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You can’t do this dog’s job—but you could try to be half as good

Two dogs.
Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini
Modeling good behavior.
By Ephrat Livni
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Good guidance is hard to find. So imagine my delight when I recently discovered great insight onto what constitutes character and what qualities one should possess in an ad listing a dog’s job

The notice is from US Customs and Border patrol. The federal agency is seeking “detector canines” to test and potentially train. The listing is extensive. There are numerous requirements being made of these dogs that violate employment law and that a human applicant just wouldn’t stand for. They have to be young, healthy, good-looking, conform to standard breed heights and weights, have nice teeth and fur, and be incredibly talented.

There are, however, some qualities in this job listing that any human would be smart to aspire to. I have adapted the posting below, replacing the phrase “the canine” with “the human.” It’s not that I think any one human is likely to meet the requirements. But if we were only half as good as these dogs, we’d be the best people ever. This listing gives us six things to aspire to.

Do you have what it takes to be a detector dog?

  1. Character: The human will be brought around several people to be judged and  should not be afraid or act aggressively toward anyone who approaches; a happy, social attitude should be seen in their behavior. The human should display no fear or discomfort. While the human is standing or walking, an umbrella will be opened suddenly in their face. The human may show a slight startled reaction but should recover quickly.
  2. Drive: The human will be evaluated to see if they will pursue not only objects they’re familiar with, but also strange, hard and soft objects. This test will be conducted in a ravine or on a hill. One by one, several objects, familiar and strange, will be thrown uphill for the human to pursue. The human will be judged on their alertness, speed, hunt and grab of each object. Upon locating the object, the human should show a desire and satisfaction in playing with the object.
  3. Perseverance: The human will be pre-stimulated with an object that will then be placed under a heavy object (cement block, tire, etc.). The human will then be evaluated on their drive and desire to work out the problem and obtain the object. The purpose is to determine whether the human possesses a sufficient desire to work to obtain the object and to determine their natural indication behavior (whether passive or aggressive).
  4. Temperament: The human must show that it possesses proper temperament for socialization, including being approached by and working around groups of people without showing fear, distraction, or reacting aggressively.
  5. Courage and confidence: The human must display lack of fear and not be distracted by the following situations and environments: Unsure footing, tightly enclosed spaces, moving vehicles, loud noises, other live animals and their odors, and startling situations.
  6. Energy: The human must possess the drive to search for objects utilizing all senses, be engaged in activity, and possess abundant energy.

For my part, I can say that I do not yet have the fine character and qualities of the canines that CBP seeks to hire. But I do appreciate the guidance. Knowing now how much is required of the dogs, I’m inspired to work on improving my temperament, courage, and confidence.

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