Search dogs attend first training workshops

The first of a series of dog training workshops began this week. 48 dogs and their handlers will each spend 2-3 days in various locations around Berkshire, where they will be required to follow strict training guidelines, teaching them how to successfully trail individual scents.

Training workshops will run throughout November for both beginner and advanced dogs, with some of the advanced dogs nearing the end of their training and almost ready for assessment and qualification.

Once fully trained and qualified, search dogs will be deployed with regional Lowland Rescue teams to aid in the search for a missing person. Often, the person will be at great risk of coming to harm due to their age, medical condition, or a mental or physical disability. In these situations, every minute counts and in some circumstances, the speed of a search dog can be the difference between life and death.

Dogs new to the programme will have been assessed to ensure that they possess a natural instinct to work for a reward. They’ll begin training by following very short scent trails, left by volunteers who have hidden in bushes and shrubberies, ready to give treats or praise when the dog locates them.

For those more advanced dogs, a workshop was held in the grounds of Reading Football Club, where they got to experience a more realistic, operational based scenario within an urban environment where someone could potentially go missing.

Elle Cantillon, from Norfolk Search and Rescue, is one volunteer handler to join the beginner workshop, with her 3 year old Jack Russel named Laika. She said: “Laika and I started day one of the trailing workshop with some degree of trepidation. Neither of us had ever had any experience of ground scenting, but by day three we were successfully  following completely blind trails. An altogether overwhelming feeling, only made possible by the expert training and support given to us over the three days.

Thank you to everyone involved in giving us this opportunity. We are looking forward to going from strength to strength and hopefully qualifying to become an operational Search Dog team in Lowland Rescue over the next two years!”