Dog's dog nose smell
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The average canine has about 50 times the olfactory sensors as you do. That means he can smell things you can’t (and many times wouldn’t want to). That’s why police use breeds like Bloodhounds, Labradors, German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois for everything from rescue work to tracking down criminals on the run, sniffing out trapped or lost people, or finding bombs or a joint in a traveler’s pocket at an airport.

But imagine how discerning a dog’s sense of smell has to be to determine if your gun has a serial number or not. How much incremental material does your gun have because it hasn’t been engraved? Or even better, how much has been removed if a criminal scratches out a gun’s serial number (many police departments now classify those as “ghost guns” too).

OK, that’s not quite what the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department’s dog Zeke is trained to do, but that’s how the department is claiming they’ll be using him.

Zeke’s now a trained gun-sniffer, but if this media report is accurate, he’ll be mostly looking for ghost guns.

From . . .

“Zeke is trained to alert on what we call polymer 80’s which is the grip part of the handgun, he’s also trained to alert on the steel, the slides, and the ammunition we use for firearms,” Deputy [Shane] Moore said. …

The pair’s recent graduation from detection school comes at a time when the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office says they’re seeing a rise in the number of ghost guns being confiscated during searches.

80 Percent Arms GST-9 pistol
“What is it, boy? You smell something?” (JWT for TTAG)

Theres’ a concerted effort to freak out the general public about so-called ghost guns despite the fact that they comprise a tiny fraction of firearms used in the commission of crimes. Whatever…non-serialized firearms aren’t legal in Californian and if Democrats in Washington have their way, they’ll soon be illegal nationwide.

“In 2020, we had 21 ghost guns found throughout the year and that’s a pretty significant number considering the two years proceeding, the numbers were five each,” Raquel Zick, Public Information Officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, said.

Zick says people can buy a gun that’s about 80% complete online and then put the rest of the gun together themselves. What makes the gun a ghost gun isn’t necessarily the parts in the gun, however — it’s actually what’s left out.

Zeke, of course, has been trained (how successfully is anyone’s guess) to sniff out firearms. How he can distinguish be tween, say, an 80% Arms GST-9 pistol and a DeWalt cordless drill — both of which feature polymer housings and steel — isn’t exactly clear. We’re just glad we don’t live in Santa Barbara County and risk being stopped because Zeke thinks he knows what we’re carrying.


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  1. That’s nothing – I’m not even a dog but I can smell bullsh*t from across the country over an HTTP connection.

    • It’s gonna be tricky to take this dog anywhere in a car, that’s for sure. Or maybe the ATF considers cars to be machine guns now? It’s hard to keep up.

      • I’m not so sure they’d even WANT a dog to distinguish the scent of a home built gun from any other gun if they could. What good is a dog to law enforcement if it will ignore 99.9% of guns at a scene? It seems like a foolish ruse that can’t pass the common sense test.

  2. I call 100% BS on this one. More likely, the dog smells the ammunition. Even more likely, its like a polygraph, designed to get someone to confess, before the “Magic Dog” or in the case of the polygraph, “The Magic Box” reads your thoughts. What a joke.

      • My favorite cologne. But you are dating yoursef. All the cool kids these days are wearing CLP.

      • No.9 for the win.

        I was cleaning one of my guns a couple of weeks ago and finished before my wife came home from work. Nevertheless, when she did, she sniffed the air, gave me a wink, and said “I love a man who sports the smell of gun cleaner. Are you trying to start something with me tonight?”

        Love that woman.

        • Never forget that Romeo here skipped 1/6 Freedom Day like a coward. Oh, and he enjoys hassling minimum wage front line works to boot.

        • Don’t be jealous, Hail. When you grow up and get a job one day, I’ll be glad to hassle you, too.

    • A polygraph just shows your reactions, such as sweat, contracting your muscles, blood pressure, and breathing. It’s just a machine, the examiner makes all the difference in the world, some are really good. There are different ways of asking the questions too, whether it’s for a job interview (law enforcement usually) or monitoring a sex offender on probation.

      • The problem is there is literally no way to ascertain why those reactions are happening in relation to the questions, or even if they are occurring in relation to the questions. The mind makes abstractions and associations naturally; they can ask me if I ever committed burglary, and then suddenly wonder if I locked my house up when I left thanks association and my pulse quickens and I sweat a little. Bam, I’m a burglar now. Same goes for any question they ask, your mind makes an association and then you’re sunk, but if you try to simply remain calm and zen they assume you’re attempting to beat their little machine.

        It’s all pseudo-science bullshit and the fact that the federal government puts any stock in this snake-oil is pretty sad. I hate to make comparisons to the rest of the world, but the rest of the world was right to put this stuff in the “bunk” category and move on.

