Dogs detecting drugs




Pages: 41 to 60
Creation Date: 1976/01/01

Dogs detecting drugs

Excerpts from the Report to the Permanent Technical Committee of the Customs Co-operation Council on the Seminar on the Training and Use of Detector Dogs for Customs Purposes held in Brussels from 9 to 12 December 1974.

The seminar on the training and use of detector dogs for customs purposes was conducted at the Council's Headquarters in Brussels from 9 to 12 December 1974. The delegates of four Member countries, Canada, Germany (Federal Republic of), Sweden and the United States gave detailed explanations of their methods of training dogs as well as the deployment of dogs for Customs purposes in their countries. A summary of each presentation was annexed to the above-mentioned report.

At its 89th and 90th sessions the Permanent Technical Committee examined the report and authorized the publication of large excerpts of the report in the Bulletin on Narcotics. The following pages are in fact summaries of the presentations made by the above-mentioned delegates. The Division of Narcotic Drugs wishes to express its appreciation for the excellent co-operation it enjoys with the Secretariat of the Customs Co-operation Council.


A. Summary of presentation by Inspector E.A. MARSHALL, Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Areas in which dogs can be effectively deployed


The R.C.M. Police Service Dog (P.S.D.) Section began formally in October 1935 with the acquisition of "Dale", a German Shepherd dog privately owned by a member, Sgt. Jack Cawsey. Dale became Sgt. Cawsey's constant companion on patrol. The dog's ability as a tracker became evident through a number of successful cases and was sufficient for the Commissioner to order the creation of a dog training school at Calgary, Alberta in 1937.

The choice of breeds at that time did not appear a significant factor as Rottweilers, Dobermans, Riesenschnauzers and even hybrids were utilized. In subsequent years, however, the German Shepherd dog has become the accepted breed because of its most suitable combination of attributes for police work, i.e. strength, adaptability, versatility and courage.

To date, R.C.M.P. teams function exclusively on the one handler-one dog concept as the praise reward was found to be superior to other systems such as the food reward or fear. Masters normally commence their career in dog services as young men with one to five years' police background and volunteer for such duties. They have been a dedicated group who have an affinity for animals and quite frequently own dogs before coming to P.S.D. services.

Until recently all dog teams functioned as an operational support service to all Sub-Divisions. Within the Sub-Divisions, one, two or sometimes more teams are on 24-hour call to assist operational personnel in either tracking, searching for lost persons, suspected or known criminals, escaped prisoners, lost or stolen items, illicit alcohol, narcotics or restricted drugs. Each team is equipped with station-wagons suitably altered to accommodate the dog in comfort, and vehicles will carry air-conditioning equipment as it has been found that this will increase the reliability and success rate of the canine. All of the dogs are trained in attack work; utilization in certain crowd control situations may soon also be included.


In 1973, 37 R.C.M. Police Service Dog teams located from Newfoundland to British Columbia assisted in 731 searches for narcotics or restricted drugs. Of these cases, the dogs can be credited with 141 finds of either marijuana, hashish, opium, heroin or cocaine. In some instances the dogs were also able to indicate the utensils used for measuring or weighing drugs, or the containers used to conceal or store them. Drugs were located by dogs in dwellings, apartments, garages, barracks, warehouses, barns, sheds, in automobiles, fields, forests, both on or under the ground or snow. In such varying environments, the temperature, humidity, wind velocity and concentration of pleasant or unpleasant odours to humans ranged from medium to both extremes.

Dogs have been utilized at Customs ports and post offices as well and have been successful in locating drugs in luggage, padded envelopes and parcels. Means of concealment and masking odours vary (baby powder, between alternate layers of plastic wrappings etc.).

The use of dogs to the extent indicated for 1973 did not occur without some prior problems and negative experiences. Before 1971, when all of the general purpose teams had narcotics and so-called soft drugs added to their training profile, experiments had been carried out with several other breeds and different approaches in order to establish the extent to which they could assist in the task of drug law enforcement.

In August 1968, one general purpose dog was trained in the detection of drugs with a view to perfecting the training methods with the aim of introducing this training to all teams. The evaluation of other breeds was continued with the acquisition of a female basenji in 1970 and, later in the same year, several Labradors. The basenji did not meet expectations but the Labrador teams were later placed at Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver and Montreal where they performed reasonably well. In retrospect, investigations into the use of these breeds and also of some crossbreeds were not sufficiently extensive to be meaningful.

During the fiscal year 1973/74, under the auspices of the Inter-Departmental Inspection Services Committee (I.D.I.S.C.), further experimentation and evaluation was undertaken regarding the utilization of dogs at airports for the detection of narcotics, etc.

Subsequent to this exercise, which was considered successful, nine R.C.M. Police dog teams have been placed at airports for explosive detection and for the detection of narcotics and restricted agricultural goods. One of these teams is considered dual purpose in that the dog has been exposed to both explosive odours and narcotics, an area which is being evaluated.

R.C.M.P. role in Customs law enforcement in Canada

The R.C.M.P. has shown Canadian Customs officials the extent to which dogs can assist, and a criterion has been mutually developed for their utilization. The extent to which National Revenue will utilize the teams is currently being discussed.

Certain aspects of dog services in Canada are considered positive and are of advantage to the users, be it the police or customs services. The primary element is the fact that one agency is looked upon and accepted as having the necessary expertise, training, acquisition facilities and a structure to correlate and co-ordinate information, data and recorded experiences of other countries in this sometimes complex field. This arrangement, for example, allowed a placement of nine teams at airports, the handlers being regular members of the Force, yet the service is being performed on behalf of other Departments who assume all expenses.

