Detector dog program

Detector dogs help us protect Australia's border

Training to become a detector dog and handler is a challenge. Each detector dog team (dog and handler) needs to do at least 7 months of training together before graduating.

Dogs and their handlers are trained to search goods, areas and people.

We teach dogs to detect:

  • illicit drugs
  • firearms
  • explosives
  • currency
  • tobacco

Dog teams learn how to search, where to search, and what to do if they detect something.

Dog handler training

A Detector Dog Handler is a specialised role and offers a unique career path for Border Force officers. Trainee handlers are normally selected from General Duties officers who express interest in joining the program. Apply to be a Border Force officer.

Dog handlers are trained in 3 stages:

  • Stage 1: Basic training course at our facility in Melbourne, Victoria (11 weeks).
  • Stage 2: On-the-job training in the dog handler’s home region (3 months).
  • Stage 3: Final training and evaluation at the facility (3 weeks).

We assess every dog handler during training. They must pass each stage before they can move to the next. 

At the end of the third stage, they graduate.


Dog handlers are required to maintain their dog’s:

  • skills
  • health
  • wellbeing

We have a formal assessment process to check on this, and track the dog team’s performance.

Every 3 months we complete feedback reports. These help us assess the team’s strengths and weaknesses. It also allows us to give advice to improve performance.