    • Our local police tried the “gun sniffing dog” BS on an oversight committee not knowing one of the committee, while a politician, was also a registered veterinarian. He immediately called BS on such a claim to the police’s embarrassment.

        • Polymer80 could offer anyone in that county a stippled block of plastic pinned to a block of steel to test out this foul legged Sherlock. I imagine something the size of a paperback novel, entirely unmachined, apart from whatever is needed to connect the two materials, and overtly branded to let the PoPo know exactly who is giving the bird.

    • Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department Has Trained a Dog to Sniff Out ‘Ghost Guns’

      Makes one wonder what a firearm serial number smells like doesn’t ??
      I’d like to have that dog, just think how good a bird/hog/deer dog he’d make !

      Plus juan


      • Should have trained him to sniff and detect prohibited persons, murderers, and rapists. And those sick with covid, and illegal aliens. Wait California is a sanctuary state, they don’t care about illegal aliens as long as they can give them a driver’s license, food stamps, and point them in the direction of the nearest voting booth.

    • I know, first they indoctrinate our kids, now they’re indoctrinating our dogs. Where does it stop!

      • This is from this side of the thin blue line

        What does the “thin blue line” have to with anything? Cops, especially County Sheriffs in BLUE counties can be progressive leftist wanna-be dictators… Santa Barbara County, CA 64.5% of the people voted Democrat, county Sheriff is an elected (aka political) position…

      • “Theres’ a concerted effort to freak out the general public about so-called ghost guns despite the fact that they comprise a tiny fraction of firearms used in the commission of crimes. Whatever…non-serialized firearms aren’t legal in Californian and if Democrats in Washington have their way, they’ll soon be illegal nationwide.”

        Some people understand what a serial number is and some don’t.

  3. Training a dog like this professionally usually costs around $15K.

    Your tax money at work, Santa Barbara.

    • No really, the dog most likely is only trained to alert when the LEO tells him to.

      However the $15,000 went in a Santa Barbara politicians pocket

    • “Training a dog like this professionally usually costs around $15K.”

      I believe it.

      A department down here trained one of their dogs to find the scent of micro-SD cards, apparently popular with kiddie-porn slimeballs. It apparently works…

      • scent of micro-SD cards, apparently popular with kiddie-porn slimeballs.

        So do kiddie-porn slimeballs use “special” micro- SD cards? Or do they just stop everybody that alerts the dog… I own six devices that use micro-SD cards… Inquiring minds want to know..

        • “So do kiddie-porn slimeballs use “special” micro- SD cards?”

          Certain semiconductor manufacturing processes use specific chemicals in certain ways.

          Example, a specific chemical ‘recipe’ for the epoxy that ‘pots’ (protects) the chip to the micro SD package itself.

          They train the dogs to alert on that ‘family’ of chemicals…

        • They train the dogs to alert on that ‘family’ of chemicals…

          So how does that answer my question? What exactly, is the difference between the slimeballs kiddie porn micro-SD and the bag full of micro-SDs that I have of video and pictures from numerous motorcycle trips across the country… Clarification, not a chemistry lesson… Are not all micro-SDs created the same?

        • Let’s be honest here. The point of training a dog to do something like that is to harass John Q Public. “Kiddie porn” is the excuse to do it.

          That’s no different that this “ghost gun” nonsense. Obviously the dog can’t tell the difference and is being trained to alert to ammo, cleaning solvents/lubricants or the polymer/steel of the gun. Which one or which combination is immaterial. The point is to stop YOU and harass YOU under the justification of gAnGsTerZ uSe gHOsT gUnZ!!!!!.

          It’s just another aspect the police state that they’ve been building for decades, this is just super obvious because the justification is so flimsy in this case. But in essence it’s no different than “drug dogs” which are taught to do this and then manipulated by their handlers when convenient or when the handler doesn’t really understand the job at hand.

          Really, cops as handlers usually don’t know what they’re doing. I was stopped at a “contraband checkpoint” in Nebraska, a bit East of Gothenberg… oh, ten years ago now. One guy comes up and starts talking to me while another leads a GSD around my car. I just put down the rear window so my Plott could stick his head out the window… that search stopped immediately because they couldn’t get their dog to really “work” any more. He was too interested in my dog. (Ooops, I totally didn’t mean to fuck with these jackboots, I promise. Huckleberry just needed some fresh air!)

          “Any contraband in the vehicle?” asks the guy at my window.

          “Uh, no officer. Just what’s in the trunk” says I.

          “Well, what’s in the trunk?”