Dual purpose teams

The services of one dog are expensive (currently in the vicinity of $25,000 annually). The explosive dog teams have been trained and utilized exclusively for this purpose. When a dual purpose explosive/drug dog alerts the handler, there is a question as to what the suspect package or container holds. Recognizing the danger factors, all responses by a dual purpose dog must be treated as if an explosive device were involved. Perhaps training the dog for separate responses is quite possible but the sophistication in such training has admittedly not been reached, at least not in Canada.

The future

The dog service in Canada is growing, with increasing interest being shown not only by federal agencies, but also by all police forces. With input and assistance through seminars and an exchange of information internationally, it is felt that all can stay abreast of contemporary philosophy and ways and means of achieving the best returns from canines.

Dogs, perhaps, are as peculiar individually as humans and although they contribute enormously to law enforcement, one must be objective in that they are also perhaps as fallible as any human. The value of a dog team obviously is difficult to assess in terms of money, but in other terms they are a service which we cannot afford to do without.

Summary of presentation by Sergeant W. J. D. REGITNIG, Royal Canadian M.P.

Effective methods of selecting and training dogs

Members of the P.S. Dog Section volunteer for this duty. Their basic requirements are:

  1. They must have from 1-5 years in the regular field force. This is to give them a basic working knowledge of police work and field administration.

  2. They must be in good physical condition, clear thinking, have a good perception, have an interest in outdoors and be willing to give complete devotion to the care, maintainance and training of the p.s. dog. A suitable situation is where a prospective applicant is situated near a field dog handler and can work as a quarry for training purposes and also attend on actual cases with the dog handler. This gives the prospective applicant a basic working knowledge of this section. If the member is still interested he will submit an application for the p.s. Dog Section in writing through normal channels. It is then processed by the staffing branch who search this applicant's file and interview him to establish his suitability. If he is found suitable, he is placed on a waiting list of quarries and will then attend at the training kennels on an annual refresher course to act as a quarry for the field dog handlers attending the course. This is usually for a 1-2 week period. It serves a twofold purpose in that it gives the applicant a chance to see the different teams working through all phases of their work and at the same time allows the training staff to view the applicant's potential. Because the attending dog handlers have more contact with the applicants during this time, their views of the applicant are also sought from the training staff prior to assessment. If, following this, they are still found suitable they are placed on a waiting list of potential dog handlers. When a vacancy occurs in the field, they are then transferred to the training kennels for basic training. During this training period, they are still on probation and subject to being returned to general field duties should they fail in the training, or change their mind as to this duty. Upon completion of training they are transferred to an operation field dog section unit.

It might be pointed out here, that there is a very small dropout rate once the applicants reach the stage of basic training. To this time recruitment has been in this manner and there has always been a waiting list for this duty. This is possibly due to the large numbers of members available to draw from and also to the relatively small size of the Section.

Selection and acquisition of dogs

At present the R.C.M.P. uses German Shepherd dogs only in the field operation. What is sought in a German Shepherd dog is:

  1. That he is a male German Shepherd dog between the age of 8-14 months. When exceptional qualities are noted the age factor is handled flexibly.

  2. He must show signs of being an eager, alert and physically well-formed specimen.

  3. He should be somewhat stand-offish, not timid, nervous or shy, but not hostile.

  4. He must not be gun shy.

Stock from breeding programmes

The R.C.M.P. has, in the past, attempted its own breeding programme. When the puppies were approximately 2 months of age, they were shipped out to field dog handlers who were willing to raise them. They were then returned to the training kennels at 9 months of age for training. This system was found to be successful and the stock was superior to that purchased from commercial stock mainly due to the supervised raising of the dogs.

The breeding programme was abandoned due to a lack of suitable facilities.

The training kennels are presently expanding and it is hoped that the breeding programme will be resumed shortly.

Training of general purpose dogs

It is important here for the training staff to realize that all dogs and men have different characteristics. What may apply to one situation may not apply to another. Let us begin with a hypothetical case of a suitably selected dog with a new handler commencing training on a 14-week course.

The dog and/or the handler will receive instruction and training in the following: Training kennel organization; familiarization-man and dog; first aid to the dog; forms and reports-training and field; obedience; agility; retrieving; criminal apprehension; orienteering; tracking; searching-narcotics, illicit alcohol, gun powder as in expended cartridges and weapons, persons, human scented articles; assessing potential p.s. dogs; guard; presentation of evidence.

The system used is the praise system-communication between man and dog being very important. Familiarization of the dog to his working surroundings is very important. Constant change of training areas is important throughout the dog's entire service.

The more varied his working area the more varied his training terrain. The R.C.M.P. is trying to adapt the dog to any situation he may encounter in the field so he will not be strange to it and respond consistently and effectively.

Once the dog has been given some obedience training he progresses to retrieving. Here again if control has not been mastered off the leash to this point the leash is used for control.

The dog is shown a human scented object (one which he can easily handle) and a type of game ensues. When he has the interest of the object he is encouraged to take it or go to it (retrieve or mouth it). By encouragement he will eventually pick up and retrieve the article. By throwing it out of view of the dog and making him range to scent it, one works into his initial search pattern, bearing in mind that both a command and a hand signal are used simultaneously and consistently for each individual exercise.

One can also progress into tracking from this same method by having the dog follow the track to where the article has been hidden. This is one method. In tracking, the dog cannot be forced to follow the track but, by knowing the exact location of it, the dog is praised when he is on the scent and corrected when he is not. Here gain, instant praise or correction (communication) is very important. Guard and attack exercises are worked on throughout his training course. Here it is very necessary that the quarry is qualified to ensure that the dog gains the proper impression and encouragement.

