Detector dog handler

Detector Dog Handlers play a proactive role in the reduction of illicit drugs and other contraband in prisons.

Meet Detector Dog Handler John Sharpe and Aysa

Drug Dog Handler John Sharpe.

I'd been a corrections officer for over eight years before qualifying as a dog handler. You need that experience first, as you need to know how a prison operates along with all the procedures and processes. I'm finding I draw a huge amount on the experiences I had as a corrections officer.  I understand the way prisoners think so I can second-guess them.

My dog, Aysa, is a German Shepherd and lives with me at home. On a typical day we rise early, and I take Aysa for a run to get her ready for the day. We arrive at the prison usually around 7am, and one of the first tasks may be to search all incoming mail, parcels and property or undertake some targeted cell searches, utilising intelligence-led information provided by colleagues.

Every day is different, but at some point we do the two kilometre walk around the external perimeter prison fence where many of the prisoners are working and there's plenty going on. We also search visitors and undertake car and property searches. I work closely with our security support team for this.

I often deal with the public, which requires good communication skills since we're dealing with such a wide range of people.

I love my role: the excitement and the thrill of the chase!

Position description

The purpose of Detector Dog Handlers is to provide a proactive role in the reduction of illicit drugs and other contraband in prisons. The Detector Dog Handler is accountable to the Regional Detector Dog Supervisor and will be responsible for undertaking the day to day deployment of detector dogs within their respective region.


Training of detector dogs and handlers is done internally by the Regional detector dog supervisors. Corrections detector dog teams are trained to an agreed industry standard, which is the same standard as other government agencies such as New Zealand Police and New Zealand Customs. The training of new dogs and handlers can be up to 8 weeks and once trained, detector dog teams are independently assessed by New Zealand Police before graduating operational.

Frequently asked questions

Read the answers to the following questions:

  • What is the salary?
  • What experience and qualifications do I need to become a drug dog  handler?
  • What are the hours and will I need to do shift work?
  • Would I need to wear a uniform?