Search and rescue dogs have been used for decades to search for lost boarders and skiers in the mountains.
Being outdoor, when the snow is at its finest, and soaking the sun, sounds like a perfect scenario until something wrong happens.
Unfortunately, in nature, several things can go wrong, and a paw near you just might save your life. Search and rescue dogs are crucial for helping people in the wild, especially in the mountains.
They are a vital component in wilderness tracking, during many natural disasters and other events where people have been declared mission.
Rescue dogs work by detecting human scents; therefore, they are perfect at locating humans that have been nursing under snow or are hiding in the caves and many other difficult and dangerous to reach areas.
You have probably heard about St. Bernards’s extraordinary capabilities to find almost anyone under the snow, but more breeds could save your life in the mountains.
Here are the top nine breeds used for search and rescue in the mountains.
1. Labrador Retriever
This breed is found on almost every list of the top dogs for different activities and traits.
Not only that Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular and beloved breeds in the world, but it’s one of the best dos to have with you when hiking or skiing.
Plus, this is the breed you want to see saving you when needed because they will give their best to bring you out on the safe.
They are calmed by nature, extremely friendly, and highly intelligent ON top of that, they can smile just as good as German Shepherd. They are often used in police forces and also bomb and drug work.
Labrador Retriever is a perfect water dog; they could spend hours just water-chilling during the hot summer days. They have webbed toes, specially designed to facilitate fast swimming.
They are strong and fast, which is why they should be trained right, or they could develop issues with back legs and joints. They can reach 12 miles an hour in just three seconds.
2. Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dogs are often described as gentle giants.
They are large in size, but they are sensitive and gentle with people, children, and other pets.
They are so accustomed to working and living with people, that they are officially named one of the calmest dog breeds ever.
Bred in the mountains of Switzerland, they enjoy spending time outdoors in the winter.
They might have difficulties during the summer, which is why you should be careful about walks, provide enough water, and avoid overheating, which can lead to heatstroke in dogs.
Bernese are strong enough o pull small carts and pull out a human under the snow. They have long coats, so frequent brushing is mandatory, next to regular veterinarian checkups.
Large dog breeds live shorter, so make sure that you provide proper grooming to keep your Bernese happy and healthy as long as possible.
3. Siberian Husky
Siberian Husky is a perfect dog for a winter lifestyle. They are more than comfortable in temperatures down to around -50°C.
They are working dogs who can easily pull sleds, and they even do it today. They love being busy and surrounded by people.
This is the main reason why they aren’t scared of strangers and why many actually do manage to steal them – they will willingly walk with someone they see for the first time in their life.
They are just so trustworthy toward people. Still, they are fiercely independent and may leave you in a second if they notice something more interesting, which is why you should keep your Siberian Husky on a leash all the time.
They love mountain living, and they have problems sniffing people out and taking them to safety. When treated right, they are loyal and warm family members.
They can live in warmer climates and a lot of precautions, but in general colder climate works the best for them.
4. St. Bernard
There can’t be a list on search and rescue dogs without St. Bernard on it. This breed is what people usually see when they hear about dogs who pull people from the snow avalanches. This is a large dog with a strong coat and undercoat to keep him warm and safe.
Originally, this dog was bred to find victims of avalanches in the Swiss Alps. This breed never goes alone to a mission, but in a pair.
When they find a victim, one will stay to keep the victim warm with their thick fur, while the other went back for help.
This is a true meaning of teamwork. Their history is well-documented and dates back to 1050. They are true to their heritage because they are friendly and love attention.
Like with any other breeds, it’s crucial to socialize this breed early and provide proper training, especially if your St. Bernard spends every second of his time inside.
These lovable giants are great with children, amazing when it comes to keeping everyone safe and happy, but they tend to have a mind of their own if they are not trained well. Overall, Saint Bernard is shy, sweet, and very affectionate.