His agility is part of obedience as well, it demands control, building up of his physique to cope with the obstacles he might encounter and familiarizing him with similar situations in the field.

When the dog handler is able to exercise control of the dog and has the basic response required, the searches and tracks are made more difficult and simulated to those of actual cases. Here again this is to acquaint the team with field conditions and experience.

On completion of training, the training staff must be satisfied that the handler has good control, that he understands the dog's response by interpreting his indications and that the dog is working effectively.

The foregoing is basically the training received by all of the general-purpose dogs used in field operation. The teams return annually to the training kennels or attend, elsewhere, an annual refresher course. This is where problems are corrected and the training staff view the teams for suitability.

In the field, the dogs and handlers are situated in advantageous geographical areas. They operate as an assistance section and we respond to request from detachments generally with in their duty area on a 24-hour basis, e.g., the Province of Saskatchewan, has four teams employed. The land area is 251,700 square miles.

Generally, dogs are trained for the purposes of the R.C.M.P. but, upon request, dogs have, in the past, also been trained for other police departments.

Training for specialization into odour profile - explosives, narcotics, agricultural products

The dogs are given the basic training of our regular p.s. dogs including aggression, tracking and searching for human scent and weapons. Once the control and response required have been achieved, concentration is given to specific odour, either narcotics, agriculture or explosives. Here again, the method used is familiarization with the odour, command, repetition and encouragement.

Generally speaking the dogs are trained on the odours of the following substances: heroin, cocaine, hashish, liquid hashish or hashish oil, marijuana.

The course would normally be 14 weeks with the final 4 weeks conducted at the airport under actual field conditions. Following this the dogs are under evaluation for 6 months and finally undergo a one week test period.

During this on-site training, familiarization of both men and dogs to the work site is accomplished. Then searches of varying and increasing degrees of difficulty under all feasible conditions are commenced. For evaluation purposes, records of searches are kept and then tests are performed to establish the teams' effectiveness in this type of operation.

Two narcotics/agriculture dogs evaluation tests were carried out, one for over a four-month testing period and the second for over a six-month period. The first obtained a 97 per cent success rate on indication through the evaluation and a 78 per cent success rate on the final test. The second team received a 96 per cent success rate on the evaluation and an 82 per cent success rate on the final test.

At present only one dog is being worked on both narcotics and explosives. This is still in the experimental stage and only with the one team for a one-year evaluation.

There are 53 establishments for teams throughout the country employed on general policing and doing a variety of work. (Municipal, provincial and federal.) Seven of these teams are also trained in avalanche search and rescue. There is also one team employed on narcotics duty in a large city.

The dog is not a machine but an animal. He can, however, with the proper care, training, handling and understanding become an important and effective tool in law enforcement.


Summary of presentation by R. SCHIMSCHA, Customs inspector, Neuendettelsau

More than 20 years ago the German customs administration started to use searching dogs in order to protect the country from coffee smuggling. Since then much experience has been acquired. The problem of the struggle against the smuggling of narcotics is completely different. Therefore one can refer to basic methods, but must take into account engineering progress and the training methods that have changed in the last 20 years.

Different kinds of duty dog breeds (Alsatian, Rottweiler, Airedale, Riesenschnauzer and Hovawart) are trained as searching dogs. Boxer and Dobermann breeds are not being used by the German customs administration at the moment, but the Labrador and the Cocker breeds are. The basic requirement for the training, however, is the qualification of the individual dog, no matter what breed it belongs to.

The German customs administration makes its selection according to two criteria:

  1. The breeding. Labrador and Cocker puppies are bred at the training centres or by experienced Customs dog handlers. Breeding by the latter is considered to be better, because the individual dog gets accustomed to environmental factors from its youth, which is necessary for practical purposes. The dog handler also handles only that individual dog; thereby handler and dog can adjust to each other quickly. In the case of breeding at training centres the aforesaid elements do not occur because on account of personnel, several dogs must be handled by one trainer. In both cases the instinct of play of the puppy is intensified until it has a strong desire to possess its toy. Once this phase has been reached, it has to be decided which method should be applied to train the young dog. There is the fetish method and the direct method. In the case of the fetish method the young dog is led to the scent (narcotics) by a toy. In other words, the dog finds its toy only by scent. The training has to be mastered in two periods. At first the young dog has to be accustomed to an object of play, and then the object of play must be related to the scent. Training reverses can be experienced when the dog takes the individual smell of the object of play for the major scent.

    The direct method is easier for handler and dog, because only one method of training is used. The basic requirement here is also the pronounced instinct of play and the "ambition to possess". But in this case the scent (narcotics) is hidden in the object to be retrieved, which is also the object of play of the young dog. In this way the scent is always present while the dog is playing. The wrapping should be changed often in order to dispel the human smell; the dog recognizes its own scent when the same packing material is used too frequently.

The dog demonstrates that hashish is in the crate - Dog and dog handler at work at a car

Full size image: 54 kB, The dog demonstrates that hashish is in the crate - Dog and dog handler at work at a car

The dog found it

Full size image: 60 kB, The dog found it

During the training, the characteristics and the behaviour of the young dog have to be examined in regard to all influences that come into play when it is in action. Basic obedience and the usual jumping exercises have to be carried out as well.

Selection of dogs is a very protracted process and entails a wastage of 50 per cent and more.