          “Clothes, some broken down furniture, paperwork… 20 gallons of gas, about 150 pounds of ammo and 40 pounds of fireworks…” (which was, in fact true).

          “Get this rolling bomb outta here!”.

          I drove off chuckling.

          This story isn’t about a better way to fight crime. It’s like TSA in that regard, theater at best , just a way to harass CCW folks and make it even more of a legal hassle to carry a gun.

          Cops are like any other group of government workers. Essentially they’re fire. Great tool when controlled and a damn scary thing if they get out of control. This is all about normalizing them being out of control. Nothing else.

  4. What worries me is that the LEO’s might believe this crap! If they can train a dog to smell numbers on guns, I want one that can sniff out winning lottery numbers!

    • Polymer 80 uses a specific glass-fiber polymer of some sort. They are likely grinding up a Poly-80 frame and using that to train the dogs…

        • I respectfully disagree with that assessment.

          It literally is an accepted method in the sample preparation realm.

          How do I know this? More years in a chemical laboratory than I care to admit…

        • Could a dog be trained that way? Sure. Is it? No.

          “…he’s also trained to alert on the steel, the slides, and the ammunition we use for firearms…”

          A wide net, as it were.

          Then there’s issues of training and handling. And of course who they decide to search using the dog.

          This is meant to harass people. It’s not meant to fight crime.

    • Now, now.

      As the saying goes, there are no bad dogs … only bad owners.

  5. This is one of those instances where you wonder if they’re complete fucking idiots or they just think you’re a complete fucking idiot.

    • they must think we are idiots because the only things those dogs can is gun powder or gun oil, not steel or plastic they are a bunch of morons

    • Or maybe they know a judge or two who are willing to pretend they’re complete idiots.

  6. Wonder how much they paid for that pooch? I’ll sell them 10 more for half that price!

  7. “My dog indicated a hit for plutonium in your car, so he gets a treat and we have probable cause to search it.”

  8. So, they had to retire drug dogs across the country when marijuana became legalized because the dogs do not think ‘that’s pot, that’s coke, that’s meth’ they only think ‘that smells like what gets me my toy’ and they alert on ALL of those smells.

    When the dog hits on the smell of ‘steel’ or ‘plastic’, that does not mean it is a gun. So, being stopped for that alert is a violation of the 4th Amendment, unlawful detention, and anything ELSE found in the search is fruit of the poisonous tree and has to be tossed.

    This is just more reporter BS to scare the idiots.

  9. Well if they trained a dog to sniff-out polymer then it’ll be busy all day. Given just how common plastic.

    • There are *plenty* of variations in the polymer ‘formula’ they can train the dog to find.

      I fully believe a dog can be trained to sniff out a poly-80, and not a laptop shell, for example…

      • I fully believe a dog can be trained to sniff out a poly-80

        And I fully believe that the subtle differences between the poly used by 80 and Glock (not to mention the hundreds of other poly framed brands and keeping in mind that Polymer 80 is NOT the only manufacturer of 80% AR and pistol receivers) are so minute that they would be overpowered by things like burnt gun powder, cleaning fluids, oils, personal contact (your scent) as to make them imperceptible to even the most sensitive canine proboscis… So, yeah I’m calling your premise “Bovine Scatology”, but you get a C+ for effort and a B for the number of times you’ve replied with this particular theory today… Nice try but no cigar… OBTW, how does that work with unserialized aluminum AR receivers?

        • MaddMaxx,

          I don’t think other “overpowering” scents reduce a dog’s ability to discern specific items that humans train them to find.

          I can think of two examples which strongly suggest that dogs can discern extremely subtle odors among overpowering odors:

          1) Dogs which detect certain health conditions in humans (e.g. low blood sugar, imminent seizure) are picking up on extremely subtle smells that their human subject is emitting via their skin or breath in an environment chock full of other odors, including the human subject’s cologne/perfume, lotion, soap, and even fabric softener odors (not to mention other odors in the environment).

          2) Dogs which detect marijuana that has been triple/quadruple wrapped and stored in a vehicle’s gasoline tank. I cannot begin to imagine a more challenging situation than trying to detect the faint odor of marijuana that manages to escape triple/quadruple wrapping and a vehicle fuel tank among gasoline vapors.

          And back to simple observation: I have watched my dog sniff-out the path that a squirrel or rabbit just left behind from simply walking across my yard/lawn. How much odor does a squirrel or rabbit leave on the ground from simply walking? A vanishingly small amount of course. And how much odor do the plants, dirt, worms, and insects in my lawn generate? A lot. Nevertheless, my dog tracks them–and I do not even have a breed that is known for great tracking ability.

