smuggling drug-sniffing dog
25 February 2022, Bremen, Bremerhaven: The drug-sniffing dog "Crook" stands with a customs officer on the premises of the main customs office. Customs officials have discovered more than 450 kilograms of cocaine in a container from Uruguay in the overseas port of Bremerhaven. The drug has a black market value of more than 60 million euros, as Customs announced on Friday. Photo: Hauke-Christian Dittrich/dpa (Photo by Hauke-Christian Dittrich/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Smart Smuggling: 8 Inventive Ways to Confuse Drug-Sniffing Dogs at the Border

Moving contraband undetected across the border or past security checkpoints is no small task. Smuggling is an undertaking that requires considerable planning, fox-like cunning, and outside-the-box creativity, especially when drug-sniffing dogs are involved.

Smuggling items that don’t give off unusual odors is hard enough—security professionals undergo extensive training, and are taught not just where to look, but how to look, keeping their eyes peeled for even the slightest out-of-place detail that’ll give smugglers and their illicit goods away.

But what about items that have odoriferous emanations? How do you conceal funky smells? And we’re not just talking about hiding them from human noses. No, we’re talking about getting your “forbidden fruit” past dogs—canines that have been specifically trained to sniff out drugs, explosives, exotic animals, and virtually anything else of value with a specific odor that cannot be legally transported.

If you find yourself in need of fresh ideas to get your goods where they don’t belong, read on…

1. Sugar

No, this isn’t some sort of homage to Def Leppard. Sugar has long been used by smugglers to defeat drug-sniffing canines. But after load upon load of narcotics kept making its way through border check-points—security breaches that had nothing to do with bribed cops!—the officials got hip to traffickers’ methods and re-trained their sniffer dogs… To sniff out sugar!

2. Coffee Beans

Colombia is world-renowned for its coffee and, if you’ve heard of the city of Medellin or its most famous citizen, Pablo Escobar, its second most popular export, cocaine. Because countries the world over are voracious consumers of Colombian coffee, importing it in droves, sending kilos of “Peruvian Snow” along with the load became routine. Unprocessed coffee beans have a strong aroma that can easily conceal the scent of most illegal drugs, and after the load has made its way past security, you can always brew yourself a cup of java.

3. Honey

Often called “smuggler’s amber” by drug traffickers, honey creates a dense coating around anything it ensconces, making odors virtually undetectable by even the keenest schnoz. Problem is, honey is sticky as hell and can be really difficult (pronounced virtually impossible) to wash off. Word to the wise – if your smuggling exploits take you to Eastern Europe, Russian authorities have ditched using dogs in favor of drug-sniffing bears. And anyone familiar with Winnie the Pooh knows how that’s gonna end.

4. Vinegar

Wrapping illegal drugs in wax paper, Saran Wrap, or any similar protective wrapping and submerging it in vinegar will almost always get the product to its destination without confiscation. But your wrapping technique needs to be freakin’ flawless—a single missed fold or the slightest tear will result in a contaminated shipment for sure. And if you’ve never snorted vinegar, well, let’s just say it’s not an undertaking we recommend, unless you happen to be of Steve-O of Jackass fame.

5. Cayenne Pepper

Most “drug dogs” cannot tolerate even the slightest whiff of cayenne pepper. But a group of smugglers at the Gateway Bridge checkpoint in Juarez/El Paso found out the hard way that making dogs whimper was just as bad as having them alert to contraband. Still, a healthy sprinkling of cayenne pepper is usually more than it takes to send dogs looking elsewhere.

6. Oil

Ever since oil and its byproducts became the go-to resource for powering the world’s machinery, not a day has gone by without tankers ferrying innumerable gallons of “black gold/Texas tea” to virtually every corner of the globe. Because it’s a staple of every industrialized society, oil is the perfect hide-in-plain-sight conveyance for moving contraband. Not only is it an ideal camouflaging agent due to its color and viscosity, its composition masks even the most odorific entities. But it’s also flammable as hell, so if there’s an accident where the end result is an explosion and/or fire, chances are whatever was hidden within that container went up in smoke—literally!

7. Jelly and Marmalade

Thick and gooey, with a definite odor of its own (ranging anywhere from mild to intense, depending on the flavor), jellies and marmalades have been used by smugglers for smaller shipments, usually because moving tankers full of the stuff simply isn’t practical. Problem is, some jellies and marmalades have an exceptionally high sugar content that dogs can easily detect. And if you’re a smuggler who gets nabbed while using jelly or marmalade, you’re definitely gonna have a tough time in the joint. No self-respecting inmate will let that slide!

8. Shit

Fertilizer, aka animal feces, has been used by farmers who decided to switch crops and grow something far more profitable on the pound-to-dollar scale. Banking on the fact that most normal people have no desire to sift through shit, it’s a messy alternative for sure, but it perfectly underscores the old adage: the (rear) ends justify the means.

Cover Photo: picture alliance / Contributor (Getty Images)


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