  1. The training. The German Customs Administration uses more than 1,200 duty dogs. Almost every fourth customs official at the border handles a dog. From that number the dogs that seem to be best qualified are chosen and trained as narcotic dogs by a method that is now standardized. This takes place at the training centres for customs dogs in Neuendettelsau (district Nuremberg) and Bleckede (district Hanover). At these centres the selection is made at the end of a general basic training. If an exceptional capability for play and retrieving appears, a test is recommended. It has to be carried out very carefully. Later failures are due to misjudgement made during the test. One must distinguish between acquired and natural instinctive habits. Every customs dog handler would like his dog trained as a searching dog. He will prepare his dog for that examination; during the test everything depends on the dog's instinct of play and retrieving. The tester must be able to distinguish between natural instinctive talent and acquired performance. Therefore not only these two impulses are relevant, but it is also necessary to check whether the dog is interested in the object of play, even if that object is no longer within reach. In this case the dog has to prove by scratching, biting and barking at the hiding place that it definitely wants to retrieve its object and thereby proves its persistence. This "ambition to possess" is the most important aim of the test. However, the dog can be trained to pass this test. Therefore the tester must change his examination methods continuously. If the dog is awarded the qualification for the training, handler and dog will be admitted to searching dog training. This training lasts for four weeks. The dog has learnt basic obedience, searching articles, scenting and attack work during its previous basic training, and is therefore able to reach the required level in such a short time. During the training the dog must be adopted to narcotics in a given sequence. It starts to search for hashish during the first session of training. In this case hashish is packaged in such a way that it cannot be reached by the dog and is regarded as an object of play only. The first days are used to accustom the dog to the object. During this period the dog becomes acquainted with the scent of hashish and associates the game with the scent. The stronger the association becomes during the fighting game, the easier the subsequent training will become.

As soon as the dog has found the object, the game of retrieving by fighting is played again; the dog has always to be the winner. Later on, one has to ensure that the packing material is changed frequently in order to dispel the human smell and the smell of the dog which is also recognized as a scent. If the trainer is perfectly sure that the dog has identified the scent, he must check that the dog is not confusing it with the packing material. When the dog has reached this phase of training, it is necessary to introduce the handler and the dog to actual searching; playing for the reason of relaxation must not be overlooked. However the search for hashish should still be considered as a game.

Hiding places which are used in training are the same as used in practical application. The method of working during the training should be geared to the examination. It is obvious that not every searching operation can be successful, so that the dog handler must continue the training at the place of work.

At the moment the Federal Republic of Germany has about 150 fully trained dogs in use, which have discovered about two tons of hashish since 1969.

A start was also made on training dogs on "narcotics". Training with four searching dogs (hashish) was carried out for four weeks, and there was success in adjusting them to heroin and raw opium.


Summary of presentation by Mr. G. WIDE

Drug smuggling began to increase in Sweden in the early 1960s. To begin with this smuggling comprised, in the main, tablets containing psychotropic substances. Later, the smugglers dealt in pure substances of amphetamine and phenmetrazine. Later still, at about the middle of the 1960s, cannabis preparations appeared on the market and at the moment the smuggled drugs consist of about 50 per cent psychotropic substances and 50 per cent cannabis. These figures are approximate and change from time to time.

At the time when the smuggling of tablets began to increase seriously, comparatively few confiscations were made. The reason for this was partly that the Customs officers at this time were not prepared for the fight against illicit drugs, and partly that this kind of smuggling took place under circumstances that made it difficult to locate the hidden products.

By means of intelligence gathered and investigations carried out it could be established that the drugs were usually transported in private cars and hidden in the chassis, the frames and the tyres, and in other spaces difficult to search. One could certainly not find the drugs by the use of conventional methods. The investigation service of the Swedish Customs in the first instance made a survey of how to develop a new method of locating illicit drugs in means of conveyance, in commercial goods, parcels, etc. This method needed to provide the possibility for a rapid search without too much encroachment into the means of conveyance, goods, etc.

After having investigated various possibilities, two technical methods were taken forward, first the so-called narcotic detector, working on the basis of a number of rays from a radio-active source, and secondly, the narcotic dogs.

The first narcotic dogs were selected and trained for the Customs during the latter part of 1966 and were taken into service in the beginning of 1967. Four dogs and their handlers were used at the beginning. Dog training for different purposes in Sweden is centralized and takes place at the Army Dog Training Centre, where police dogs, army dogs, blindleader dogs, avalanche search dogs, etc. are trained. This school was thus commissioned by the Board of Customs to train four dogs with handlers on a trial basis. The experience available was, in Sweden as well as in other countries, very meagre. Little was known regarding the length of this training, which breed of dog would be most suitable, which kind of drugs the dog would be able to trace, for how long a dog was capable of doing its duty, etc.

Initially dogs from the German Shepherd breed were trained, simply because the Army already had a suitable stock. By and by it was found out that dogs of the Labrador breed are suited to training for the search for drugs as well. In the beginning, however, there was no stock of Labrador dogs big enough to enable a suitable selection to be made. Later on, however, the stock of Labradors was increased and it was found that the searching abilities of the Labrador dogs are at least as good as those of the German Shepherds. Nowadays all the 23 dogs that are in service are Labradors. The Labrador dog is normally calm and gentle and makes the search quietly and systematically. It also seems to be more persistent than the German Shepherd which, as a general rule, must be regarded as more aggressive. Many people have, by tradition, awe and fear for the German Shepherd which is often associated with guard and watchdogs. As the narcotic dog has to work among travellers it was regarded as safer and more psychologically appropriate to choose a breed towards which people have no prejudices. There are certainly several other breeds of dogs which could be suitable for use as narcotic dogs. A change to another breed requires, however, rather time-consuming research and also involves a breeding problem.

