SARS Detector Dog Unit (DDU)

Picture1The South African Customs Detector Dog Unit (DDU) was established on the 1st March 2007 with the appointment of detector dog handlers and trainers. The unit has steadily contributed to increased Customs compliance in and around ports of entries and the capacity increased to cover all major ports of entries in South Africa.

The well-trained dogs and handlers perform search and detect operations to prevent smuggling of narcotics, explosives, firearms, ammunition, endangered species, currency, dvd’s, copper wire, cigarettes and lion bones hidden in vehicles, trucks, trailers, vessels, aircraft, containers, cargo, mail, rail and luggage.

DDU Handler attributes

All DDU applicants are assessed to determine suitability for training as a dedicated and specialised detector dog handler. The following pre-assessment is conducted:

  • Medical assessment.
  • Physical Fitness Test.
  • Interview.
  • Dog simulation test.
  • Entry Level Test.

Suitable dogs are procured from reputable breeders and providers in SA and dogs have to meet the set criteria for training as a detector dog:

  • Non-Aggression.
  • Between the ages 1 – 3 years.
  • Good agility and endurance.
  • High focus.
  • High play drive.
  • Healthy – Hips and Elbows are screened by X-Ray.
  • Good over-all condition.

Candidate handlers are issued with untrained dogs where after the practical training of 3 months commence. The training consists of the following modules:

  • Socialising and bonding phase.
  • Physical training.
  • Imprinting of different scents.
  • Practical scent detection training.
  • Theoretical class room training.
  • Para-Military drill with and without the detector dog.

Assessment and certification.

Detector dogs are dual trained to maximise productivity and to detect:

  • Narcotics (mandrax, cocaine, heroin, cannabis, MDMA ecstasy, crystal meth) and cigarettes or copper wire or currency or dvd’s.
  • Endangered species (rhino horn, ivory, lobster, wet / dry abalone, lion bones) and cigarettes or copper wire or currency or dvd’s.
  • Commercial and military explosives, ammunition and firearms.

Authentic training samples are imprinted and detected during the training intervention. The same authentic samples are used to sustain a high working standard of detector dog work once certified as an operational detector dog.

Sustainability of a high working standard is of utmost importance and the following programme is follow training during regional operational deployment:

  • Weekly dog practice by handler.
  • Reinforcement on scent detection during operations.
  • Monthly combined detector dog practice under supervision of the team commander.
  • Quarterly assessments by qualified national assessors.
  • Refresher / remedial training.

Yearly working certification.

Prioritisation of high standard in the general care of our dogs contributes to high productivity and detection rate at ports of entries. Dogs are groomed on a daily basis and veterinarian support is available on a 24/7 basis.


There are 9 Dog Units in SA currently:

  1. Limpopo DDU
  2. Western Cape DDU
  3. Oliver Reginald Tambo International Airport DDU
  4. Mpumalanga Ermelo DDU
  5. Mpumalanga White River DDU
  6. Free State Ladybrand DDU
  7. KwaZulu-Natal, Durban DDU
  8. Eastern Cape PE DDU
  9. North West DDU

To follow shortly:

  1. Northern Cape DDU
  2. Mpumalanga Lebombo DDU


  • Trained the first deaf person, Kim Groep, as a detector dog handler with detector dog “Sky” in the detection of Endangered Species.
  • Introduction of new scents such as copper wire and lion bones.
  • High success rate in the detection and prevention of smuggling at port of entries.
  • Establishment of new detector dog units in SA (expansion capabilities).
  • DDU Trainers capacity.
  • Assessment and sustainability capability.
  • Dual detector dog training.
  • Use of authentic samples for imprinting and refresher training.
  • Rendered practical assistance to the Namibian Revenue Authority and Mauritian Revenue Authority. Hosted the Southern African DDU conference (2013) which was attended by most SADC countries.

For more information visit

Please Note that currently SARS recruitment for its DDU is ‘internal’ within SARS. Interested parties are however requested to consult that SARS website – careers column – from time to time, should external opportunities become available.


  1. My educational, experience qualifications serves right for a dog handler post.
    Please do hear me and let me know of where I can forward my CV.


    1. Great article , but sad we that we know so little of our K-9 SARS DDU. Hope more exposure of them will really help the work they are doing. Keep up the good work.


  2. I’m a qualified snifferdog handler working for the city of capetown. Specialising in copper detection.


  3. I’m currently a patrol /explosive doghandler for Saps and would like to work with you guys,please let me know if and when you have posts available,thanking you in advance


  4. So interesting to see what the dogs can do,its abilities to use senses to help,the country in saving economy against crime,one of its kind awesome again for such an experience .i would like to join and use my experience here as an explosive detection


  5. I am a trained dog handler with patrol dog course and narcotics detection.

    I am interested in joining your Department or do interdepartmental transfer. Please respond to me.


  6. hy im alex mphore from sandf i am a dog handler and qualified in explosive and nacotic ,im interested in joining your department or do interdepartmental email is ,my cell is 0764945460 thanx


  7. I’m very much interested to change my dog environmental job as a a patrol / explosive dog handlers to continue working for another challenging environment


  8. Good day.Im Const(female) Mashoeu RM currently a narcotic K9 handler in SAPS Limpopo province,Masemola K9 Unit.I would like to be one of handlers at SARS Customs at Limpopo DDU.Plz notify me if ever any vacancy


  9. Dear Ladies and Gentleman,

    At the moment I’m rearing Hannoversche Schweißhunde in South Africa, Thabazimbi and I would like to ask you, if you have any experiences in training these dogs for your purpose or if maybe there is a dog like this in one of your units.
    Until now nobody could tell me if there is another Hannoverian except mine in South Africa.
    I expect my first south african Hannoverian puppies in the next days.
    I would appreciate to get in contact with you.

    Best regards
    Gerhard Hans


  10. I am having a certificate from saps explosive dog handler i am currently umeployed and wish to pursue my career outside the country.


  11. Hello DDU hope u are well. My name is Heinrich Saulss from Changemakers CC(NGO) Riviersonderend. I’m busy to plan a Road Safety Roadblocks from the 1-5th December on the N7 Matzikama area and would like to involve your DDU unit together with SAPS, Traffic, Illegal Immigration ext.

    My contact number 066 370 5131

    How can I email you?

    Thank You.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.