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Can Dogs Smell Kratom? How Trained Dogs Sniff Out Kratom

Drug detector dogs trained to sniff out kratom can pick up its smell from a couple of other scents. But kratom is not what most sniffer dogs are typically searching for. So there’s no need for alarm unless you’re entering a state or city where kratom is illegal.

Read on for more insight.

What Does Kratom Smell Like

The smell of kratom may vary depending on the vein color and strain at hand. But generally, kratom has a distinct earthy scent that mimics freshly-cut grass or green tea.

The distinct smell comes from terpenes in individual kratom strains. Terpenes are aromatic compounds in kratom that give the plant an earthy, herbal aroma. They also influence the taste.


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Drug detection dogs get trained on what specific substances to sniff out. In the case of kratom, the dogs can smell it, but they won’t hone in on it. That’s because kratom is not a controlled substance. So most sniffing dogs won’t seek out your stash of kratom powder or capsules.

Instead, drug dogs get trained to detect the distinct smell of “hard” drugs, including the following:

  • Cocaine
  • Heroine
  • Crystal meth
  • Ecstasy
  • Fentanyl
  • Marijuana

image of the legal status of kratom

The Legal Status of Kratom: Can Dogs Smell Kratom?

Kratom is not regulated under the Controlled Substances Act. So it is technically legal for use in the US. Yet, the drug faces stiff opposition from government agencies.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns consumers against kratom use. In fact, the agency has no evidence to support kratom’s therapeutic benefits. So it’s yet to approve any uses for kratom.

In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced its intent to reclassify kratom as a Schedule I drug. After a public uproar, they withdrew the notice of intent. So far, they’ve only listed kratom as a drug of concern.

Some kratom users have reported several side effects. These include vomiting, nausea, itching, sweating, and loss of appetite. More serious issues may arise, including seizures, liver damage, and extreme weight loss when kratom is taken in large doses.

Based on these facts, some states have imposed regulations or bans on kratom use. You cannot carry or use kratom in the following states and cities:

  • Alabama
  • Indiana
  • Arkansas
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • Rhode Island
  • Denver
  • Sarasota
  • San Diego

In these areas where kratom is illegal, drug-sniffing dogs will receive training to detect kratom. So you may fall in trouble if you’re traveling with a stash of kratom powder or pills.

image of how trained dogs sniff out drugs and other subtances

How Trained Dogs Sniff Out Drugs and Other Substances

First, the handlers start by playing fun games with the canines using toys. The games go on until the dog develops an attachment to the toy and considers it as their favorite. Gradually, they introduce the targeted drug in the toy. So the dog associates the toy with the scent of the drug and learns to detect the scent to find the toy.

Whenever the dog locates the drug-laced toy, it receives a reward from its handlers. This sort of training is known as positive reinforcement. Soon, the dog will master the skill of sniffing out the targeted drugs in hopes of getting a treat or reward.

The drug-sniffing training may last between 2 to 6 months. After which, the dogs are ready for deployment. Drug sniffing dogs get trained to alert their handler through cues. This is a form of communication between the dog and its handler.

The dog may use a passive approach. For example, they may sit down if they sniff out the scent of cannabis or crystal meth. Others may use an aggressive alert. Here, the dog digs and paws at the area where they detect the targeted drugs.

These cues will notify their handler that someone in the area has illegal substances, making it easy to zero in on the offender.

The Bottom Line

Dogs have a superior sense of smell, which makes them excellent at sniffing out a wide range of substances. These substances include explosives and hard drugs like cocaine, cannabis, and fentanyl.

They can also sniff out your kratom stash. But most dogs won’t notify their handler of the presence of kratom because they haven’t been trained to do so.

However, because some states and cities have imposed bans on kratom, it is important to take caution. So it’s better to leave your kratom stash at home when traveling to states where kratom is illegal. Otherwise, you’ll risk facing legal ramifications if a sniffer dog detects your stash of kratom powder or pills.

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