10 Facts About Avalanche Dogs

Dogs – they are man’s best friend for good reason. But more than just companionship, our canine friends can provide import functional roles in day-to-day life.

From sniffing out substances for the police, to helping those with a disability, and offering companionship to the elderly and veterans suffering from PTSD; dogs have a special bond with humans.

Of all these roles one of the most important, is the life-saving role that a search and rescue dog can offer; specifically avalanche dogs, who help rescue in snowy mountainous and treacherous conditions.

Here you can learn more about this special group of canines:

1 – Special breeds.

The World Canine Institution recognizes 339 different breeds of dog. Of these, only a selection have suitable characteristics for an avalanche function.

Avalanche dogs must be people friendly, have a great nose and be able to hunt for prey. Sadly, pug dogs aren’t ideal! But; Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Collies, St Bernards and Labradors all are, along with a number of cross-breed versions.

2 – Teach them young

As with all forms of training, the younger the dog learns, the better. Because of this, puppies can learn from about six months once their senses are developed and ready. Some organizations, such as Northstar Avalanche Rescue Dog train puppies from a young age.

3 – A year to qualify

It can take up to a year for an avalanche dog to graduate! But even once they are certified, they will need to keep their training up, along with repeated exposure, to ensure their skills remain up-to-date.

4 – The loveable St Bernard

The big, beautiful bounding St Bernard is one of the most famous rescue dogs thanks to popular TV shows from Swiss Miss and Topper, to kids’ cartoons. Often depicted carrying a big barrel of brandy to perk up rescued people, this isn’t quite the reality!

5 – Quicker than broadband?!

In a world filled with modern technology, you might expect a different kind of solution to avalanches. However, rescue dogs have proven time and again, to be the quickest and most effective way of seeking out people in times of distress.

In avalanche rescues, where speed is of the essence, avalanche dogs remain the quickest way to locate people. This is essential when you consider that the chances of survival diminish after 30 minutes.

6 – Search and rescue

Trained up for a number of services, search and rescue dogs, as well as avalanche dogs can help in a number of life-saving situations. From natural disasters from earthquakes and mudslides, to fires.

7 – Becoming a handler

Dog handlers must undergo extensive training to be qualified to handle avalanche dogs. This dedication requires spending time in mocked up avalanche situations, to put you through the paces. Once qualified, there’s no resting on your laurels. Rescue teams often camp out overnight, and need to be hardy to the cold weather!

8 – A nose for it

Dogs have a dazzling sense of smell, made up of some 300 million receptors in their noses, compared to our mere six million! Because of this, avalanche dogs can usually pick up human scent 2-4 meters below the snow pact.

Handlers will often provide them with similar odors or clothes possessed by the missing person, in order to help track them down.

9 – Fat packed diets

Preparing them for their vital and all-encompassing jobs they perform, avalanche dogs start the day with a sturdy breakfast packed full of fats to set them up for the day.

10 – Newfoundland dogs

And finally, while not commonly used in avalanche situations, Newfoundland dogs have been found to particularly excel in water rescue situations owing to their build, webbed feet and thick double coat.