Training Mountain Rescue Search Dogs

Mountain Rescue Search Dogs England’s (MRSDE) search dogs are trained to ‘Air Scent’, this means they do not as a general rule track the missing person.

The dogs will react to a human scent being blown towards them by the wind or air currents. This means that as long as the dog is searching downwind of a casualty, or items which have human scent on them, they should find them. In bad conditions a dog can cover large areas of ground in the search for a missing person.

The dog is very sensitive to any human scent it finds and will immediately follow that scent to where a human is located. It will then indicate to its handler to let them know it has had a ‘Find’.

All of our training is undertaken with praise and rewards for the dog. Some are happy to work for their squeaky toy while others prefer food!

As MRSDE is a dog training body, we can help you to train your dog. However we are unable to teach you the required search and rescue skills required for working in an upland environment. As such, we are only able to take on prospective trainees who have at least 1 years callout experience with a recognised Mountain Rescue team, with written support from your team. Additionally we require that you have bodied for us on both national and local courses.

There are a number of stages a dog, and their handler must go through before becoming a graded search dog team.

Search Puppy

Puppy Class:
Training starts with the Puppy Classes run by Jacquie Hall from the Northumberland Canine Center. The Puppy is socialised with other dogs and people. They are then given some basic obedience & stock familiarisation training.

A Registration test is carried out to test the basic obedience of the dog and the handling skills of the trainee handler. A Stock test is also carried out to ascertain that the dog shows no interest in stock that might be grazing on the hill.

Once these test have been passed the trainee and dog move to Stage 1.

Stage 1, learning to indicate

Stage 1:
They are taught the ‘Find Sequence’. This is when they find the Dogsbody and indicate to the handler that they have found.

The dogs indicate they have found by returning to their handler and barking. When this sequence is established they are given an indication test. This test is usually carried out in the dark. On passing the indication test the team move to stage 2.

Stage 2 Learning to hunt

Stage 2:
The handler is taught how to search areas with their dog. This involves learning how to read the landscape, wind and other conditions that could effect the scent flow.

The areas start small and gradually get larger. At this stage the handler will always know the location of the Dogbodies so that they can see how their dog reacts to the scent whilst searching. When the training officers are satisfied that the trainee has gained enough knowledge they move to Stage 3.

Stage 3 - Putting it all together to save lives

Stage 3:
The handler is tasked to search small areas without knowing the location of the Dogbodies.

Again the areas get larger as they progress. When they are gauged to be more competent with searching areas, they will be given operational and assessment training, on successful completion they are deemed ready for their assessment.