possession of illegal substances, the police have the authority to search them. It is advised to obey the police officer’s instructions in such a situation, since refusal has the potential to lead to further charges. The NSW Police Force has released their Personal Search Manual, which outlines the regulations and procedures associated with a police search.


Accordingly, before carrying out a drug search, an officer must follow the procedures in the manual. They must identify themselves as a police officer, tell you their name, and explain why the search is being conducted. They must also document the type of search carried out, who else is present, the motivation for the search, and if any force was used. You have a legal right to request the above from them, however you should not resist or hinder the search.


Can the Search be escalated to a Strip Search?


In New South Wales, it is estimated that police conduct between 500 to 1,000 strip searches annually when they believe there is justification to do so. It is prohibited for law enforcement to perform this type of search in public, and it must be done by an officer of the same gender as the individual. Furthermore, there are certain limitations regarding what the police can demand of the individual during a strip search.

Most Common Drugs found through Sniffer Dogs

Sniffer dogs are trained to detect a wide range of drugs, and the specific drugs they are trained to detect can vary depending on the training program and the requirements of the law enforcement agency. However, some of the most common drugs that are detected by sniffer dogs include;


  • marijuana;
  • cocaine;
  • heroin; and
  • methamphetamine.

These drugs are known for their distinctive odours, and sniffer dogs are trained to alert to the presence of these odours when they encounter them.

What to do If you are Charged with Possession or Supply of a Prohibited Drug in NSW?

If you are charged with possession or supply of a prohibited drug in New South Wales (NSW), it is important to seek legal advice from a qualified criminal defence lawyer. Drug offences in NSW are taken seriously and can carry severe penalties, including fines, imprisonment, and a criminal record.


Drug offence lawyers in Sydney can help you understand your legal rights, explain the charges against you, and provide you with guidance on how to navigate the legal process. It is important to cooperate with NSW Police officers and to avoid making any statements or admissions until you have obtained legal advice. A criminal defence lawyer from Lyons Law Group can help you build a strong defence and advocate on your behalf in court.

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    • Mohammad Khan | Criminal Defence Lawyer

      Mohammad Khan is the Principal Solicitor of Lyons Law Group. After graduating with a Bachelor of Aviation from the University of New South Wales, Mohammad took a keen interest in the law. He began training in criminal law under the tutelage of Australia’s leading criminal lawyer Adam Houda and studied law at the University of Sydney.