For those interested in doing something unusual with their dog there is an interesting initiative by Dorset Search Dogs – a voluntary organisation that was set up with the purpose of assisting the police and other statutory bodies in the search for missing persons. They are organising 6 weeks courses (2 hours per week) where you and your dog will learn the basics of search for missing person.
I have attended both beginners and intermediate courses and found it absolutely fantastic. The Dorset Search Dogs crew with Matt Cooke as chairman is very competent, friendly and has a deep knowledge of training dogs for search purposes.
At the Beginners course you will teach your dog to use an air scent to locate a person who is hiding after seen run out. At the end of the that course your dog should be able to wait about 2 minutes after the person has left and then search the approximate area where the person is hiding. It is very important to check the direction of the wind to make it easier for dog to air scent by sending him in the right direction. It is very a exciting and happy event when your dog finds the person and receives his toy to play as a reward.
At the Intermediate course you will teach your dog to search for about 20 minutes for person or people who is/are already hidden. When your dog found the person it should come back to you and indicate, ideally by bark, that it found and lead you to that person. The person can be hidden “with” or “against” the wind, so you need to ensure you are sending your dog in the right direction. It sounds like a lot, but believe me, it can be done.
It is necessary to have an exclusive toy used only for S&R training & a good head torch. The trainings are placed in different venues each week, so having a car in necessary. You need to ensure that you are happy to leave your dog alone in the car for about 30 minutes (or take a member of a family or friend to stay with it if necessary), as each dog is trained independently and everyone is involved in hiding. You also need to have a basic obedience as the trainings are often in a wooden, not enclosed area and the control over your dog is essential. Your dog cannot be aggressive to other people (and ideally dogs). All breeds are welcome, but the working and pastoral types are the most common. Having a harness would be beneficial (ideally high visibility with a light or even a bells), as it will indicate to the dog that “it’s a search time”.
Each class last about 2 hours (up to even 4 in Intermediate classes!) and the course cost only £80, so it is a great value for money and knowing that all money goes to support the team in their training and searches makes it all worth it.
Visit Dorset Search Dogs for more information about the search and rescue dog training courses in Dorset.