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What Makes a Great Rescue Dog

Source: Working Dogs – Canada’s Guide to Dogs (

With a remarkable sense of smell, a rescue dog can help find missing people in avalanche areas or in the forest. Just one dog can do the work of nearly two dozen rescue workers, by covering the same amount of ground in a fraction of the time and far more thoroughly. But how are these dogs chosen and what type of dog training do they go through?

The Selection Process
Most rescue dogs are chosen as puppies. While there are some specific breeds (German Shepherd, Bloodhounds, etc.) that work better for this type of training, they still need to meet certain standards.

Top three qualities in puppies include:

  1. Strong "prey" drive and the ability to hunt something for extended periods of time, which is useful when searching for lost hikers for several hours.

  2. A calm temperament. Excitable or nervous dogs rarely do well in the field and are not selected for training.

  3. Dog obedience. If a dog isn’t interested in following commands, it won’t be possible to control him in the field, which is essential for tracking.

With these three qualities, puppy training begins!

The first step in training a young dog to track people is to start with a foundation. The foundation training includes socialization, desensitizing the dog to distractions, dog obedience classes and barking on demand, among other things. These dogs also learn to follow hand signals, rather than simply voice commands. This makes it easier to direct a dog that is too far from its trainer to receive voice commands and also allows for silent work when needed.

What Makes a Great Rescue Dog?Once the dog is adept at these skills, it’s time for more advanced dog training that will prepare him for the world of scents. One of the first things a puppy learns is to track by air, following a scent carried on the wind or simply lingering in the air. This is very important for areas that don’t hold a scent, such as river beds. The dog is also trained to track scents left on the ground.

Since rescue work often requires the collection of evidence, rescue dog training includes learning to point out objects dropped by the person they are tracking and to handle any evidence with care. The most common method of alerting their masters when they find something is to bark.
To become a certified rescue dog, these dogs are often required to pass a tracking and ability test. They provide a valuable service and are instrumental in the recovery of missing people every year.

Did You Know?
Petsecure offers discounts to service animals to ensure they can continue to perform their jobs. Over the years, Petsecure has insured over 400 service animals, which include police dogs, search and rescue dogs, seeing-eye dogs, and various therapy dogs.