Labrador pups join border patrol
Beagles at the front line of border patrol keeping out fruit and other undesirables have received a boost - with Labradors to join the ranks of detector dogs for the first time.
Five Labrador pups - Shyann, Enya, Egypt, Ella and Eden - will patrol at Auckland International Airport, joining the 26 other detector dogs around the country that protect New Zealand from harmful organic matter.
The dogs are a first for the Ministry of Primary Industries Labrador breeding programme. The Labradors were chosen for their versatility and flexibility to cover both mail centres and airports.
Primary Industries Minister David Carter awarded the dogs their graduation coats on Friday after two years of intense training from birth.
''It was really fascinating, they are really remarkable the way they are able to find the risk,'' he said.
''The trainer would throw an orange peel onto a conveyer belt, there were literally thousands of items, and the dog would identify the package and point the handler in the right direction.
''And watching the trainers and the empathy they have for the dogs is another important part."
Four of the Labradors were bred to be detector dogs but a golden coloured dog was rescued from a pound.
The ministry expects the Labrador programme to be very successful with 11 new dogs graduating from its national training centre this year.
"Detector dogs and their handlers are an important part of our biosecurity frontline,'' Carter said.
''The dogs' visual presence at the airport is a big factor, they are great at detecting seeds and plants that x-rays may miss and they screen people faster than an x-ray.''
The ministry will continue to breed both Beagles and Labradors with the hope that a dog will meet every international flight at every major New Zealand airport.