In the first test last month, the dogs had to sniff out 10 target suitcases from 36 pieces of luggage, including four containing items designed to put them off the scent. Credit: Courtesy Ti Gong, SHINE.

Customs officials said a stray dog has passed all the tests needed to become a sniffer dog for Shanghai Customs.

Nick, a springer spaniel, was tested along with another 59 candidates and will now have a chance to work in the city’s airports, railway stations and ports from next year.

Nick was spotted by customs dog handler Cheng Baolin in June this year.

It was raining when he came across the animal on his way to the dog-training center, SHINE online reported.

Nick was one of several strays at the roadside but Cheng felt there was something different about him. When he called to the dogs, Nick came running.

Checking him over, Cheng was reminded of his first working dog, a springer spaniel he had called Nick but who died in an accident in 2016.

Unlike the other customs dogs which had been trained from when they were very young, Nick was starting out with no experience of how to sniff out suspicious items from luggage.

But Cheng never gave up on him and, after many failures, Nick began to make great progress.

Cheng said that usually a sniffer dog will be trained from around 4 to 6 months old and training often takes two years. Nick was thought to be about 1 year old when he started and had much less time to get up to speed.

In the first test last month, the dogs had to sniff out 10 target suitcases from 36 pieces of luggage, including four containing items designed to put them off the scent.

In the second test, six customs officers walked around, each of them carrying two suitcases. The dogs had to sniff out three target suitcases from the 12, which included three “decoys” designed to confuse the dogs.

Nick was working with young handler Lu Zijie on the day. Lu said he noticed that Nick could feel his anxiety and didn’t perform very well. But when Lu became more confident about Nick, the dog’s performance improved greatly and he passed the tests.

By November this year, customs sniffer dogs in Shanghai had intercepted more than 17,000 batches of suspect goods entering the country.

Unlike the other customs dogs which had been trained from when they were very young, Nick was starting out with no experience of how to sniff out suspicious items from luggage. Credit: Courtesy Ti Gong, SHINE.

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