Avalanche Search And Rescue School Makes Training Fun For Dogs

Ski Patroller working with dog

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Utah is one of the hottest destinations for snow activities during the peak of winter. But in a training school for dogs called the Wasatch Backcountry Rescue International Dog School, even the pooches have fun with their own unique training.

The school holds a training program for dogs every other year. During the four-day program, the school not only trains dogs for new skills in avalanche search and rescue, but also arms their handlers with new techniques of their own.

One way they do this is to allow the handlers to face different issues and scenarios while training the dogs. They have to deal with the varying backgrounds and capabilities that the dogs have. The training also involves a lot of problem-solving using different perspectives. Best of all, it’s a lot of fun for both the handlers and the playful pooches.

Making The Search Fun For Everyone

What makes this program different, apart from making the most out of every situation, is the amount of fun it brings to its participants–trainers and dogs alike.

“We’re training the dogs to associate human scent in the snow with fun so that they want to find that,” said Mark Chytka, a trainer of the Wasatch Backcountry Rescue.

In one of the activities, the trainers go inside a hole in the snow and have the dogs follow them. Once the dogs are comfortable finding their handlers, they start training to find other people, whether they know them or not, in similar snow structures. This prepares the dogs for search and rescue missions following an avalanche.

Best of all, the trainers reward the dogs for all the good work they do, so every successful find becomes associated with a feel-good reward. The mental stimulation and physical exercise feels like play time for the pups.

The Wasatch Backcountry Rescue program provides an extra layer of precaution in Utah. With nine resorts lining Wasatch Front, the program ensures that each resort has a dog and a handler available to respond, especially in cases of avalanches.

Rescued Dogs To Rescuers

This is not the only unique approach to conducting rescue operations. In California, the SDF National Training Center welcomes rescued dogs and treats them to an array of physical exams and lab work to ensure safety.

After this, the shelter goes through a process of qualifying the dogs to see if they are fit to become search and rescue canines. Not every dog has what it takes. However, dogs who do pass the tests can become agents of safety. Plus, as part of the training, they form a bond with the trainer they are assigned to.

What do you think of the creative rescue training sessions that Utah does? Do you think the rewards-based training program is a good idea? Sound off in the comments below!

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