Mathew Blow being licked by black labrador sniffer dog Leo
Case study /
Keeping Australians safe

Mathew: border protection

Image: 
Linda Roche/DFAT
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA

Australian Federal Police (AFP) officer and dog handler Mathew Blow says he’s ‘very fortunate to have this job, because I like dogs so much and I enjoy coming to work’.

Mathew’s partner is Leo, a two and half year old Labrador-cross. They’ve been working together for a little over a year. Unlike other sniffer dogs, most of whom come through an Australian Border Force breeding program, Leo was discovered at the pound and then trained at the AFP National Canine Operations Centre in Canberra. He has since flourished as a currency and drug detection dog, having undergone intensive training to detect concealed Australian and international currency and different sorts of illicit drugs. Mathew says ‘he’s turned out to be quite a good dog’, despite his unusual background.

If the dog responds on something that people shouldn’t be bringing in, that’s the satisfaction of stopping those things coming into the country.

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Mathew Blow sitting on airport conveyor belt with black labrador sniffer dog Leo

Mathew Blow. Image credit: Linda Roche/DFAT

Together, Mathew and Leo contribute to detecting the illegal movement and concealment of currency and complement other AFP operations to detect, disrupt and dismantle the illegal importation and movement of illicit drugs within Australia.

Mathew loves working with Leo at the front line of Australia’s security. ‘If the dog responds on something that people shouldn’t be bringing in, that’s the satisfaction of stopping those things coming into the country’, he says.

Mathew is quick to give Leo all the credit. ‘It’s all him doing the work, I’m just lucky enough to be behind the lead. But, when he finds something that people shouldn’t have, that’s what’s rewarding for all the training effort that I’ve put in’, he says.

Sniffer dogs and their handlers are an integral enforcement and deterrent capability in protecting Australia at airports around the country. With a dog’s sense of smell more than 150,000 times more powerful than that of a human, Leo can pick up even the slightest traces of a scent he is trained to detect. In 2016–17, AFP sniffer dogs screened over 3,000 passengers and/or luggage for illicit drugs, cash, firearms or explosives at airports across Australia.

Despite working in this potentially stressful environment, the respect and strong bond the animal and handler have for each other is clear, Mathew says ‘we are a good team and we look out for each other’.