The Tech Tweak That Helped Australia’s Customs Detector Dogs

The Tech Tweak That Helped Australia’s Customs Detector Dogs

The Australian Customs And Border Protection Service maintains a squadron of detector dogs to help identify illegal imports. Dogs might be a low-tech solution, but a recent “technology update” has significantly improved the breeding program for the service.

Pictures: Customs

Randall Brugeaud, chief information officer for Customs, told the story at the GovInnovate conference in Canberra. “As I was walking through our multi-million dollar detector dog facility about six months ago, the manager took me through the welcome area where the dogs have pups.” The National Detector Dog Training Facility is located in Bulla, Victoria, and is the source for all the detector dogs used by customs. To date, 2500 Labrador retrievers have been bred there.

The area included a bed where staff could rest while keeping on eye on pregnant dogs due to give birth soon. Customs had tried to automate that process by installing web cameras that could be used to monitor the area — but the camera installation had never been completed. “We connected their camerads and provided them remote access with mobile devices, and nobody needs to sleep there anymore,” Brugeaud said.

The staff in the centre have also extended the camera technology beyond that initial plan by granting access to the vets used by the service. “Rather than having the vet drive all the way to the facility, the vet can check online and make a determination. Our officers are being very resourceful and using the technologies we give them in unintended ways.”

The lesson here for everyone? Technology is meaningless if you don’t install it properly. Also: puppies are excellent.


  • What a concept: cameras make dogs breed better.
    Instead of having someone nearby, able to help out if there are complications, you have… a camera. Instead of having a vet on staff, you use a camera. (begin sarcasm mode)
    This could obviously be extended to human maternity wards. Sack the night staff, and have just a single OBGYN giving directions over a video link. Sure a few more babies might die, but the survivors would be pretty tough. Significantly improving the human breeding program (end sarcasm)

  • I worked in Canberra’s CUSTOM house for a while, and one floor of that medium-rise building had the dog program – so sometimes in an elevator to a higher floor, the doors would open to the sight of Labrador (or maybe Beagles, it was a while ago) pups running everywhere. Some smug bastard, glowing with job-satisfaction, would exit the lift while the rest of us enviously drank in in this scene of puppy joy, before the door closed and ferried you off to your office cubicle.

    Never understood how or why that facility was in a floor of a corporate building in the CBD, but I know would take a serious pay cut to work there…

  • I hope they update the firmware in those cameras regularly, and change the password to something other than “admin”

  • I was hoping for something cooler, like injecting pregnant dogs with something to enhance the schnozzes of the fetal pups.

    I are disappoint.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!