Avalanches are a lot deadlier than people tend to think.
Without air pocket, your chance of survival drops significantly after 15 minutes!
Not to even mention the possible injuries and how that would affect you.
That is why it is uttermost important to find and excavate the victim as fast as possible.
And here is where avalanche rescue dogs come to play!
But do you know these seven facts about those amazing animals?
By Ene Sepp.
Ene has worked at ski resorts in Estonia and New Zealand.
Currently she works as a ski patroller in Colorado and although she does not have an avy dog, she loves to help with the training and be around the pups!
You can follow her on Goodreads.
Dogs can find a person a lot faster than humans
Rescue workers with probes are one way to locate a victim who is not wearing a transceiver.
But even for twenty experienced people, it can take around four hours to finish searching an area of the size of an hectare (~2,5 acres).
For a dog, to search the same area, that would take just about half an hour!
A fun game with great rewards!
For a dog, finding a person is basically a game of hide and seek!
When they locate the victim or victims, they win the game! And who would not like to play a game and be rewarded?
No wonder avy dogs love to go to work!
Avalanche dogs must be comfortable to ride on different machines
Avalanche dogs do not rely just on their four paws to get around. They learn how to…
- safely get on and off the chairlift
- how to ride on a snowmobile between the handler’s arms
- and even how to ride in the cabin of a snow groomer!
These dogs are not the breed you think they are!
Contrary to popular culture, Saint Bernard dogs are not used as avalanche rescue dogs!
They are just too big and too slow to work well in adverse conditions.
Most common breeds are Golden Retrievers, Labradors, German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds but also mutts!
More important than the breed, is the dog’s drive to work, agility and confidence.
They wear clothes and accessories!
Avalanche rescue dogs, like other working dogs, do wear a vest.
One is to make sure that the dog is noticeable and stands out.
Secondly, with the handle attached to a vest, it is easier to lift the dog onto the snowmobile or hold on to them when riding a ski lift.
The vest is also a notification for the dog – when the vest comes out, it’s time to work!
Some dogs do not enjoy wearing the vest, but don’t be fooled – they love their job!
You might see other accessories as well! Booties can help to protect dogs’ paws while goggles offer shade and protection from the sun and the bright white snow.
You need to check which words to use around the avy dogs!
Most handlers train their dogs to react to certain words that hype them up and help to get prepared to search.
While “Search!” is obvious and common, they might also use words like “Work” or “Out!”
As the dogs get trained to react to certain words, handlers might ask you not to use those words around their dog.
Different levels of education
In the avalanche dog world, there are different certification levels.
Classification shows whether that dog can be first on scene, second on the scene, whether they are allowed to work only in a resort, next to a resort or whether they can be deployed everywhere!
It’s a career for a lifetime
Their career usually lasts 8 to 10 years.
When it is time to retire, they might still stay with patrol but in different roles.
Quite often as an ambassador for the patrol or search and rescue team.
Photo by Luka Senica on Unsplash.