27 July, 2023
The team of five handlers introduced their dogs to moving and fixed maritime platforms including onboard HMNZS Canterbury as well as at the Navy’s wet side training facility and boat’s pontoon.
Customs Detector Dog Handler, Cheryl, says the dogs at the Naval base this week are in intermediate stage training, with her one-year-old Labrador Kiwa being operational for only two months.
“It’s an invaluable experience to get the dogs on to the larger vessels and the training platform. It gives us the full range of the types of vessels we need to train on, in a controlled environment, particularly with these very young dogs who haven’t had experience on these vessels,” she says.
The training included navigating staircases, working at various heights and being on open and exposed platforms.
“Kiwa did really well. He was a little nervous going up the gangway at first. The dogs have a lot to deal with as they’re at a strange port, there are cranes and all sorts of noises. It’s challenging but he did great. I’m so proud of him!” says Cheryl.
It was a chance for Thor, a two-year-old black Labrador, to continue his life-long training.
“A handler and their dog put in hundreds of hours of training and this experience is part of that. Our dogs keep us on our toes, we never know what we’re going to come across. The strong bond we form with our dogs make operational finds extremely rewarding,” says Thor’s handler, Hannah.
“Thor is really cheeky, very hardworking, he has a great hunt drive and super eager to please,” she says.
Customs dogs can deploy on vessels for a number of reasons, such as searching vessels for narcotics, money and firearms.
“Our dogs may need to search people, an entire ship, or just one room. Familiarity training on vessels is really important as we need to ensure that the dogs are confident, competent and prepared when they deploy operationally,” says Hannah.
The Royal New Zealand Navy works in partnership with numerous Government agencies to support their outputs. As well as Customs, this includes the Department of Conservation, GNS Science, MetService, Ministry for Primary Industries, NZ Police, Rescue Coordination Centre and Antarctic New Zealand.