THE Detector Dog Program, now run by the Australian Border Force, has clocked up its 50th birthday.

The program has grown from modest beginnings with two Labrador retrievers (Captain and Lady) in Sydney in 1969.

The first detector dogs were trained to detect drugs, but half a century later 60 detector dog teams across the nation are dedicated to detecting drugs, guns, explosives, currency, and tobacco.

The ABF Detector Dog Program is continuing to develop and in the 2018-2019 financial year had more than 800 illicit narcotic detections and detected more than $7m of undeclared currency and interdicted over four tonnes of tobacco products in the air and sea cargo environments.


Operations include mass screening of cargo as well as passengers, postal items and arriving vessels and aircraft.

The program also supports operations with the Australian Federal Police and various state police forces.

ABF Commissioner Michael Outram has hailed the role of detector dogs. Credit: David Sexton

“We are very proud of all the ABF and Customs staff who have helped create our world-class Detector Dog Program and I congratulate all those who have contributed to the protection of our borders for the past 50 years,” said ABF Commissioner Michael Outram APM.

“The Detector Dog Program has evolved over the decades to become a world leader in detector dog breeding and training. Our Labrador Retrievers are in demand from both domestic and international law enforcement agencies.”

The National Detector Dog Program Facility in Melbourne is built for breeding and training detector dogs and can house up to 200 dogs.

In addition to breeding and training dogs for the ABF, the program has provided hundreds of detector dogs for domestic and international law enforcement agencies including the AFP, Corrective Services, Japan Customs and Singapore Police.

The ABF is to celebrate the 50th anniversary with a gala event for all previous staff and invited guests who have contributed to the Detector Dog Program over the past 50 years. More information about the Detector Dog Program can be found on the ABF website.