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Canine heroes: Search and Rescue dogs

Dogs, in addition to being great household pets, play an important role in other areas of our society. The SAR dogs are invaluable in many disaster situations, with some experts estimating that one dog can do the same amount of work as more than 20 people.

SAR dogs can cover much more ground than humans, and because they have a much greater sense of smell, sight and hearing, they are able to pick up on more subtle signs of life.

The fact that dogs work faster than humans is a major factor in the increased survival rate of people in disasters, and in particular avalanches. More than 90% of victims survive if they are found within 15 minutes of being buried. That number decreases dramatically to only 30% if they are found after 30 minutes.

SAR dogs are usually trained to do one of two jobs: tracking a scent or searching an area. The two tasks require different skills and training. If someone is lost somewhere in the wilderness, the SAR dog will track the person down, using an item that belonged to the lost person to catch the scent. The dog will then follow the scent until he’s found the missing person.

In the aftermath of an earthquake or an avalanche, the SAR dog has to quickly locate any person that may be in trouble. That means keeping their nose in the air and instinctively picking up any human scent near the disaster site. Once the dog identifies a spot, the crew can start digging to help uncover anyone that might be buried.

The most common dogs used in Search and Rescue are those bred for shepherding or hunting, because they often have the right drive, although any dog with the right temperament can become a SAR dog with correct training.

The most important part of a good SAR dog is the extensive training.  They need to have impeccable obedience and be mentally and physically ready for the work. They need to be ready for a number of different scenarios, from earthquakes and urban disasters, to avalanches and wilderness.

Working in disaster zones is stressful for both humans and dogs involved in search and rescue.  So maintaining the highest levels of physical health and emotional well being in these dogs is essential.  

All dogs, whether they be hard-working SAR dogs, or companions at home, need the right nutrition to live a long and healthy life. That’s why Hill’s is dedicated to producing premium nutrition for dogs of all sizes, breeds and ages. Visit our website here.

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