Being summoned to the minister's office can be a nerve-racking experience - but Corrections' newest recruits received a pat on the head when they arrived.

Brothers Coda, Baz and Jock were more interested in play fighting with each other than greeting Corrections Minister Louise Upston and her staff, who had eagerly anticipated their arrival.

Corrections Minister Louise Upston with one of the trainee drug dogs. Picture / Nicholas Jones
Corrections Minister Louise Upston with one of the trainee drug dogs. Picture / Nicholas Jones

The five-month-old pointer crosses were chosen from their litter of nine to join Corrections' other 26 drug dogs, a team that sniffs out contraband in the country's prisons.

They are living full-time with their handlers Nick Rongokea (Coda), Mark Kilmister (Baz) and Mark Bourne (Jock), and if training goes well could be on the job by about their first birthday.


Bourne has three young children, including a 1-year-old, and said Jock was a lot more work.

"It involves a lot of hunt drive - where you hide a toy, and it has got to search for it using its nose.

"He is important, not only to the work we do, but to my career as well. But he's also very important to the department and the goals we are trying to achieve. And one of them is to stop the introduction of illegal substances."

The Corrections dogs are a mix of breeds, including German wirehaired pointer, German shorthaired pointer, springer spaniel and labrador.

When working the dogs will carry out daily search operations on prison grounds, in vehicles, units and cells, and prisoners' mail and property. New arrivals, visitors and contractors coming into prisons can also be searched.

The dogs are trained to find drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, Ecstasy and both natural and synthetic cannabis. Other detector dogs are trained to find contraband items such as cellphones and tobacco.

The photo opportunity afforded by such visits has seen several puppies visit the Beehive, including trainee police dogs in specially made vests.