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Dogs are considered man’s best friends. But in the Customs and Border Protection agency, dogs are also well-respected colleagues. Canine teams are integral in helping Border Patrol Agents perform their jobs. In fact, the CBP Canine Program is the largest of its kind in the country boasting of more than 1,500 canine teams.
The CBP’s canine teams composed of the duo of the dog and handler gives CBP the ability to protect the nation from terrorist and their weapons in the borders and ports of entry. They help detect and deter illegal or illicit activity while ensuring that legitimate trade and travel continue without hindrance. Canine instructors give the necessary instruction and training to the handlers and canines to prepare them in assisting the CBP in its mission of protecting our borders.
The Passenger Processing Canine Narcotic Detection of the CBP trains canines to detect concealed humans and the odors of controlled substances like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, hashish, and ecstasy. Called detection canines, these dogs are trained to “sit” when responding to the odor of a narcotic. Together with their handlers, they are assigned in ports-of-entry to screen arriving passengers/pedestrians and their hand-carried items.
The Search and Rescue Canine units are trained to obey, track/trail, and search large land areas. These teams hone their land navigation skills. Handlers are taught how to use topographic maps, compasses, and GPS. The teams are given training in rappelling for helicopter operations; backtracking; and deployments in snow, pine forest, and mountain environments, among others.
Dogs in the Basic Canine Currency/Firearms Detection are taught to detect large quantities of concealed U.S. currency and firearms. They are taught the proper sequences when searching vehicles, aircraft, freight, luggage, mail, passengers, and premises.
The canine teams for these teams above receives a customized training program in one of two sites—in El Paso, Texas or in Front Royal, Virginia. Dogs assigned to the CBP agriculture detector to help detect the presence of pests and potential agro-terrorism threats are trained in the USDA’s National Detector Dog Training Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
To supplement the number of suitable dogs that enter detection training, the CBP has a breeding program. Different types of working and sporting breed dogs are whelped and cared for in its approved housing facilities. When the pups turn 7 to 14 months old, they are evaluated when they join in any of the formal detection canine courses of the CBP.