About Search Dogs
Dogs are trained to use their acute sense of smell to detect human scent in the air. We all lose 20,000 to 30,000 dead skin cells every minute and this makes up our ‘scent’. A dog’s sense of smell is thought to be a thousand times more sensitive than our own; they have over 200 million scent receptors compared to our own 5 million.
Together, the dog and its handler form a highly efficient team. Dogs can work in all weathers, day or night, without loss of speed and they can cover huge areas quickly.
How the dog is trained
Search dogs can be any breed of dog but must have excellent scenting ability and be large and strong enough to cope with the physical demands of the job.
They start their training from the age of 12 weeks and are introduced to a toy as their reward.
Training starts with a person running away excitedly with the dog’s toy. The dog follows and, when it finds them, barks for the toy. Throughout, the dog learns to associate finding a human with fun and games and getting their ‘reward’.
Dogs are trained to travel in helicopters and are winched in and out, if necessary.
Anyone interested in becoming a dog handler must satisfy the following criteria:
- Be able to demonstrate that they are active members of a mountain rescue team, which is recognised by Scottish Mountain Rescue, or have at least 2 years current or recent mountain rescue experience.
- Have a favourable reference/recommendation, in writing, regarding their hill ability from their current or most recent mountain rescue team leader.
- Navigation skills are important as well as being able to operate in absolutely all weathers at all times of the day or night all over Scotland sometimes very far away from home.
About Call Outs
Here is a summary of recent call outs:
- 2019: 36 incidents, 65 handlers deployed, 560 hours worked, no dog finds
- 2018: 62 incidents, 105 handlers deployed, 765.5 hours worked, 3 dog finds
- 2017: 38 incidents, 67 handlers deployed, 362.4 hours worked, 2 dog finds
- 2016: 86 incidents, 121 handlers deployed, 962.1 hours worked, 2 dog finds
- 2015: 92 incidents, 174 handlers deployed, 1864.3 hours worked, 2 dog finds