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Drug detector dogs

A drug detector dog is an important resource in the prevention of narcotics smuggling

About our work with dogs
A drug detector dogs dog is a valuable tool and an important resource in Swedish Customs´ efforts to combat the smuggling of narcotics. Swedish Customs have some 50 dog teams that work in border protection groups throughout the country. Drug detector dogs have been trained by Swedish Customs at Tullskolan in Norrtälje since 2003. Trained dog teams return to Tullskolan each year for additional training. The dogs belong to Swedish Customs but live together with their handler.

The education of a handler
In order to become a dog handler you must first apply to Swedish Customs´ law enforcement and go through a one-year training programme. After a couple of years of service as a customs´ border protection officer you can proceed and apply for a dog handler position. The basic education to become a dog handler takes a half a year, of which two weeks are spent at Tullskolan. The dog handler is assigned a young dog (approx. 1-3 years old) and is responsible for teaching and training the dog. Education involves basic obedience training, environmental training, as well as teaching and training to detect specific drugs. Since customs detection work involves heavy lifting, climbing into vessels, boats, and various sorts of vehicles, handlers must be agile and physically fit.

Characteristics of the dog
The dog is assessed entirely on the basis of its own characteristics. Characteristics that are sought after and assessed include hunting and retrieval instincts, temperament, approachability, stamina, acuity, and defence. It is the dog´s sense of smell together with the dog handler´s experience and knowledge of hiding places, smuggling methods, as well as the handler´s familiarity with narcotics that make it possible to increase the efficiency of detection. Close cooperation between the dog and the handler is a prerequisite for good results.

Facts about dogs
Most of our dogs are hunting dogs, such as Springer Spaniels, Labradors, Golden and Flat-coated Retrievers.

Acquisition of dogs
Dogs are recruited on the open market. Dogs are approved after a suitability test. A drug detector dog is retired at the age of about ten and continues to live with its handler. A dog handler can then continue to serve as a dog handler with a new dog.

Certification of a dog team
A detection dog team is certified and quality assured after training before they can begin their work with one of the Swedish Customs´ border protection groups. The detection dog team then works in the flow of traffic from abroad. They track down narcotics or select control objects such as cars, buses, trains, and travellers.

The narcotics detection dog of the year
In December of each year a prize is awarded for the drug detector dog of the Year at the Stockholm International Fairs in Älvsjö by the Swedish Kennel Club.

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Updated: 2009-06-09

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