Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow.
Question #60698 posted on 11/19/2010 8:23 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

My wife and I were watching the Mythbusters marathon a few days ago, and we were amused and astonished to see how well trained drug-sniffing dogs and their handlers are. For those of you who have not seen the episode, the busting team tried several tactics and smells to hide the contraband, but were utterly unsuccessful... except in one case.

When the team brought in a female dog in heat, the drug-sniffing dog was horribly distracted, and unable to do his job. However, the handler then explained that, according to SOP, they would normally remove all dogs from the scene before sniffing. Once they removed the pheromone-laden dog, the sniffer quickly found the envelope filled with the mystery substance.

My wife's question was, do they make some sort of "eau de female dog in heat"? Is there any way to douse an item in those same pheromones, in order to throw off the sniffer dog, and perhaps keep the contraband unfound?

Or should I just ask the Mythbusters directly?

DISCLAIMER: I hereby pledge that I have no intent to use this information for any illicit or illegal activities.

- Arandur

A:

Dear Arandur,

According to Goodwin1, the pheromone to which you refer is methyl p-hydroxybenzoate or methyl paraben. This chemical typically acts as a preservative, and it is also found in anti-fungal products. It occurs naturally in blueberries as well. So, if you have your mind set on acquiring this chemical, it can be found relatively easily.

However, even without any real experimental knowledge, I really don't think that coating contraband in methyl paraben will deter a determined drug-detecting dog. Why? I seriously doubt that the pheromone alone is enough to confound canines, who react to a multitude of olfactory, auditory, and visual stimuli. The Mythbusters brought out a living female dog in heat when they fooled the drug-sniffing dog. The drug-sniffer can clearly tell the difference between a bag laden with pheromones and a female dog in heat. Most likely, after they removed the female dog, her methyl paraben was present in the air, yet the dog was still able to perform his duty. You can learn a lot more about canine senses in this article.

In short, no, they do not specifically market canine sex pheromones, and no, you couldn't fool a male canine drug-sniffer even if you had said pheromones.

I'm just going to take your word that you're not going to use this information for illicit, illegal, or bizarre purposes.

-Democritus

1. Goodwin, M., Gooding, K.M., Regnier, F., 1979, "Sex Pheromone in the Dog," Science, 203(4380), pp. 559-561.

A:

Dear Arandur,

Obviously, the solution to this hypothetical problem is to own several female dogs and make sure that there's always one in heat on any given day. Problem solved!

--Gimgimno