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Hero dog Dani is hard at work at Customs

Published
31.7.2015 at 06:00
It's often said that dogs are man's best friend. This is true at least for customs dogs: we can thank them for interrupting many attempts to smuggle illegal drugs. One such hero is customs dog Dani.

Finnish Customs employs some 40 dogs able to detect drugs, cash, or cigarettes. They perform numerous checks each year – last year alone, they notched up 41,580 inspections and 726 finds.

Dani, a seven-and-a-half-year-old Labrador, is one of these tireless helpers. He has discovered over a thousand cases of narcotics crimes in his career, making him the record-holder in Finland.

Dani has also been granted the Finnish Kennel Club’s Hero Dog award.

'Customs dogs are with their handlers 24/7; we are always together, at work and outside work,' explains his handler, Mika Niemenmaa.

He says: 'Dani lives with us and will stay with us even when he retires, in a couple of years.'

From training to work

The basic training for sniffer dogs consists of socialising and getting acquainted with the work environment. The dog's temperament and learning skills are tested at about six months of age.

At 12 months, they begin three months of basic training at the Customs Dog Training Centre, in Veikkola.

'Customs dogs must learn to work in various circumstances. For instance, a dog's keen sense of smell can detect many background aromas,' Niemenmaa continues. 

Labradors – ideal sniffer dogs

A trained sniffer dog is an important link in the work against illegal drugs.

In addition to drug-detection dogs, Finnish Customs uses dogs trained to find large quantities of cigarettes and a couple dogs specialised in finding cash.

Most dogs working with Customs are Labradors, but there are also a few Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, and a retriever-pointer mix.

The first drug-detection dogs in Finland graduated at the end of 1969. 

All sorts of finds

Offences related to illegal drugs and other smuggled items are not the only ones detected by these dogs. Dani, for instance, has helped in many types of cases.

'In 2011, Dani helped to discover a case of a child's sexual exploitation through an arriving-passenger check and the ensuing police investigation,' says Niemenmaa.

He adds: 'A few years ago, Dani showed interest in a parcel during an air-freight inspection. It was later found to contain chemicals suitable for making explosives.'

Passport control and customs regulations