Australian Government - Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

To protect Australia's borders and foster lawful trade and travel.

How are detector dogs trained?

Detector dog and handler training is conducted at the National Detector Dog Training Facility.

Training is done in three stages:

  • Basic detector dog training
  • Regional transition training
  • People search training

Training detector dog teams
In total training takes between seven and eight months to complete. In order to progress to the next stage of training handlers must successfully complete the preceding stage. Trainee handlers are recruited from within Customs and Border Protection.

Training is based on channelling each dog's inherent hunt and play drive. Dogs are conditioned to detect specific target odours and are rewarded by playing a vigorous game of tug-of-war with a rolled up towel. Training is based on positive reinforcement and strives to produce a dog that is self-driven and able to make independent decisions.

In order to ensure that the proficiency of each detector dog team is maintained beyond training the Detector Dog Program supports an ongoing quality assurance process. Handlers and dogs are assessed on an ongoing basis, ensuring that detector dog teams operate to an acceptable standard in order to achieve operational effectiveness.