Activities For A Search And Rescue Dog

1k Views
0 Comments
0 Votes

Introduction

All dogs have an inborn ability to find others purely by using their keen senses of smell and their refined intuition. Search and Rescue dogs, however, take those inborn canine abilities and use them to try and save as many lives as they can. As early as the early 1900's, and likely beyond even that, Search and Rescue (or SAR for short) dogs have helped find lost humans and stranded animals by picking up and their scents and helping entire rescue parties find the missing person in question. If you own a dog who belongs to one of the popular SAR breeds (such as Border Collies, Bloodhounds, and Saint Bernards,) the following activities can help your pet refine their abilities.

Scent Training

Popular
0 Votes
Any Day
Cheap
Easy
30 min
Items needed
Dog Harness
Scented Items
Leash
Activity description
This is going to be one of those rare few activities that will require the assistance of another person. Scent training activities are one of the preeminent parts of Search and Rescue dog training; everyone from Police Officers to Forest Rangers incorporates this activity, in some form or another, when the time comes to teach a dog how to find someone or something using their enhanced sense of smell. The potential need for another person comes from the possibility that you may need another person to keep your dog still while you go about setting this training exercise up.
Step
1
Get the scent
First off you, or your assistant, will need to hold on to your dog's leash while the other person presents a piece of scented clothing for your dog to sniff. After your dog gets a good whiff, you or your assistant will then want to keep that piece of scented clothing close by while walking away from your dog. Whoever's holding the leash will need to make sure that the dog doesn't give chase quite yet.
Step
2
Get going
After the cloth holder has disappeared from sight, the leash holder will then want to prompt the dog to find the cloth holder. Your dog will likely start sniffing around to try and find the cloth holder and will start to wonder in whichever direction they think the other person is. Subtly guide your dog away from the wrong direction while not giving away the location of the other person.
Love this activity?

Tracking Training

Popular
0 Votes
Sunny Day
Cheap
Normal
30 min
Items needed
Dog's Most Beloved Toy
Leash
Activity description
This activity will really test your dog's ability to follow commands while also testing your ability to successfully help your dog accomplish a task without completely doing everything for them. Tracking training is a bit of a misnomer because your dog won't be relying on tracks or footprints of any kind to complete this activity. Rather, your dog's memory and obedience will be tested here. Though there aren't really any restrictions concerning the weather for this activity, we suggest you and your pet attempt it during a day that's sunny or is otherwise not expected to rain because rain, sleet, or snow will complicate things.
Step
1
Set everything up
The first part of this activity involves introducing your dog to their target; in this instance, we advise using your pet's favorite toy to further incentivize them to give their all when tracking down the target. Tether your dog's leash to a tree or pole of some kind, hold the toy out in front of your dog, and then walk a good distance away before placing the toy on the ground. Be certain that your dog can see you throughout every portion of this step before returning to them.
Step
2
Track the target down
After returning to your dog, untether them and give them a command like "go" or "fetch" in order to prompt them to chase after their toy. If your dog doesn't initially heed your command, take hold of your pet's leash and jog over to the toy with them until they go over and grab it themselves. While your dog still has the toy in their mouth, jog over to your starting point and wait for your dog to reach you and drop the toy at your feet.
Love this activity?

Swimming Practice

Popular
0 Votes
Sunny Day
Free
Normal
45 min
Items needed
Swimming Pool
Dog Life Jacket
Activity description
Search and Rescue operations can be very unpredictable; a missing person could be lost deep within a densely populated forest or they could be buried under a mountain of rubble. For this reason alone, it behooves Search and Rescue Dogs to be ready for anything and to become as flexible as possible in order to handle unexpected scenarios. It never hurts to make sure that your aspiring Search and Rescue dog's swimming skills are up to snuff, should the need arise for them to have to dive into a body of water in order to reach a missing person who's been cast away.
Step
1
Master doggy paddling
In the same way how we have to learn to walk before we can run, it makes sense for a dog who's about to learn how to swim to start by mastering the doggy paddle. Most dogs will default to this method of swimming once they're first introduced to a body of water, but the key to mastering the task lies in making sure that the water levels aren't too steep starting off.
Step
2
Take greater strides
After your dog has gotten the hang of doggy paddling, they'll likely be more comfortable in the water and won't need a life jacket to feel confident while swimming. Dogs have naturally webbed feet as it were, helping them take to swimming much more naturally than most humans. It's really all in the mind, and that's why taking things slow at the start is important.
Love this activity?

More Fun Ideas...

Scented Fetch

This activity is much less intense and more laid back than most of the other activities featured on this list, and it's very easy to attempt once you've got the right materials. Before heading to a nearby dog park or open field, get a hold of a tennis ball that you can coat with a particularly strong scent then toss it far enough away in order to prompt your dog to find it via scent.

Follow the Trail Hide and Seek

This activity puts an interesting spin on a classic game; it's hide and seek but instead of waiting for your dog to sniff you out, you'll want to leave a trail of footprints that your pet can follow. This activity is best attempted in the sand, snow, or any other type of terrain where you can leave very defined footprints for your pet to follow.

Conclusion

Though we were only able to specifically mention a few breeds by name, many dog owners will likely be surprised to learn just how many breeds are capable of successfully tracking others down by strength of scent alone. Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Dobermans,  Rottweilers, Beagles, Bulldogs, and even Chihuahuas are just a few of the world's more popular dog breeds that have the potential to become excellent SAR dogs. Most of the activities listed above are intended to serve as a sort of amateur training routine for your dog, but if you're seriously considering a career in Search and Rescue for your pet, consider enrolling them in a SAR training course to see how they take to the task.