Recruiting detector dogs

The MPI Detector Dog Programme is always looking for suitable dogs for the programme. Find out what is involved if you think your dog is a candidate.

We seek playful, well-socialised dogs

Suitable dogs are:

  • beagles or labradors
  • aged 3 years or younger
  • healthy.

They must also:

  • have full records of medical history and immunisations
  • have a strong play or food drive
  • be good around people, especially children
  • be well socialised.

If your dog has what it takes, the dog goes to our National Training Centre in Auckland. We evaluate your dog for up to 3 weeks. We test its temperament and we will take it to various worksites around the airport. The dog will also have a full physical health examination at MPI's cost.

If the dog is suitable to enter the training programme, the ownership is signed over and the dog starts training.

Video – harrier puppies in training

Watch the video to find out about a new breed of dog MPI is trialling – harrier hounds.


[Two puppies are on a still conveyor belt, which an MPI quarantine officer on either side. Chief quarantine officer Kirsty Ansell speaks directly to the camera while the other officer pets Morley.]

Ok, so this is Muse and Morley, and they're brother and sister. They're both harriers, and they're 7 months old. They were gifted to us from the New Zealand Hunts' Association approximately 5 months ago.

And since then we've been socialising them and getting them used to different environments.

[Officer Ansell is seen walking through an empty airport with one of the dogs on a lead.]

The reason that we're looking at using harriers is because of their height, and as you'll see soon, they're just that little bit taller than our normal beagles are, which means they don't have to lift their front feet off the ground to check passengers that are carrying their bags up high or working in areas where perhaps parcels etc are that little bit higher.

[A beagle sits on the floor at the officer's feet, while the harrier pup stands on its hind legs, then sits, then walks around. When both dogs are seated, the harrier pup is a few centimetres taller than the adult beagle.]

Originally they were bred to work in hunting packs, and in New Zealand they worked on catching hares and rabbits.

So we would hopefully expect to see them training, probably in the next 6 months, depending on how they mature and how they develop. And then they'll be out working, hopefully within the next year.

[Officer Ansell calls "Come on!" and leads a harrier pup through the airport.]

Dogs learn to find prohibited items

Dogs are trained to find:

  • plants and plant products, for example fruits, vegetables, bulbs, flowers, leaves, and seeds
  • animals and animal products, for example meat, eggs, live birds, or reptiles.

The dogs learn to respond in a passive manner by simply sitting next to the baggage containing these items. The dogs will then be rewarded with food for any correct responses.

Dogs that fail to qualify are returned

If a dog fails to qualify during training, we will offer the dog back to its previous owner or foster family, or find a new approved, suitable home. If, for some reason, the dog is unhappy, or does not enjoy the work, its training stops.

Find out more

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