The team currently has 4 operational search dogs with three handlers. The dogs and handlers are also members of Mountain Rescue Search Dogs England, also known as SARDA (Search and Rescue Dog Association) until recently. Mountain Rescue Search Dogs England oversee the training and assessment of search dog teams nationally assuring that high standards and competency are achieved and maintained. All handlers must be full members of mountain rescue teams for a minimum of 12 months prior to beginning the training with their dog. All training is in addition to whatever training requirements their respective teams have. It generally takes between 18 and 24 months for a dog to become reliable and competent enough for it to undertake the rigorous assessments that Mountain Rescue Search Dogs England sets. It is not until these assessments are passed that a dog team can work operationally.
Why Use Dogs?
Dogs' scenting capability is awesome.
All humans, dead or alive, constantly emit microscopic particles bearing human scent. Millions of these particles are airborne and are carried by the wind for considerable distances. Scientists estimate that dogs' scenting capability is over 10,000 times better than that of a human. Dogs can locate and follow air scent over large distances, some dogs demonstrating a scenting capability of over half a mile.
Dogs can be trained to use their senses for the benefit of humans.
The air scenting Search and Rescue dog is trained to locate the scent of any human in the air and works in a specific search area. The dog is not restricted to the missing person's track and can search long after any such track would be obliterated. They do not require a piece of clothing to find someone but will detect the presence of any human scent. They are taught to ignore distractions (even rabbits) and with a trained 'nose' can accomplish scenting feats that are astonishing, even to their handlers.
Dogs can reach areas inaccessible to humans.
They can work day or night in all kinds of weather and are especially effective where human sight is most limited: in the dark, in dense woods or heavy brush, in debris, and underground or snow.
Just one dog can do the work of up to 20 human searchers.
Air scenting dogs work off leash and usually at a canter. This allows the dog to range out from the handler covering large areas. Once they locate a human scent, they will go to the source of the scent and will then return to the handler and lead them back to the missing person. Even when visual sources are hampered, such as in foggy conditions or at night, the dog's scenting capability is unimpaired. In fact, the air currents are usually more favourable at night and, since dogs use their noses not their eyes, they can search very effectively.
Bess is owned by her handler Pete. She's been operational for 8 years and boasts quite a pedigree! Her half brother Hamish was Pete's first dog and worked for 11 years. In 2013, Bess had 8 puppies - four of them are operational search dogs.
Ben is owned by his handler Ian. Ben is a 9 year old Collie and has been fully operational for the team since 2011. His favourite toy is a squeaky ring on a rope - and he'll always win in a game of tug! Ben and Ian train weekly and have been involved in searches in Northumberland, the Peak District, the Lake District and Scotland.
Roy is owned by his handler Paul. Roy become a fully operational search dog in November 2018 and is one of Bess' pups. Roy is avalanche trained and loves his job just as much as getting some fuss from people!
Rona is also owned by Pete. She’s one of the new kids on the block having graded in early 2018 when only 2 and a half years old. Rona is also a trained avalanche search dog. She’s friendly, happy, and never tires of running around in the mountains.