Four Labradors have got the seal of approval from the New Zealand Defence Force for their sniffing skills.

The dogs and their handlers have graduated from a new Explosive Detection Dog programme in Wellington today.

They've spent the last ten weeks undergoing extensive training at the New Zealand Police Dog Training Centre.

The 11-month-old dogs have learned to detect odours, like TNT, which are the base components for explosives.


Military working dog capability manager Alan Inkpen said Explosive Detection Dog teams were valuable and could be deployed both domestically and globally.

Teams have previously been deployed to Afghanistan to identify Improvised Explosive Devices, during recent Royal visits, and to conduct venue searches during the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

"The most important thing about explosion detection dogs is they're the most versatile piece of equipment to counter terrorism", Inkpen said.

Sapper Mitchell Cunningham and his dog Iris were among those graduating.

He said the course was "full on" and they learned a lot in a short amount of time.

"I've figured out how to deal with her nuttiness. I don't know if she likes me, but I like her."

Cunningham said the most challenging part of the programme was instructing new dogs as well as being new handlers themselves.

Sapper Sean O'Keeffe said his dog Inky could also be a handful but he was over the moon to make it to graduation.

He said he enjoyed getting to work with dogs every day.

"Who doesn't really want to work with animals? I've always liked dogs; I've always been a dog person. The opportunity came up so I jumped at it."

Handlers have also completed animal welfare and veterinary training so they can give emergency treatment to their dog if it is injured while deployed.

This is the first time the New Zealand Defence Force has procured dogs from the New Zealand Police Detector Dog breeding programme.

All four Labradors are from the "I" litter and were fostered by families before starting their detector dog training with the Defence Force.

The teams will soon relocate to their new base at Linton Military Camp where a new facility to house the dogs is being built.