Dogs training to save lives

Even though it is just early fall, the upcoming avalanche rescue dogs are in training.

Even though it is just early fall, the upcoming avalanche rescue dogs are in training.

Lindsay Eastwood from Kamloops, B.C., came to Rossland with her German Shepherd, Exie, to train with Rossland’s Andy Lewis and his Labrador, Jungle.

Both of the dogs are in the beginning of their training and Exie is soon to be assessed and validated by the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) so she can start working in avalanche terrain.

If Jungle keeps on training as hard as he does and passes all of CARDA’s criteria, he hopes to be the first avalanche recue dog at Red Mountain Resort.

“When people see (avalanche) dogs, they seem to be more interested in  (avalanche) awareness and therefore education. So that is one real positive aspect of Red having a dog available,” explained Lewis.

The dogs are being trained to trust their nose. Jungle the air, catches the smell of Eastwood hiding in the high grass and starts running.

He finds her every time. Andy and Lindsay debrief after every session, discussing what could be improved.

Jungle definitely relies on his sense of smell. He is rewarded with play when he finds the human and learns it is exciting to find humans with the help of his nose.

“If you don’t look like you’re an idiot when you’re rewarding your dog, you’re doing something wrong,” laughed Eastwood as she and Lewis screamed out loud, cheering Jungle on and trying to look funny.

Exie, who is a bit further along in her training, gets to search for clothes with human scent on them.

Clothes have a less distinct smell and a fresh track is harder to follow. She found two out of three,  but might have left the third since it was only scented with her handler, Eastwood.

The lost article challenge was great news for Rossland’s Jungle; he got to search for his first one and found it, a great stepping-stone in his training.

In 2000, the first recorded live rescue by a certified CARDA team happened in Fernie, B.C..

Training the dogs continues over many years and the dogs cannot be treated as normal pets.They are working dogs and their handlers have to spend a lot of time training them. It is very big commitment in time and money, but the reward is astonishing.

With an avalanche rescue dog you can help saving lives. Both Exie and Jungle are a part of Search and Rescue teams and they work with both the British Columbia Search Dog Association and CARDA.

“I will be involving myself heavily in stuff like avalanche awareness days etc,” said Lewis. Look out for Jungle and show your support. We might get an avalanche rescue dog at Red within a few years.


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