In many varied ways, dogs are woven into the very fabric of our society. Dogs are multi-talented, in so many ways and on so may levels. But despite their undisputed flair on stage and screen, it's probably their extraordinary power of smell which has truly changed the lives of mankind. If a dog can save a persons life by finding them when all other methods have been exhausted, then that is certainly true. All our dogs are trained as 'air-scenting' search dogs. Trained and assessed to search off-road terrain, from the flattest farms to serious mountains, day and night, whatever the weather, for many hours at a time
Our dogs are trained and assessed to detect and follow any human scent they come across rather than detecting the scent of one particular person. They are capable of picking up the scent of someone they've never come across before. This is the whole point of air-scenting search dogs. Whether it's a real rescue, a training session or even an assessment, it doesn't matter that the dog has never encountered the casualty before. The dog is still able to extract, from the windborne scent, characteristics that indicate the source is human.
The dogs are the real superstars of the team. To them this search and rescue business is just a big game. Willing to expend endless energy searching for someone who might not even be there. Willing to work for hours for a reward of playing with their favourite toy or getting a bit of their much valued treat. They are, without a shadow of a doubt, truly amazing.
However, one dog doesn't make a team. The bond between dog and handler takes years to build. A dog and handler know each others body language, they feed off each others mood and have an intimate understanding of one-another. A handler can tell if the dog is on-scent by a swish of a tail, a raise of the nose, or prick of the ears. The dog can tell where he needs to search by a look of the eyes or shine of the torch. It really is quite beautiful watching a skilled dog team work.
For these reasons, training a search dog is hard. Be under no illusions. It takes commitment, patience and practice, practice, practice. Typically, a successful dog and handler will need to train at least once a week, often more, for a concentrated period of time that could be up to two years or more.
There are 3 levels of Lowland Rescue qualification for the dog and handler:
Dog and human in-training towards assessment level to become operational. Typically this can take upwards of two years.
The first operational level where a dog and handler will search a 2km path, and up to 25m either side, within 60 minutes. Reassessment required every 2 years.
The second operational level where a dog and handler will search an area of 50 acres within 90 minutes. Reassessment required every 2 years.