We Brits are used to exporting our expertise, but did you know that our sniffer dogs and their trainers and handlers are used all over the world? Back in 2008, Robbie the cocker spaniel was lent to police at Rome’s Malpensa airport – and over two days he sniffed out currency worth more than £130,000, much of it being smuggled out of the country. The Italians already had sniffer dogs, of course (cani addestrati, I am told), but they were trained to seek out drugs and explosives, not readies. And the Italians are particularly keen on sniffing out (sorry) cash on the move, because their citizens tend to be the teensiest bit naughty about paying their taxes. British dog handlers spent some time passing on tricks of the trade, and now there are cash-trained cani addestrati at work all over the country. The hounds started work officially on 1 January 2012, and are assigned to airports, train stations, ports and border crossings across Italy. One of the most successful Italian cash sniffer dogs is Stella, a black labrador who patrols Naples airport. Apparently labs are better suited for cash sniffing because they’re calmer and more meticulous than the German shepherd dogs used to detect drugs. Also, handlers report that travellers are more comfortable being snuffled by a lab than by a German shepherd, which makes sense.
On the other side of the world, cash sniffer dogs were introduced (I’ll refrain from jokes about bottom-sniffing) in November 2012 and have been terrifically successful. The team of labs at Auckland Airport, for instance, has to date found more than NZ$3.3 million (equivalent to about £1.6 million), including a single seizure of $150,000.
In case you’re now looking at your own pampered pooch and thinking that it’s high time he started earning his keep, here are some tips on training a cash sniffer dog. Soak a rolled-up towel in a bowl with some currency so that it picks up the smell of the cash. Then use the towel to play with the dog, so that it associates the smell of cash with fun and play (as do we all). Then start to hide the cash-scented towel – in long grass, then in a box, then in a suitcase – and encourage the dog to seek out the towel and (important this bit) to sit passively as soon as the towel is found. (You don’t want a cash sniffer dog that finds money and then mauls or eats it.) Once that is mastered, you can start using distraction smells – such as coffee, tea, cans of fish, dog food and raw meat – in with the hidden towel. Barbara Woodhouse would be proud of you. Now, siT!