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每日跟讀#513: What makes a good sniffer dog: loves to eat, playful and curious

防疫小尖兵:檢疫犬條件 嗜吃好玩常保好奇心

· 每日跟讀單元 Daily English
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每日跟讀#513: What makes a good sniffer dog: loves to eat, playful and curious

As the whole country gears up to prevent the African swine fever virus from entering Taiwan, sniffer dogs are playing a very important part. To make a good sniffer dog, in addition to having a powerful sense of smell, dogs that love to eat and are playful, curious and unaggressive are the top choice for dog handlers.


With their keen sense of smell, sniffer dogs can detect up to a dozen kinds of animal products and more than 80 kinds of plant products, with an average accuracy rate of over 80 percent, making them the most helpful assistants for border inspection personnel.


An inspector says that when a sniffer dog finds hidden meat, fruit or seeds on the baggage carousel, it stops by the baggage and waits for the inspectors to open it for inspection.


Hsiao Shu-chiung, a technical specialist with the Council of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, says that Taoyuan International Airport is in effect the country’s front door, so its sniffer dogs bear a heavier responsibility than those of other border control units. Sniffer dogs’ training is aimed at identifying fresh fruit, vegetables, seeds, meat and live animals, in order to effectively intercept potential epidemics such as bird flu, foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever.


There are currently 47 sniffer dogs in Taiwan, including 29 beagles, 10 Labradors and eight mixed-breed dogs, which carry out their duties at airports, sea ports and international parcel centers all over the country. Taoyuan International Airport has the most sniffer dogs — 25 in all. Even the Shuitou Pier in Kinmen County, a port for the “small three links” with China, has three sniffer dogs.


A sniffer dog’s training is carried out in tandem with that of the dog handler. They are trained separately for the first one or two months. The dog must learn to sniff and obey commands, while the dog handler learns to guide the dog to do its duties in the form of a game, as well as how to take care of the dog’s health. In the following 10 to 12 weeks, the dog and its handler are trained together and learn on the spot. In most cases, a sniffer dog starts working at two years old and serves for four to seven years.


Most of the sniffer dogs are beagles. The beagles are bred by the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, while the Labradors are bred by the Customs Administration. Mixed-breed dogs in shelters may also be chosen, as well as dogs donated by the public.


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