The narcotics dogs are selected through certain physical and psychical tests. The dogs must be without physical defects and they must have a good basic physical constitution. Psychically they must be calm, have a stable character and be fearless. The tests and observations continue throughout the dogs' training. It often happens that, during the training, weak-point signs are observed in the dogs' behaviour, which have not been noticed in the first tests. Such dogs are then withdrawn from training and are used for other tasks.

The training of the dog to trace drugs starts when it is twelve to eighteen months old, but variations may occur. The first part of the training, the so-called obedience training, has been finished at that time and this includes 4 to 6 months of normal obedience drill. At this point of the training the dog handler is sent to the dogs' training centre, to take over the dog. The first days are spent on becoming familiar with the dog and, after this, a 6 week long training starts, to teach the dog to trace narcotic drugs. During this training the drugs will be hidden in different objects and in different surroundings. The last week of the "drug training" is spent entirely on so-called environment training which will be described hereafter. It is important to vary the hiding-places within a wide frame as otherwise there is a risk that the dog associates the illicit drugs with a certain milieu or with a certain object.

The dogs are basically taught to search for both cannabis and psychotropic substances. It has proved possible to train the dogs for both these types of drugs simultaneously. The principle is that the training of a dog seems to give the better results the fewer substances and smells he has been trained to search for. An interesting question can be mentioned in this connexion. There seems to be little search into what the dog's organ of smell really registers. Is it the smell of a special narcotic preparation, is it the smell of the substratum or the mass in which the narcotic drug has been enclosed, or is it some other kind of radiation which has not yet been detected by mankind. A dog, which has been trained to search for tablets containing narcotics indicates harmless headache pills as well and even, e.g., talcum powder. Research-work in this respect might be necessary.

The environment training mentioned above is conducted, inter alia, in ships, lorries, warehouses and engine-rooms, to accustom the dog to noise, traffic, unknown an ddisturbing odours, etc. A great deal of importance is laid upon this training and it is, at the same time, a kind of examination for the dog to show how he works in the type of milieu which will later be his working field. Not only the choice of the dog is important. The selection of dog handlers is at least as important in achieving a good result. It is the combination handler/dog that gives results. The handler's professional knowledge of methods of smuggling and hiding-places is a prerequisite if the dog shall be used rationally and be able to find spaces and hiding-places which cannot be discovered by ocular examination or ordinary search techniques. The dogs should be considered as a "technical" means of assistance, which through its unsurpassed ability to register smells complements the rest of the search techniques. The dog can, of course, be used for a preliminary search or for search over a large area but this should probably only be practised in exceptional circumstances. Normally, the handler should choose an object and search area for the dog and this is mainly used for so-called fine-search or point-search, i.e. to surmount the limits where the Customs officer must halt due to physical and other practical obstacles.

In Sweden dog handlers are selected from among such officers as have declared that they are ready to be trained to become detector dog handlers. After the training the dog handler will be fodderer for the dog, i.e. the dog will stay at the handler's house when the dog is off duty. The obligations and the rights of a dog handler are regulated in a contract between him and the Customs. In the contract it is stated, inter alia, that the dog handler shall take good care of the dog and provide for continuous training of the dog. The remuneration per month is about $US 50. The handler is provided with an official car for the transportation of the dog or he may use his own car against payment. The handler may spend part of his hours of duty per week in the training of the dog (about 5 hours per week).

When selecting dog handlers, Sweden tried at first to choose those who had dogs earlier or in another way had obtained a knowledge of dogs. However, it has become evident that sometimes it has been difficult to correct those officers during the short training period at the dog school. The fact is that they may have preconceived opinions about their own ability to take care of and to understand dogs. Therefore it has been decided not to choose persons as dog handlers who had worked with dogs earlier. Instead, such officers should be selected as are generally deemed to be interested in animals and suitable to take care of them. Of course, they must fulfil great demands as regards their skill in Customs work and have a strong aptitude for, and interest in, combating smuggling. It is obvious that no general rules can be drawn up in this matter but each case must be carefully considered as the problem is known.

The dogs may search different articles. They are used for a strict search of all kinds of means of transport (motor cars, trains, ships, aircraft). They are also used in connexion with house searches and finally in the examination of goods, such as commercial goods, luggage, postal parcels, letters, etc. An observation

made which seems to be correct, is that the dog should be used in respect of different kinds of articles. If the dog is used monotonously to search for certain objects only, for instance private cars during rather long periods, the dog seems to become disinterested in searching. The dog's interest seems to diminish gradually. This risk is greatest at some small posts where there is only, or mainly, a special kind of traffic. Because of that fact Sweden tries to let the dog teams operate within larger regions and with regular intervals they may visit different Customs ports or places of entry in their region. Sweden often co-operates across the frontiers especially along the Swedish frontiers with Norway and Finland, where Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish dog teams relieve each other or co-operate in joint operations.

There are no special statistics in respect of the quantities of drugs which the detector dogs have found. Even if this were desirable from some view-points there are reasons against the publication of such statistics. In many cases it can, for instance, be difficult to determine whether a concealed consignment of drugs has been found only by the dog or by the dog plus the Customs officer. If Customs officers without dogs also take part in a search there is a further risk that antagonism can arise between them and the dog team. In Sweden the need for, and the value of, detector dogs are beyond all discussion. The use of detector dogs is regarded as a necessary technique in combating the illicit drug traffic and without the dogs several search problems could not be solved. An instrument which could replace the dog's ability to smell has not yet been constructed. If a search group has the help of a dog team, but in spite of that does not find any concealed drugs in, for instance, a car, the officers have a stronger feeling that they did not overlook any hiding-place.

