How Do Police Dogs Track A Scent?

September 25, 2020 4 min read 0 Comments

A police dog is wrangled by its handler as another officer walks another police dog in the background

Amber LaRock Author of aining for Dogs

Police dogs are impressive pups with a list of incredible abilities. Not only are they extremely dedicated to their work, but they are one of the best scent trackers around. So how do police officers train their police dogs to track a scent?

In this article we’ll dive into the details of scent tracking in dogs, and how these working pups learn this impressive ability.


What Smells Do Police Dogs Track?

Police dogs can have many important duties, some of these including scent tracking. With having such a powerful sense of smell, police dogs are often the most vital part of the operation when it comes to tracking. Some of the smells that police dogs are known to track include:

  • People and suspect odors: Police dogs can track the scent of a suspect and help to lead police to their location.
  • Drugs and illicit substances:Police dogs can help to locate drugs and illicit substances in vehicles, airports, in homes, schools, and more.
  • Bombs: Some police dogs are trained to sniff for bombs and other explosive devices. This is a dangerous and extremely important job, so these dogs are often trained much longer.
  • Missing people:Police dogs are able to smell the belongings of a missing person and help to potentially track this person to their current locations.
  • Corpses: Some dogs are specifically trained to track the smell of decomposition. These dogs can be used to track missing victims, or even find bodies in natural disasters.

How Do Police Dogs Track Scents?

A police dog’s impressive scent tracking ability all comes down to the power of their nose. A dog’s nose has 300 million olfactory receptors, where the human nose only has 6 million. Not only do they have significantly more receptors for smell within the nose, but the portion of their brain devoted to smell is also nearly 40 times as large as ours. Their brain was truly set up for smelling!

With having so many scent tracking abilities within their genetic makeup, we are able to train dogs in searching for specific smells. Police dogs are able to differentiate between certain types of smells due to the power of their nose, making them the perfect scent trackers in multiple areas of searching.


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How Long Does It Take To Train A Police Dog To Track Scents?

When it comes to the amount of time needed to train a police dog to track scents, it all depends on the dog and the specific scent they will be tracking. While some dogs only require 3-4 weeks of detection training after their initial obedience training, other dogs require months of specific scent training. In order to help you understand the steps of police dog training, let’s dive into the details below.


Police Dog Scent Training

Police dog scent training is an intricate process that requires dedication on both the dog and the handler’s part. With having such an important job, the training for these positions has to reflect that importance. Because of this, police dog scent training has multiple levels. 

First, it’s important for a dog to undergo proper obedience training. Though many of the dogs chosen for scent training have already undergone a separate obedience training program, it’s not always the case. Each police force may have their own set of obedient training programs as well, meaning most dogs will need to be trained again anyways. 

Once a dog has completed their initial obedience training, it’s time to move on to specific scent training. These steps include:

  1. Teaching the dog to recognize a certain smell. This includes introducing them to many forms of the smell, teaching them how to differentiate this smell between another and more.
  2. Teaching the dog how to pick out the specific scent in the midst of other scents. This helps them in the future when it comes to blocking out other scents during their search. 
  3. Teaching the dog how to not only recognize the scent but to track the scent when it has moved to different locations. This will often start with small distances, and then progress to more complicated searches. 
  4. Teaching the dog to track the scent with multiple distractions. This teaches the dog how to tune out the world around them and accurately do their job. 
  5. Finally training them in real-life situations. This can mean working in airports, schools, around vehicles, and more. 
  6. Once a scent tracking dog has finished their training, they will continue to train as the years go on to ensure that they never lose their craft. 

Police dog scent training is an intricate process that results in hard-working and impressive police canines. Be sure to review the information we listed above, and you will understand the steps of creating a scent tracking police dog!


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Meet The Author 

Amber LaRock Author of How Do Police Dogs Track A Scent?

Amber LaRock

Amber is a Licensed Vet Tech with a degree in Veterinary Technology. Recently she has specialized in veterinary and animal-related content creation and social media management. When she is not working she loves spending time with her furry friends exploring the outdoors.