Once you have found a bold and confident pup that fits the search and rescue dog mold, it’s time to get to work! Positive reinforcement style training is the only way to successfully train these canines, as they will truly love the job if they are offered rewards and positive feedback. Reward-based training not only helps the dog enjoy their time, but will also strengthen the bond between dog and handler.
Once a dog enters search and rescue training, they will be trained in multiple areas involving scent trailing. Avalanche training is one of the most important skills for a pup to master, and will help them in many future missions to come! Avalanche training involves:
- The handler will first dig a large hole in the snow, big enough for a person to fit.
- The handler will then jump into the hole while the dog is restrained by another person.
- When the dog is released they will encourage him to run to the handler’s side, teaching them the process of running to those who are buried in the snow.
- Once your dog has mastered this step, you can begin to increase the time that the assistant is holding the dog. This will create a sense of urgency to get to their handler, helping them learn that it’s important to quickly rescue those who are trapped.
- After the dog has mastered this step, the handler will now bury themselves in the hole with snow, leading the dog to dig for them.
- Eventually, the assistant and handler will switch, leaving the dog to use its learned skill to find the handler and earn the reward no matter who is trapped.
Each search and rescue dog will complete their own version of training based on the part of the world that they will work. Dogs can specialize in avalanche missions, water rescues, mountain searching, disaster relief, and more!
No matter the specialty, each search, and rescue dog is a skilled worker with an important task. This job requires the focus of a service dog, behavior like an emotional support animal, and the patience of a seasoned handler to train at their side.