Great savings of time can be made in search work by using detector dogs. For it is possible to have a preliminary search for instance of a consignment of luggage or post-bags in a fraction of the time that would be required if a conventional search technique were applied in order to detect drugs. Saving of time and personnel is thus attained or-in other words-the level of the aim can be raised without increasing the personnel or working overtime. Nor must Sweden disregard the preventive effect of a dog team.

Sweden knows that the professional smuggler of drugs tries to avoid places where he knows that there are detector dogs. Efforts are also made to deceive the dogs, for instance by putting the drugs in packings which prevent too much emission of smells or by adding strong-smelling substances with repellant or disturbing effects on the dog. Because of that Sweden tries to train the dogs to search for drugs to which have been added, or which have been concealed in, different strong-smelling substances. Experience shows that a dog well trained in this respect can detect drugs even prepared in this way.

In all one can say that the observations made so far in Sweden in the use of detector dogs are highly positive. Thus there are no plans of reducing or giving up this method of combating smuggling. However the dogs might be used inefficiently in some respect or other due to unknown factors which must be established and corrected. Finally Sweden is convinced that too little is known about the dog's mentality, real working capacity and other characteristics. Increased research would, accordingly, be desirable and an exchange of observations made is necessary on an international basis if we are to acquire within a reasonable time, enough experience and conclusions to show us how the dog can best be used in helping us to detect drugs.


Summary of presentation by Mr. John V. LINDE and Mr. Eugene McEATHRON

The use of detector dogs was officially adopted by U.S. Customs in 1972. They have been effectively used in international mail rooms, cargo docks and terminals, and ports of entry. As of 1 November 1974, 103 teams are permanently assigned to the various ports of entry into the United States.

During fiscal year 1974, the dogs were responsible for 2,170 narcotic finds.

Dogs, regardless of how well they are trained in their ability to detect concealed narcotics, are not a panacea for smuggling problems confronting U.S. Customs; however, with results, as shown above, they are valuable adjuncts to effective detection and investigative techniques.

The long range plans are to increase the number of teams in the field to 500 by fiscal year 1980.

Detector dogs in enforcement

In order to understand how detector dogs can be utilized by the Customs, a general knowledge of the animals themselves plus related methods of employment in narcotic enforcement activities is helpful.

Animals have a recognition ability that shapes their natural evolutionary development. Their ability to survive is directly related to food identification, foe recognition, and mate selection.

A dominant feature in the development of the dog is his ability to discriminate by scent. (It is this ability that must be properly channelled if a dog is to be utilized to locate narcotics.) While this unique capability sets him apart from his human counterpart, it in no way implies that narcotics detector dogs are capable of bearing the entire burden of any search effort. On the contrary, such animals must be closely supervised and assisted by a handler who is highly qualified in Customs detection and enforcement techniques.

A trained dog's reliable reaction to a specified odour greatly expands the handler's ability to search large or intricate areas that are suspected of containing contraband. Animals are not distracted by preconceived notions as to the validity of any given situation. Neither are they influenced by social, political, economic nor environmental considerations that often affect their human counterparts. It is also significant that most of the camouflage techniques and other subterfuges that deceive human investigators are ineffective against a canine detector trained to identify specific scents.

Public opinion, along with other sociologically oriented considerations, have a decided influence upon the advisability of utilizing narcotics detector dogs. In many respects, it is the same problem that confronts most police agencies that employ patrol dogs. Public opinion may be influenced through demonstrations and properly oriented publicity campaigns. For this reason one should not automatically assume that public opinion will be hostile to the concept of utilizing narcotics dogs. In certain instances, where civic sentiment supports a stringent narcotics enforcement policy, the use of narcotics dogs may go far toward developing public confidence in Customs expertise.

Generally speaking, narcotics detector dog teams are most advantageously employed under circumstances associated with screening and search operations. Their inherent capabilities are more fully exploitable in this form of endeavour than when utilized in on-the-street enforcement techniques or undercover situations. Actually, however, methods of employment are sufficiently flexible to be tailored to meet individual problem areas and, in the final analysis, are limited only by the imagination of Customs enforcement and investigative officers.


Detector dogs serve as effective investigative tools for the trained Customs enforcement or investigative officer in detecting concealed marijuana and other dangerous drugs. The following principles should be observed when using the detector dog and handler:

  1. Detector dog teams are employed under the general supervision of a Customs Inspector, Customs Agent, or a Customs Mail Supervisor. When possible, such officers should be regularly assigned to work with the dog and handler team, in order to become familiar with the dog's alert and to allow the dog to become accustomed to the officer's presence.

  2. The dog handlers receive classroom and on-the-job training on the drug abuse problem, techniques of searching, search and seizure authority, custody of evidence, and Customs laws in general.

Operational areas in which dogs are utilized are as follows:

  1. Dock or Pier Areas: the dogs can be used to check pallets, bundles, bales, etc., as they are unloaded from the carrier or are stored. The dog cannot be expected to detect scents more than 4 feet from the ground.

  2. Warehouses: the dogs can be utilized by walking them along stacked containers. In some instances, where containers are piled higher than 4 feet, the dogs can walk across the top.

  3. Baggage: baggage can be worked by positioning the dog on or near a baggage conveyor belt. This should be done, if possible, prior to the time that the baggage enters the Customs area. Baggage can also be checked as it is unloaded from an aircraft or ship.

  4. Vehicles, aircraft, or vessels: the search can normally be done by having the dog check the exterior first. After this is accomplished, the interior is searched by giving the dog a maximum amount of independence.

  5. Buildings: a search of buildings is normally accomplished by having the dog led along the walls. Furniture or items in the centre of a room or building are then searched. The exterior of a building and immediate land area may also be checked.

