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Detector dogs

Our dogs are used to help identify illegal drugs and undeclared cash being smuggled into the country.

What do they do?

Customs' detector dogs are adaptable and specially bred Labradors. We use them to search for illegal drugs or undeclared cash concealed in objects like freight, cargo, packages, mail and luggage; and in locations such as airports, aircraft, warehouses, and ships. Sometimes we use them to search private premises and vehicles on Customs and Police search warrants.

The dog regards searching for drugs and cash as a game. When the dog locates the drugs or cash it is always rewarded – perhaps with its favourite toy. The dog only receives a reward when it locates the odours it has been trained to detect. The dogs themselves never come into contact with the drugs and never become addicted to them.

Where do they work?

Detector dog teams work mostly at international airports throughout the country. They also work at the International Mail Centre and they regularly search ships, small craft and cargo.  It’s their keen sense of smell and retrieval instincts that make them so useful for this type of border security work.

When they’re not working, the dogs are kennelled at home with their handlers.

Becoming a handler

To become a detector dog handler, you must:

  • complete a three month training programme - and commit to the ongoing development of 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
  • have no other dogs living at your residence.