      • There are *plenty* of variations in the polymer ‘formula’ they can train the dog to find.

        And how does that help them find guns that have had the serial numbers removed or aluminum framed unserialized firearms? Sorry I think this one is BS…

        • Maxx – It’s really simple. If the dog DOESN’T smell numbers than they know they have a ghost gun. Or an apple. Or a groundhog. Or a spoon. Or a……….

  10. See now, this is the stuff that makes the defund police people seem not entirely crazy. Or at least crazy in a different direction.

    Total BS.

  11. These Demonrat politicians are geniuses. The know exactly how to manipulate their f’ing stupid voters

    • In CA? I’m betting they already use psychics and mediums on a regular basis.

      I can believe a “cadaver dog” but ghost guns? Bet the mutt just hits on about anything in a room or car which would likely give probable cause for a search. 9th Circus- here we come…

  12. I was detained at a military installation gaurdshack, everyone entering was stopped so that was no big deal. The dog got excited, usually the main concern was drugs.
    They searched and searched and found one empty .22 case. What a sniffer that dog had.
    So a dog is supposed to smell metal and plastic? Wow, it’s not like that’s a rare combination.
    ” Step outside, keep your hands where I can see them, something about your car has tipped my dog off.”

    • Hey, Possum,

      How capable is the olfactory sense for you marsupials? Could you critters show them pooches a thing or two?

      • Pretty good I’d say. Might be better then a dogs. However I’ve sniffed around for hours at a gunm free zone but never found the gunm. I think that sign lies

    • Years ago during operation golden flow they ran a dog through our barracks daily looking for drugs. So we mixed a bag of cheap pot someone was able to sneak on base with the floor wax that and did the floors. Dog went nuts, alerted all over. As did the second dog they brought in when I guess they thought the first had lost it. They knew we did something so we had to redo the floors and repaint the walls. Still was worth it.

      • Tracking dogs can be thrown off by a mixture of a pungent substance (like blood or urine) and cocaine. As they sniff more aggressively to isolate the scent from the covering odor, they’ll get high from snorting the cocaine and become useless for tracking for several hours.

        • We had a series of robberies in Oregon. The bad guy(s), poured black pepper everywhere.
          Even on/in the stolen car that was usually found the next day.
          The K-9 guy refused to come to the scene.

  13. Tell me how the dog can be trained to ignore the overwhelming gun smell that surrounds LEO(s) and/or their vehicle(s). If nothing else their “sniffer” would become to so saturated that they wouldn’t be able to smell what they’re trained to smell.

  14. If that doggo could sniff out a stolen election, now that would be worth getting excited about.

  15. Numerous studies have shown that drug dogs have false positive failure rates ranging from 50-80%. At best a coin flip. But thanks to the drug warriors Americans lose their 4th Amendment protections if a trained dog signals on command. I am sure some of the “conservatives” will be along soon to tell us that violation of the Constitution was ok while this one is wrong.

    • You know, a decade ago I would have been one of those.

      Now … I’ve seen enough to understand that the slippery-slope concept applies to a lot more than gun control.

    • Haha.

      No need to deliver the final blow. The same idiots are okay with over the counter stuff, beer, and tons of other unhealthy shit they put in their bodies daily.

      But, drugs are bad, mmmk.

      • Took an Amendment to outlaw alcohol, since the Constitution does not allow the Fed government that authority, but a couple decades later they just assume the authority to “control” drugs? I saw the war on drugs come into existence, and could not believe, at the time, that no one objected on Constitutional grounds. Even as a teenager I knew that was wrong.

  16. I was a K-9 handler for 4 years during my career, dogs are amazing animals, and their olfactory system is simply amazing. Unless you can prove that there is something used in the construction of Polymer 80 frames tgat is not used in any other item in the world, that the dog is specifically trained to find, this Sheriff is full of crap!

    • The “Ghost Gun” has a ham sandwich inside the frame, so the quadruped finds it every time.

    • It’s the overall ‘recipe’ they train the dog to alert on, Ron.

      Not one specific thing, the overall ‘aroma’…

  17. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

    A good, funny story lifts the spirits; thanx.

  18. How he can distinguish be tween, say, an 80% Arms GST-9 pistol and a DeWalt cordless drill — both of which feature polymer housings and steel — isn’t exactly clear.

    He can’t distinguish, they are full of it, the dog has been trained to sniff out guns period and IF it happens to be an unserialized “ghost” gun they can say “WIN” and justify the hundreds of thousands of dollars they spent “training” the dog, if it’s a legit firearm? “just move along, nothing to see here”…

    • Polymer ‘recipes’ are as varied as the day is long. That’s what they train the doggie to alert on…

      • Thinking about it that way, it does seem possible.