  6. Open area: this type of search can be conducted with the dog on or off the leash. The dog can be expected to find marijuana or other drugs which are hidden by grass or shrubs as well as those that may be buried. The exact manner in which the dog is worked in an open area depends on the dog, the wind, and the terrain.

  1. International Mail Operations: the dogs can be used on or near conveyor belts. If possible, packages should be laid out or moved on conveyor belts to permit easier access.

The amount of time which can be effectively spent by a dog in detection activities can only be determined by skilled dog handlers.

I. Narcotic detector dog training

The material contained herein is the product of experimentation and practical application in scent discrimination and behaviour control. To appreciate the success demonstrated by Customs detector dogs one must examine the training methodology used. The procedures developed and used by the Customs service are unique in that they deal primarily with channelling behaviour as opposed to the more commonly used praise versus punishment or food reinforcement methods. The development of a marijuana detection capability is closely related to advanced heroin and cocaine training. The latter is heavily reliant on certain aspects of initial search training, therefore some background knowledge of basic concepts is necessary even through primary interest may be in the hard narcotics.

With the successful development of a productive heroin and cocaine detection capability, the basic detector dog training course was extended from eight to ten weeks to permit inclusion of this much needed capability. There has since been success in up-grading the capability of previously trained animals and at present all dog/handler teams are graduating with a multi-detection capability. Training is presented in two increments. For convenience, each will be discussed separately. Part I is concerned with basic training, which includes teaching the dog to search all types of conveyances for marijuana and hashish. It should be noted that the narcotic the animal is taught to seek is immaterial; however, the failure of several early experiments clearly reflects that it is not advisable to introduce all of the narcotics simultaneously. Part II deals with heroin and cocaine and reflects a continuation of earlier established responses. It is in content a condensed form of initial training sequences.

One of the most important single factors influencing U.S. Customs objective is selection of a fully qualified animal. Although selection is important in other programmes it is considerably more critical in this type of employment and definitely a decisive factor in advanced heroin and cocaine training.

The development of animal response is guided by the objectives involved which, in turn, dictate certain prerequisites that obviously limit selection.

Having made selection of a qualified animal, a brief mention of handler qualifications is appropriate and necessary. Experience indicates that considerable damage, and in many cases incorrectable damage, is caused within the first few seconds of an exercise by a sincere but unknowledgeable handler. For this and other reasons, all U.S. Customs dog handlers have at least one year previous experience in the handling of a working dog and are graduates of a formal dog training centre, which teaches animal response based on negative or positive stimulus.

At this point it is realized that successful training of detector dog/handler teams requires a qualified dog, a handler with some previous experience in handling dogs and an instructor with a thorough knowledge of animal behaviour and training techniques.

During initial training dogs are taught to search vehicles, vessels, aircraft, freight, mail and premises for marijuana and hashish. The desired detection response is achieved and a strong foundation is established for advanced heroin and cocaine training. Initial training is accomplished in the following sequence:

  1. Basic obedience: obedience training produces a reliable and obedient animal, however, strict obedience is a hindrance and creates an undesired reliance or dependence of the animal on the handler.

  2. Retrieving: the primary purpose of this phase of training is to make use of previous retrieving ability, establish scent association and develop the desired response.

  3. Field detection: the primary objective of the detector dog is to detect and alert his handler to the presence of narcotics. To fulfil this objective, he must be trained to physically respond to the odours involved:

  1. Point-to-point is used as a beginning and is accomplished by requiring the dog and handler to walk a predetermined route from one point to another. The route is planned so the dog can benefit from his sense of smell. The narcotic training aid is hidden and secured in a variety of ways on the upwind side of the path. When the dog enters the "scent cone" he reacts by showing a physical desire to follow the scent and search out the aid.

  2. Quartering is a method used by the dog/handler team to systematically clear each portion of a large area. It is simply a series of point-to-point routes, beginning at the down-wind boundary and progressing up-wind until the narcotic is located. This exercise offers the instructor an opportunity to control the length and complication of the exercise. Narcotic aids are hidden in a manner causing the dog to use his feet or teeth to dislodge the training aid. During this phase of training, a "roughhouse" tug-of-war game is introduced after each successful retrieve. The game gradually increases in intensity until the animal displays a somewhat hostile attitude. The primary purpose of making each exercise progressively more difficult for the dog to retrieve and the subsequent roughhouse game, is to stimulate an aggressive response which is the basis for developing a strong alert response.

  1. Building/premises search: in this phase of training the dog is taught to search vacant and occupied buildings and the instructor is afforded an opportunity to reduce the number of training materials involved:

  1. Building exterior: this exercise develops the dog's ability to search the outside of a building by using unrestricted air currents.

  2. Building interior: building search provides an opportunity to teach the dog to search in a systematic manner.

5. Mail and freight screening: training an animal to screen mail or freight is a relatively simple process, provided that the proper aggressive responses have been previously achieved:

  1. Mail screening: initially the same type of training aid used in field detection is placed inside progressively stronger boxes that contain varying quantities of marijuana or hashish. By requiring the dog to destroy the package in his effort to retrieve the aid, a very enthusiastic response can be achieved.

  1. Freight screening: this phase of training is initiated soon after a reasonable response is achieved in mail screening. Since freight screening offers relatively little enjoyment for the dog, maximum advantage must be taken of the few enjoyable opportunities available.

6. Transport searching: in order to produce a dependable dog/handler team capable of searching modern conveyances, training must be accomplished on or in the specific conveyance involved:

  1. Vehicle search: the search procedures used for employment should be identical to those used in training which require the handler to begin the search on the up-wind side, completing the exterior before entering the vehicle.

