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Detector Dog Unit

A Detector Dog is a specially trained canine that uses its sense of smell to detect specific substances, items, or materials.

These dogs are extensively trained to locate various things based on their keen sense of smell, which is significantly more sensitive than humans.  

What does the Detector Dog Unit do?

Customs Detector Dogs are used to help find and locate illegal drugs, firearms and undeclared cash crossing New Zealand’s border. They are adaptable and specially bred Labradors and it’s their keen sense of smell and retrieval instincts that make them so useful for this type of border security work.

Where do we work?

We work at international airports, on aircraft and ships, and in warehouses to search freight, cargo, packages, mail and luggage. We also assist with searching at Customs and Police search warrants.

Dogs at work

Detector dogs enjoy work due to the combination of mental stimulation, the strong bond with their handler, positive reinforcement during training, and the fulfilment of their natural instincts and abilities. They view work as a big game of hide and seek. When the dog locates an odour it is trained to find it is rewarded with their favourite toy - play is their paycheck so they are always eager to keep searching.  The dog only receives a reward when it locates odours it has been trained to detect.

Becoming a handler

To become a detector dog handler, you must:

  • complete an extensive initial training programme - and commit to the ongoing development of both you and your detector dog
  • be comfortable working shift work and deploying out of town at short notice
  • understand the lifestyle considerations and responsibilities of having a detector dog
  • pass a property inspection to ensure your property is suitable for housing a dog and includes adequate fencing.