        But then Polymer80 or their supplier changes the recipe, and suddenly there are a lot of useless “ghost gun” sniffers. Or the dogs start finding a whole lot of false alarms if somebody else starts making a common item with the same type of plastic.

        Or somebody could buy an unfinished receiver from a company that uses a different polymer recipe; are they going to train dogs to sniff out *every* type of polymer that’s potentially suitable for firearms? And this doesn’t even get into the fact that the vast majority of “ghost guns” are metal-framed anyway.

        At best this is an expensive, pointless stunt. At worst, it’s *not* pointless and will be used to violate civil rights and send peaceful people to jail.

  19. America needs a dog that can sniff out Californians to keep them out of your state…

  20. Zeke can maybe detect a gun by smelling the propellant. However; there is no way that Zeke can distinguish between an unserialized, Polymer 80 “ghost gun” and a Glock. The only point to this insanity is to provide police with a fraudulent basis to claim “reasonable suspicion” for a search. The imbeciles are to stupid to understand that this will only alienate the other half of the country that wasn’t demanding that the police be defunded and disbanded. The cops pushing this bovine scatology also fail to understand that they are alienating the folks who if provoked are quite capable of hunting them down and exterminating them. They could end up getting 2016 multiplied by a thousand.

    • “However; there is no way that Zeke can distinguish between an unserialized, Polymer 80 “ghost gun” and a Glock.”


      Every plastic company that makes the raw pellets has their own ‘secret sauce’, and that’s what the dog is sniffing for.

      Poly 80 uses a fiberglass-reinforced plastic that is not the same as what Glock uses…

      • South Carolina UpState dogs ain’t that smart nohow, besides spirit gats is legal here.
        “man, we live in some weird times.”

      • I get what you keep saying but that just makes the situation worse. If you are correct this dog can only sniff out one brand of unfinished frames, buy from a different manufacturer. If Poly 80 changes their formula the dogs training is completly worthless.

      • *WRONG*

        The dog has absolutely NO WAY of knowing the difference….

        And we all know what you’re referring to when you say you eat *secret sauce* you nasty little m fer…

  21. Is the Santa Barbara S.O. keeping log on the dogs false positives versus hits? Should prove interesting to a defense counsel.

    • The dog will react on the handler’s direction so they can have “probable cause”. This is why drug sniffing dogs have a very high (almost 80% in some studies) false positive rate.

  22. I’m gonna speed through this county with a bunch of polymer dildos and get rich real fucken quick. Good thing I already got a couple laying around. Seriously tho, bout to print that dick shaped grip in their honor. Sniff this, tyrant mutt.

  23. Many K-9 cop handlers have confessed how easy it is to train their dog to “alert” on anybody they want. If the cop sees someone he wants to arrest, he simply gives the dog a hidden signal, and the dog will “alert” on an innocent person, just from the hidden signal. How do you think Hollywood gets dogs to do all those stunts in TV commercials and movies? Hidden hand signals, of course.

    It doesn’t matter if the dog is a trained drug-sniffing dog with the papers to prove it, its handler can make the dog “alert” on anybody the cop feels like harassing or arresting. And then judges will buy it, especially if the dog has the proper papers. (Police also have been known to take untrained dogs with them and then claim they’re “drug-sniffing dogs”, but smart lawyers and judges have wised up to that ploy).

    For example, if someone is driving a Ferrari, and the police department has a “civil forfeiture” policy that lets them seize cars from suspects even if the person isn’t convicted of a crime, the cop can signal the dog to “alert”, and the police department gets a nice new sports car at no expense. Even if the innocent “suspect” is acquiitted, good luck ever getting back his car once the police have stolen it. It can take many YEARS for innocent people to get their car back, and by then the car is no longer worth much.

  24. Dogs should not be used to enforce laws.
    Not in a free country anyway.

    I just love it, the cops can shoot your dog for growling and its just tuff shit, kick one of theirs and your doing time.
    Equal rights for dogs, is it to much to ask?
    Pedestals, pedestals.

  25. So he’s trained to find polymer 80s, and if he does he has found what is not a firearm and can’t be legally confiscated, nor can charges be brought against the possessor of the not a firearm. OK.

  26. “So I got some bacon treats you know?”
    “The bacon kind, yeah?”
    “And I gave them……….to the CAT!!!”
    “Nyowlrgh! You gotta be kiddin’ me!”

  27. My guess is this dog is trained to “alert”. Probably gets a treat every time he “alerts”. An “alert” is good enough to violate your 4th Amendment rights is most locales these days.

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