Over the years, DSRTP has been very fortunate that some of their dedicated team members have adopted the additional phenomenal responsibility of training up a professional search and rescue dog.
Search dog Sunny retired in late 2016, search dog Toohey tragically died in September 2017 leaving the team without such a qualified dog.
As of late 2017, there are 2 dogs (Honey and Saoirse) and handlers intensively training several times a week in order that their dogs will be qualified during 2018. These dogs will assist with DSRTP searches but are also called upon more frequently to assist the emergency services regionally and nationally if required. There are more than 30 such trained dogs nationally according to the Mountain Rescue Search Dogs England
Read the historical messages below from the dogs (and their handlers!), note how thorough and intense the training is to ensure the dogs can perform reliably in the extreme conditions searches are often conducted under.
December 2017 Here is Honey, our 7 and a half year old Labrador training in the Brecon Beacons in early November. She is being trained as a “Trailing” dog rather than more commonly used “Air Scenting” dog. Rob’s previous dog, Toohey who tragically died in September of this year was trained in this discipline which involves the dogs sniffing generic human scent blown on the wind, which enables them to search wide areas of moor and mountain side very quickly and efficiently.
Honey, as a “Trailing” Dog is being trained to follow a specific human scent, with the use of a scent article such as a hat or T shirt belonging to the missing person. She follows this exact trail left on the ground by the subject, starting off with small piles of food left periodically on route as an incentive. She got the message very quickly being a greedy lab! Markers in the form of small flags are also dropped to give the handler an idea of the route to follow.
Ken & Saoirse’s training is moving on at a fast pace. Saoirse, (Seer-Sha) Ken’s eighteen month old collie has now almost completely finished her training to become DSRTP’s new Air Scenting Search Dog, where Sunny and Toohey left off.
She has successfully graduated from ”Stage 1” where the dog learns to use its’ nose to hunt for, locate generic human scent, and return barking at their handler to indicate that they have found.
They are now in “Stage 2” where the focus is on the handler to learn how to plan and implement search strategies out on the hillside, using geographical features, wind speed and direction to use the dogs advanced scent detection to its maximum potential. i.e. to save lives in wild places!