5. German Shepherd
German Shepherds are known as ultimate police and military dogs. They are great at training, superb when it comes to endurance, and they know why commands is so important.
Large in size and a strong urge for the duties, Shephards aren’t the dogs that strangers can trick into coming with them. They will protect their family members no matter how old they are, for the – family and duty comes first.
They don’t have many smell sensors like hunters and hounds do, but they can scent out a victor with ease. This is one of the many reasons why they have been working with police and the military for centuries.
They are intelligent and loyal dogs that can learn anything you want to teach them. Even German Shepherd mix breeds have many of these traits.
6. Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherd is a perfect breed when it comes to an active lifestyle. This breed is an excellent choice for owners who hike frequently, run often, and cycle many times oper week.
Australian Shepherds are very active and aren’t the best choice for first time dog owners. They are like fluff bombs, which makes them the perfect mountain companion.
This is one of the most intelligent breeds, and can easily memorize around 100 commands, as long as you work with the breed carefully and with dedication for many years.
They are smart, agile, and easy on their feet. Plus, their endurance is about eh average; they can spend hours outside being active, which isn’t something that any dog breed can do easily.
Leonberger literally means ‘lion shepherd’ in French and’ mountain lion’ in German – either way, it’s clear that this dog is real-life giant size.
This is a great family dog and a fantastic addition to search and rescue dogs. They love training sessions when not spending time with canine friends and the human family.
They are also excellent therapy dogs. They can have up to 170 lb and 31 in, although females are smaller than males.
This dog breed barely survived World War II. The breed nearly became extinct because, at the time, only 25 Leonbergers existed, and only five of them were of breeding quality.
Such a powerful dog can spend hours working in a colder climate, searching for lost people in the snow. Sadly, Leonberger has a short life span, living between 7-10 years.
What Breed of Dog Makes a Good Mountain Rescue Dog?
Saint Bernard dogs are big and strong dogs, which is why they’re mostly used as avalanche dogs. Wherever Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherd dogs are also frequently trained as effective search and rescue dogs.
Dogs for such jobs aren’t ever chosen randomly, but thanks to their traits. Primarily, there are selected thanks to their great sense of smell and ability to hunt. In this case, the prey drive is important.
A great search and rescue dog should have the following traits:
- To be physically fit
- To have an agile body
- Have great stamina
- Can adapt easily to cold conditions (and too hot conditions, also)
- To be fearless
- To have strong legs for digging, jumping, or climbing
How Long Does It Take to Train a Search and Rescue Dog?
It takes years to create one good search and rescue dog. For example, dogs that specialize in avalanche situations can be trained in two to three years. Once the training is complete, they keep on training every day.
So, once the training is complete, handlers must continue to train their dog to keep their skills up.
They are taught skills such as:
- Barking to indicate they’ve found something
- Running between their handler’s skis to protect their paws from other skiers
The Bottom Line
Rescuer and search dogs are used globally for different actions. No matter where they are located in Alaska or Switzerland, the train in methods is identical.
In mountain areas, it’s common to see dogs on trails and next to it. These dogs are trained for years to reach a certain level of expertise to save lives.
Dogs are a great addition to search and rescue forces; after all, they are its heart. Most dogs have a keen sense of smell, and that trait is put to good use.
Compared to humans, dogs have a spectacular sense of smell. They have about 220 million olfactory receptors (odor sensors), and we only have about five million, so the difference is really huge.
Still, some dog breeds have better sniffers than others, and no one cannot deny it. For example, Hounds are knowns as the top sniffers, while some may surprise you like Shiba Inu.
The best rescue dogs have to be social, dedicated, passionate about their work, enjoy work and playtime, and understand the team’s role.
They shouldn’t be scared by loud noises or crowds, and they should be easy to train and therefore brilliant.
So, if you love to ski or ride a snowboard, and you see a dog in the trail, pet him because he might be the one saving your life. Simply said, any trail is much safer with dogs on it.