  2. Aircraft: the passenger seating areas on aircraft, buses and trains are Similar. In training a dog to search these areas a horizontal figure eight pattern has proven most adequate.

7. Mid-training performance evaluation: the training sequence outlined in the above paragraphs encompassed eight weeks of training. The objectives have been met and undesirable dogs or handlers have been eliminated after remedial training efforts fail to correct their shortcomings. Before advancing to heroin and cocaine training, it is necessary to unbiasedly evaluate the performance of the dog/handler team. This evaluation should, at a minimum, give a clear reflection of the animal's search intentness and detection response. The latter can be divided into three specific actions: the alert, interest after alerting and aggression toward the container. The result of this evaluation leaves several choices, i.e. eliminate the substandard animal, put him back in training to an appropriate period in the training programme or advancement to hard narcotics training. To give a marginal dog the benefit of doubt and advance him even though there is some scepticism, usually only serves to compound the problem. Assuming the dog has passed, it is time to advance to Part II.

II. Heroin and cocaine detection

The training approach mentioned here was developed by the Customs Service Detector Dog Training Centre. Before engaging in a programme of this type, one must place accomplishable goals in perspective. Development was pursued with a clear understanding that a dog could be trained to respond to the "available" odours of heroin and cocaine. All dogs seem to possess sufficient olfactory acuity to accomplish this task and each have individual thresholds beyond which identification is physically impossible. Scientific research is very limited in this area, however, and is not known what general threshold exists for these substances. It becomes obvious then that under certain unknown conditions or circumstances the dog may be incapable of identifying. This, in turn, becomes the governing framework of the efforts.

The nature of Customs work with its numerous operational environments dictates the need for an animal that is highly motivated, works rapidly and alerts positively on the exact location of narcotic concealment. The natural tendency is to expedite the acquisition of this capability. Unfortunately, there are no short cuts, and although the procedure outlined here produces results in two weeks, it can not be accomplished at all unless the dog has successfully completed the training outlined in Part I or has had similar previous training. Most professional dog trainers will agree that previous training limits the approach to be used and strongly influences response. The best approach, therefore, is to add this capability using a compatible and previously conditioned response, avoiding a change in reward.

(1) General field detection training

  1. Controlled retrieve and scent association. The primary purpose of using controlled retrieve as a beginning is the animal's obvious enjoyment in performing this task.

    Initial retrieves are accomplished by the instructor throwing a retrieving dummy, bearing several drops of a special preparation, a predetermined distance up-wind.

    Subsequent retrieves are made more challenging by controlling the length, direction of the retrieve and terrain.

  2. Field detection: through repetition and past exposure, the dog has become highly motivated in field exercises and his desire to search should need no prompting.

  3. Building/premises search: having previously taught the dog to search buildings, the benefit of this portion of heroin training lies in the instructor's ability to reduce the number of training materials previously used.

  4. Mail/freight and transport screening: once scent association has been firmly established and it is determined that the animal is, in fact, responding to the narcotic, the difficult task is overcome. To this point the dog has learned through initial training to enjoy searching any conveyances.

Vehicle or aircraft searching is accomplished by concealing the narcotic training aids mentioned above in every conceivable location. Progressing from easily located stashes, in ashtrays, air vents and consoles to panels, compartments and ducts, etc. A critical factor in this phase is the ability to effectively reward the animal through substitution without resulting in an adverse effect on the alert response.

Most dogs reach a performance peak by the seventh training day, after which final performance evaluation is scheduled. The mid-training evaluation conducted in the eighth week verified all objectives to that point. Therefore, final evaluations are concerned primarily with heroin and cocaine detection placed in opposite configurations. Evaluations conducted on moving conveyer belts offer an excellent opportunity to evaluate the animal's ability in screening packaged merchandise, while searching vehicles requires the dog to seek out places of concealment. This actually covers any activity the animal might be called on to do, as it includes checking what is placed before him and searching to locate places of concealment.

Proficiency training: the primary concern at this point is to ensure the reliability of the animal after assignment. Continual training is a must and it is the responsibility of each handler to initiate appropriate follow-up or proficiency training. This should be a mandatory requirement if the same level of proficiency is to be maintained and investment protected.

Proficiency training is designed exclusively to maintain the proficiency of the graduate dog. Its administration follows the same basic step-by-step sequence used to initially train the dog. Each exercise must be challenging and progressively more difficult and require an increasing aggressive effect toward the narcotic container.

Training must be accomplished on a day-to-day and weekly basis in both task and non-task related areas. It must be conducted both at and away from normal work areas and should be accomplished on a specifically designated training day. If this day is also to be a partial work day, training is to be accomplished prior to the work schedule and as early in the morning as possible. Handlers must be reminded that the occasional hiding of an aid during the work period serves only to test the animal's response and is not a substitute for training.

All proficiency training must be geared to the animal's benefit and require him to overcome the various barriers involved. He must be required to complete the search sequence by removing and returning the narcotic aid to his handler. Under no circumstances should the handler substitute instead of playing the "tug-of-war" game with the hidden aid.

The training concept results in the animal's behaviour being channelled to a near vicious intent toward any item barring his access to the narcotic. If his " alert " is to be maintained it is obvious that training must be conducted in an environment permitting fulfilment of the objective.

Training aids being used must vary in construction material. To date the best material used to construct a retrieving dummy has proven to be towelling. By placing the narcotic in a small cloth bag and securing it to one end of the rolled towel, it is possible to wash the towelling after each use without having to change the narcotic containing bag each time. All material or items used must be free of the handler's personal odour.

As a general rule, if signs of substandard performance are apparent, they are almost always traceable to shortcomings in the proficiency training effort.