Detector dogs on the job as summer travel ramps up

With international tourism resuming to near pre-pandemic levels, it means detector dogs are back in a big way.

Canada Border Services Agency, for one, is taking time to paws, er, pause to thank its four-legged agents on the lookout for drugs, guns, money, and food, plant and animal products at airports and border crossings.

These specially-trained dogs with jobs bust thousands of people every year trying to smuggle illegal items into the country.

“Canada Customs began using detector dogs in 1978 to help frontline officers with a more effective method of detecting drugs and firearms,” the government explained.

Their role expanding over the years to detect more contraband items, but they also simplify searches and get passengers as well as their baggage through screening more quickly.

Detector dog Scout hard at work checking luggage. Photo: John Ossowski/Twitter

Hunting dog breeds such as Labrador retrievers, springer spaniels, golden retrievers, Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers, and also beagles are suited to this type of work.

The training is extensive.

Only one in 10 dogs are even accepted into the program and then, they are re-evaluated annually.

“Previously, all dogs were trained to scratch, dig, bite and bark at the source of a contraband odour,” officials explained. “Today, the primary method of training is for dogs to give a subtle signal to their handler when detecting contraband.”

If you know a dog that has what it takes, CBSA is always looking for new recruits.

Typically they must start training young and not be shy, timid or be aggressive. They also need to have a “strong character,” great focus and good agility.

The National Detector Dog training program is based in Quebec.

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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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