A rescue dog (or rescue dog) is a dog specially trained to come to the aid of people. A specific training, with a dog handler, makes it possible to educate many dogs in rescue, whether at sea, in the mountains, or even following an earthquake. While all dogs can potentially be trained in rescue, very specific dog breeds are often used, specially selected for their qualities as rescuers.
Why are rescue dogs used?
The rescue dog is a working dog, just like defense or guard dogs. These dogs are specially selected and educated to save humans in emergencies.
The qualities of a rescue dog
It is no coincidence that the rescue services often call on a rescue dog. It should be understood that dogs have highly developed olfactory and auditory qualities, which in particular help them to locate a person stuck under the rubble or an avalanche. Rescue dogs also have exceptional physical qualities, which can go so far as to enable them to save a person from drowning. They are also very suitable for steep regions and hard-to-reach areas.
It is for these reasons that we continue, even today, to train rescue dogs, which save dozens of lives each year.
Good to know: the rescue dog does not act alone. We often speak of a handler/dog couple, because the dog acts in concert with a handler, capable of guiding and understanding it.
The different types of rescue dogs
Dogs can be trained for any type of rescue. We can thus cite different canine rescuers:
- The rescue dog at sea is a dog trained to work in the water, which allows, in particular, to locate and rescue the victims of a shipwreck.
- The mountain rescue dog is particularly suited to steep terrain, where vehicles may have difficulty moving. We also speak of avalanche dogs to designate a dog trained to find a person lost under an avalanche.
- The rubble dog, also called a disaster dog or search and rescue dog, is used much like the avalanche dog, but to locate people lost under rubble following an earthquake or disaster.
What are the rescue dog breeds?
Potentially any dog could be rescue trained. But for obvious reasons, dog breeders focus on certain breeds, with exceptional physical and detection abilities. This is how we often find the same breeds of rescue dogs.
rescue dogs at sea
At sea, we necessarily use water dogs, recognized for their swimming ability. Strong dogs are also used, capable of supporting the weight of a person. The most suitable dogs for rescue at sea are the Newfoundland; the retriever (like the golden retriever ); the Leonberger.
mountain rescue dogs
In the mountains, robust dogs adapted to the cold are used but also dogs recognized for their olfactory abilities. The breeds most suitable for mountain rescue are the German shepherd; the Belgian Shepherd.
Good to know: if we tend to think of the traditional Saint Bernard for mountain rescue, the rescue services have gradually abandoned this dog, which is too massive and too slow, in favor of more agile breeds less encumbered by their fur.
The other rescue dogs
Certain dog breeds are known to work, the German Shepherd being the most famous of these, and are frequently used by the rescue services, especially for search and rescue.
Among the other most used rescue dogs, we can mention the white Swiss shepherd; the Hovawart; the labrador retriever.
These are breeds that can also be found in the police or customs services.
Learning to be a rescue dog
Just like the guide dog, rescue dogs need long and precise training, which will depend on the team to which they will be assigned (search and rescue, sea rescue, etc.). Training a rescue dog takes more than a year. The dog will be trained and educated on the quality of its reactions. His education will go through many stages:
- Learn to respond to orders;
- Learn to track;
- Learn the report;
- Learn to report objects or people.
The training is done from the first months of the dog and goes through many scenarios. The dog must in particular undergo a first flight (it will often have to be moved by helicopter) and learn to work without nervousness.
Good to know: to highlight the quality of rescue dog training, the Société Centrale Canine (SCC) and the Rescue Dog Working Group organized the first rescue dog competitions in France. These events are an opportunity to admire the tremendous work of rescue dogs and their trainers.
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