Intro to search and Rescue Dogs

My journey into dogs with jobs continues. Today, we’re tagging along with Susan read and her pet dog Zori to learn about search and rescue dogs.

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Here in Ontario, search and rescue is handled by civilian teams. Susan and Zori are volunteers who are called upon by police agencies to find missing people.

What is the best breed for search and rescue?

Zori is a Belgian Malinois, a breed commonly used for search and rescue.

Most search and rescue dogs are herding breeds, like Malinois and German Shepherds. Although, other breeds such as Labrador Retrievers and bloodhounds also excel at search and rescue.

Beyond the breed, there are certain qualities that make a pet dog a good candidate for search and rescue.

Susan describes search and rescue dogs as:

and outgoing

“These dogs need to be able to cover all kinds of terrain and have the stamina to manage distance and the time needed to complete a task,” she says. “Work ethic is essential in rescue work as is a pet dog who is focused and able to work through distractions. Prey and hunt drive and play drive are essential.”

Training a pet dog for search and rescue

Play is at the root of search and rescue training.

“Usually, training starts as a game played with puppies, starting with basic reward-based training, and expanding outward to “games” with a lot more certain job skills,” says Susan.

In Ontario, search and rescue dogs are owned and trained by civilian handlers. Preparing a pet dog for search and rescue certification can take between a year and a half to two years.

“In the beginning stages of the dog’s training, we work at getting the pet dog to understand that finding human odour and committing to this odour will bring a reward. Ideally, working with a pet dog with tremendous toy drive helps to accomplish this much quicker and a lot more easily,” says Susan.

The odour that the dogs track comes from skin cells. These cells, called rafts, are shed regularly from our bodies. The bacteria on our skin produce gases that can be detected—and followed—by dogs.

Dogs are trained to alert their handler that they have located human odour. As training progresses, the dogs are presented with different challenges. For example, the bacteria on our skin can be affected by factors such as temperature, humidity, light.

Therefore, handlers will gradually increase the level of difficulty, introduce challenges in terrain or include a lot more distractions in their training programs.

Socialization for search dogs

Along with specialized training, socializing is crucial in helping a pet dog to become a successful search and rescue dog.

Susan explains, “These dogs need to be socialized early on in age, but keeping in mind concern periods. emphasis with socializing needs to be placed on quality and not quantity. Pup classes leading into obedience classes, fungility leading to agility, and exciting check outs to stores, parks, etc. are a must. The crucial thing is to solidify manners, crucial skills and self control.”

Zori vaulting off of Susan’s back to get over a fence

Susan prefers to work Zori off-lead so that her movements are not restricted. “I will slow her down and can, unintentionally, stop her from exploring or investigating something,” she explains. “If the area is safe for her to work loose, Zori is able to be much a lot more efficient.”

Search and rescue dogs are usually trained to find living people, although some dogs are cross trained for both live and cadaver. Human remains detection dogs, or search and recovery dogs, are imprinted with human cadaver odour, rather than skin cells from live humans.

Becoming a search and rescue dog

Once a pet dog has completed its training, it can be certified. search and rescue teams are certified annually by the Ontario Provincial police (OPP).

Certification evaluates dogs in four areas: obedience, agility, search and tracking. For in-depth criteria in each of these elements, check out the Ontario search and Rescue Volunteer association (OSARVA) web site.

Susan explains, “The test involves tracking where the pet dog locates the freshest human odour on the ground. The pet dog need to also air scent where they pick up scent carried in air currents and seek out its origin.”

Requirements for people to do search and rescue

Beyond the dogs, the handlers need to meet certai standarder också. De måste vara medlem i ett Osarva -team och måste vara certifierad marksökare.

Certifiering i sökningen – som måste förnyas årligen – involverar kart- och kompassnavigeringsförmågor, ledtråddetektering, sökmönster, personlig utrustning, miljöförhållanden och förstå kedjan för kommando- och kommunikationssystem som används av akutmottagare. Dessutom kräver de flesta lag att medlemmar har första hjälpen och HLR.

Sök och räddning är ett sätt att leva för Susan och Zori, liksom de andra frivilliga i Ontario. Hundarna och hanterarna är lika engagerade i sitt arbete.

Har du SAR -frivilliga där du bor?

Vad imponerar dig mest med dessa hundar?

Julia Preston är en bloggare hemma på 129 tunnland där hon skriver om sina äventyr för att bo och DIY renovering. Hon och hennes familj bor på en 129 hektar stor gård i Ontario, Kanada. Följ Julia på Instagram här.

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