Can Sniffer Dogs Smell Ketamine?

Can Sniffer Dogs Smell Ketamine

Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose. This is what gives them such an amazing sense of smell, estimated to be 10,000 times more accurate than us humans. Their sense of smell coupled with being trainable as sniffer dogs, makes them a key tool in the arsenal of law enforcement. Drug dogs are used by the police to smell and sniff out drugs such as ketamine.

For example, you will see crime fighting pooches working at airports, festivals, or with police handlers to help sniff out a wide range of narcotics. But given the variety of drugs in the modern world, can drug dogs smell ketamine and its derivatives?

To see what the truth is, I spent some time watching videos and reading articles by police handlers who work with sniffer dogs. It was interesting to see whether drug dogs can smell ketamine festivals, nightclubs, and airports even if it’s in liquid format.

Here’s what I found out about police dogs and ketamine, and how they are trained to smell certain drugs.

Can police dogs smell ketamine?

Drug sniffer dogs can smell ketamine is trained to do so. But whether the particular dog will have been trained to sniff out ketamine and alert the police handlers is another matter. Police dogs are trained for specific smells such as explosives, narcotics, money, or even certain objects.

The bottom line is, police dogs can smell anything they have been trained to. For example, research published in 2019 found they dogs can accurately sniff out cancer in blood. If dogs can smell cancer cells, they can certainly smell ketamine is trained for it.

“Dogs have smell receptors 10,000 times more accurate than humans’, making them highly sensitive to odors we can’t perceive. A new study has shown that dogs can use their highly evolved sense of smell to pick out blood samples from people with cancer with almost 97 percent accuracy.” 

Are drug dogs trained to smell for ketamine?

I’ve not found any evidence online that police drug dogs have been trained to smell for ketamine. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be. For example, there are some websites from companies who train sniffer dogs that actively promote the fact they can.

It appears that due to costs and the complexity of training, police sniffer dogs are only usually trained to detect 3 to 4 different smells. Due to the widespread nature of other drugs, and the criminality involved, ketamine usually isn’t high on the list of drugs for sniffer dogs to be trained for.

Can dogs smell ketamine
It’s very unlikely that police sniffer dogs will be trained to detect ketamine (Image via

But you will read countless reports and forums posts from people who have been detected when carrying ketamine. In cases like this it’s probably due to cross contamination of the ketamine bag or person carrying it, with other illicit drugs.

For example, the smell of MDMA is very potent, and humans can easily smell it when up close. Given that a dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times better than ours, unless the MDMA has been concealed very well, there’s every chance a police dog could smell it if it’s come into contact with ketamine.

There is also some evidence that police dogs are trained to alert when they smell something unusual. I watched a documentary on the Discovery Channel that said dogs are trained to alert on anything they smell out of the ordinary.

Even if the sniffer dog isn’t trained to smell for ketamine, it might still detect the ketamine as an unusual smell and alert the police handler.

I will leave you with a great comment an international airport customs officer said to a TV crew which just about sums it up.

“Nothing can disguise the smell of ketamine if the dog is trained for it. We have dogs who can detect drugs at the bottom of full 55-gallon barrel of gasoline. They can even smell through vacuum sealed bags as the drugs will seep through microscopic holes in the plastic.”

Can festival drug dogs smell ketamine?

Just like police dogs, if the festival drug dog has been trained to sniff and detect for ketamine, then they will be able to smell for it.

Handy Hint: Did you know that LSD has no smell so it’s very rarely detected by drug sniffer dogs as I reveal here.

How drugs dogs are trained to smell for narcotics

Dogs can smell out and signal for anything they are trained to do. If police wanted to train their sniffer dogs to smell for ketamine it would require the following process:

  • The dog is taught to associate a favorite toy with the smell of ketamine.
  • The training toy will often be a small white towel which the handler will play tug of war with them. It can be easily cleaned and used again and again in the drug training game.
  • Because the dog knows the towel is fun, trainers will eventually progress to putting small trace amounts of the target drug.
  • Police dogs will start to associate the smell of ketamine with playtime. This then means that sniffing out ketamine becomes a game, with rewards given to the dog once he finds the towel’s location.
  • In the training game, actual real drugs are used, but incredibly low amounts used in training due to their amazing sense of smell. Dogs are trained to locate the smell, sit down and point with their noise where it is.

Any dog can be trained to be a sniffer dog, but some breeds are better than others such as any of the retriever breeds, German Shepherds, and Beagles.

Can drug dogs smell liquid ketamine?

Given that we now know that is it possible for dogs to be trained to smell for ketamine powder if trained, plus how powerful their sense of smell is, then of course they could smell liquid ketamine. In fact, there are plenty of news reports about dogs smelling narcotics disguised in water, such as methamphetamines.


Dogs have been trained to smell for drugs and explosives for years and have an amazing reputation for doing so.

Even those who are not trained as police dogs to sniff out molly, that doesn’t mean they won’t smell it, given how some can also alert on unusual odors.

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I’ve written blog posts in the past about how powerful the smell senses of dogs are, some of which you can read below.

Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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