It's a round of a-paws as a fresh crop of police and customs dogs graduate to front-line duties.

The graduation, held at the Police Dog Training Centre in Trentham, Wellington, saw five police dogs and three customs dogs added to the ranks.

Customs group manager intelligence, investigation, and enforcement Jamie Bamford said it was a proud moment for everyone to see the newly qualified dogs and their handlers.

He said Customs had to be constantly working to stay ahead of the drug cartels.

"We work very closely with Environmental Science and Research [ESR] and their laboratories, to keep ahead of the chemical compound changes.

"Drug smugglers and cartels keep changing the formulations of the drugs, so the law and the science has to keep up.

"We do see trends with how they try to get it over the border, we'll see them trying to get it through the mail, then we might have success there and it might move into air freight.

"So it constantly evolves and we constantly try to stay in front of it. It is a challenge but that's why we have dogs, that's why we have people, to combat that."

He said methamphetamine, fentanyl, and cash smuggling were their biggest problems.

Although the fentanyl market wasn't large in New Zealand, people would sometimes try to buy drugs online and be sent the potent opioid instead of what they were expecting.

"[Fentanyl] is extremely potent, it is extremely dangerous, and very small amounts can kill you.

"So we use our drugs and intelligence apparatus to make sure it doesn't gain a foothold here."

Constable Stu Cann and police dog Saba with family, from left David Cann, Julie Cann, George Can (8) and Katie Taylor. Photo / Frances Cook.
Constable Stu Cann and police dog Saba with family, from left David Cann, Julie Cann, George Can (8) and Katie Taylor. Photo / Frances Cook.

Constable Stu Cann from Timaru was graduating to become part of the dog section for the first time, with dog Saba.

He had already fostered three police puppies, including Oza who won the National Championships last year, and gained fame more recently for donating blood to fellow police dog Kosmo, after Kosmo was stabbed.

Cann said it was a long road to joining the dog section, and he was happy to now be able to get out there and do the work.

"Safe to say I'm pretty chuffed," he said.

"When you foster dogs you take them through to a certain point and then you watch them carry on with someone else.

"But when you get through to the next part, it's very challenging but exciting at the same time.

"Very cool to see the other side and get right through it."

Cann's family were at the graduation to support him. While he admitted "you have to like dogs, put it that way", joining the dog section wasn't a hard sell.

"My son George, he's had three foster pups so he's used to it now. My fiancee Katie she works at a vet anyway, so is a bit of a dog nut.

"So very easy buy-in there.

"But mostly [Saba] is mine, and that helps us strengthen the bond. So I feed her, I take her for walks, and eventually that works out so that we have a strong bond."