Training drug-sniffing dogs Narita customs officer’s window on world

by Asako Takaguchi

Kyodo

At a national training center near Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture, Manato Kimura, 25, trains sniffer dogs to recognize the smell of illegal drugs and detect them hidden inside luggage at airports and seaports.

“We get young dogs (aged around 1 year old) to practice over and over again so that they can grow up to be great dogs capable of serving well” as sniffer dogs, Kimura, an instructor belonging to the Tokyo Customs K-9 Training Center, explained.

During training, Kimura hides a towel with the slight smell of a drug inside a box or a hole in the wall and gets the dog to try to detect it.

Once the dog finds the towel, he praises the dog and plays with it.

“Since dogs love being praised and getting us to play with them, they will seriously look for drugs,” Kimura said.

Kimura explained that some dogs are scared of jumping on and sniffing luggage in which drugs are hidden.

In such a case, “I will (jump) on it first,” Kimura said.

“Whenever possible, I will do so first and then get dogs to do the same and repeat the training.”

Kimura, who was born in Tochigi Prefecture, wanted to engage in work involving foreign countries, and after graduating from vocational school he entered the Tokyo Customs as it serves as a window for goods flowing between Japan and foreign countries.

He became a detection dog instructor in 2011.