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The Newsroom: Fact Sheet : Customs Detector Dogs

CUSTOMS DETECTOR DOGS - United States Customs Service
Canine Enforcement Program


Q. Types of jobs the dogs perform?:
A. Dogs are trained to detect a variety of substances. Some detect a full range of narcotics (marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, etc.). Other dogs are trained to detect explosives and dangerous ingredients that can be used by terrorists. Still other dogs are skilled in finding currency. Detector dogs may be found at airports, U.S. border crossings, and commercial harbors and sea ports.

Q. Breeds; size; type of dogs used?:
A. Most sporting breed dogs are good candidates, for this Program: Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds, etc. Usually dogs between 50 and 100 pounds are chosen, but all dogs and breeds are considered, for the Program, if they meet the temperament criteria.

Q. Are the dogs bred for the job or rescued?:
A. Customs has an on-going Labrador Retriever breeding program. However, rescues and donated dogs are also used in the Program. For more information on donating a dog, go to: or call 1-888-USA-DOG1.

Q. Are the dogs fostered before being trained (e.g.: puppies)?:
A. Puppies from the Breeding Program are placed in foster homes for socialization and early training. Puppies are in the Foster Program from the age of 12 weeks to approximately 16 months old.

Q. What is the final disposition of the dogs after being retired?:
A. A Detector dog's career averages four years. When eligible for retirement, canines are usually adopted by their handler. If the handler is unable to take the retired dog, the dog is then eligible for adoption through the Canine Enforcement Adoption Program. Potential adopters may fill out an application, on line, and (if accepted) will be contacted when a dog becomes available. For more information about adopting a retired Detector Dog, visit: or call 1-888-USA-DOG1.

Q. How long has this Program been in existence?:
The Detector Dog Program was introduced in 1970 as part of a major effort to detect narcotics being smuggled through major air, sea, & land border ports.

Q.If puppies are part of Program, are foster homes needed for pups?:
A. To ensure that the puppie's graduate into successful Detector Dogs, foster families must meet certain eligibility criteria to participate in the Program. And, once selected, the foster home must agree to maintain a strictly outlined level of training; medical follow-up; and Customs monitoring, of the puppy's progress. Information about the Puppy Foster Program may be found at: or call 1-888-USA-DOG1.

Q. Is there anything the public can do to assist this Program?:
A. - Volunteer to foster a pup. Customs pays for all puppy food, supplies and medical care.
- Detector Dogs are in demand and candidates are always welcome. Shelter & rescue personnel are encouraged to contact the Canine Enforcement Program if a suitable candidate is placed into their care.

Q. Is there a web site with more info?:
A. search on dogs and the site will give you the links to the Detector Dog pages.

Pictures and bios of some Detector Dogs may be found on the Customs web site.

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