MPI to breed super detector dogs
Giant detector dogs with the legs to sniff out forbidden fruit hiding in the tallest of backpacks could soon be greeting those jetting in on international flights.
A litter of harrier hound puppies are being trained up to join beagles as detector dogs at the country's airports.
The Ministry for Primary Industries hopes the six long-legged puppies will become great sniffer dogs in their own right, following in the footsteps of Lou Lou, an adolescent harrier which started work at Auckland Airport last month.
But more importantly, there are plans to breed the harrier pups with the best beagle detectors to create a new generation of superstar sniffer dogs.
The cross-bred dogs will increase the genetic diversity among the beagles and will ultimately create a taller dog with sharper detection abilities, said Brett Hickman, MPI detection technology manager.
Harrier hounds look like beagles but are much taller, making it easier to sniff travellers backpacks and baggage stacked high on airport trolleys for biosecurity risk items, he said.
The new puppies, acquired last month from the New Zealand Hunts Association, are the first harriers to undergo full training as biosecurity detector dogs.
"We're excited about the prospect of putting the pups right through our puppy walking and training programme and equipping them with the full range of biosecurity detection skills," Mr Hickman said.
"By the end of their training they will be able sniff 35 base odours, including fruit, vegetables, meat and plants - items that could carry harmful pests or diseases into New Zealand."
The pups will be placed in foster homes in Auckland and Hamilton in the next few weeks where they'll become used to being around people and in different environments.