Puppies with a nose for trouble [+ video]

01:43, Jan 31 2009
BEST IN BREED: These puppies are descended from two of the best noses in Brtain and are among the first beagle puppies specifically bred to protect NZ's borders.

They have been bred from two of the best noses in Britain.

And when they grow up, the seven beagle pups will protect New Zealand's international borders against banned fruit, dairy, meat and plant products being brought into the country.

The puppies are part of a plan to introduce new genes into MAF Biosecurity's detector dog breeding programme.

In 2006 the programme's dog trainer, Janet Williams, and breeding manager Kirsty Ansell flew to Britain and hand-picked dads Villain and Pirate from the governing body of British hunting beagles, the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles.

The semen was inseminated into the best working females from MAF's breeding programme.

The first four pups, all males, were born to Paige at MAF's Auckland breeding centre last month. Quartz gave birth to her litter - two males and a female - last weekend.

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Ms Williams said it was the first time the association had agreed to share its top dogs.

"It's unbelievable, they're the best dogs in the world," she said. "You can't buy stock like that."

Beagles have been used to hunt hares and rabbits in Britain for hundreds of years because of their keen sense of smell.

They are great detector dogs because they are small, smart, and non-threatening to people, Ms Williams says.

MAF established a detector dog breeding programme in 1995 to ensure a healthy stock of beagles to stop items of quarantine concern entering New Zealand via international airports and wharves. It can also call on beagles at Auckland International Mail Centre.

Churton Park beagle owner Bill Ward said his Niko and Koby were like "noses on four legs". Walks often took longer than planned because of sensory diversions.

Ms Williams said the future detector dogs would go to "puppy walking homes" after about eight weeks to be socialised, then start training when they were a year old.

 

The Dominion Post