Rescue Dogs: the History...

by Andrey Rozhkov

Already in the previous century monks of the Sent Bernard monastery used large dogs to find a man gone under the snow, who were subsequently called senbernars.

When there was a blizzard on a mountain pass, they bond a little barrel of rum to the dog's neck and let it search for the lost people. When the dogs smelled a human under snow, it digged them out with its huge paws, revived them with rum and then went to call for help.
It turned out that there is no better "tool" than the dog's nose. There is a rescue dog in the life-saving services of all the Alpine countries. Senbernars are rarely used now, they have been changed by Belgian Shepherds: they are fitter for mountain service. A young male dog at the age of about two years gets special training during two-three weeks. The training resembles a game. The guide trains the dog not least than two hours three-four times a week. After a while the dog can smell a human under a thicker layer of snow. The guide's experience is also important. To restrict the search time he can direct the dog exactly to the place where he suspects a human. You must work fast, every minute counts. A well-trained dog can smell a human under a two-meter snow layer. You can never be as good at searching people without a dog, because to search a territory of 100x100 m, a dog needs only 12 minutes, while the human rescuers  - 4 hours.
After disastrous earthquakes in Mexico, Spitaka and Neftegorsk dogs not only help to search for people in the mountains, they are also used to clear away rubbles after extreme situations. Dogs of different breeds are used for this purpose.

Today, Switzerland takes the first place according to the number of trained and certified dogs. There are over 100 of them there. Most of them are drahthaars. Though there are also shepherds, spaniels and retrievers. They prefer dogs, who feel good under the local climate conditions. For now, there is no comparative scale of dog breeds according to their ability to help the affected. But the most important features for a rescue dog are controllability, physical health (to be able to overcome obstacles), good sense of smell.

The dog not only has to find it has to show the guide a certain object. For this purpose they implement special training methods: the dog must be able to define an object not typical for this region and find the object's owner. When the dog finds a human it must make a point and give voice. The people do their best to take care for their pets. The dogs usually wear protective socks in order not to hurt the paws. It is hard to say, how the dog finds a human. Lyonnya, a Russian spaniel, and Lessy, a Scottish setter, who served after the earthquake in Neftegorsk, found 35 alive people. That was there first serious task. The smell of gasoline and sal-ammoniac didn't bother them.

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