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Four Legged Friends - Search and Rescue Dogs

Friday, 5 February 2010

Pamela Flood

Pamela Flood has worked in television now for almost 12 years. Having started as a continuity announcer back in 1998, Pamela moved to London where she worked in production at the BBC before going back in front of camera with the Travel Channel who she was with for 3 years. Pamela returned to Dublin in November 2001 to work on Off the Rails. In the meantime she has taken part in other programmes for RTE such as No Frontiers, Anonymous, The Afternoon Show, The Panel and The Restaurant. She also presented the 2008 series Marry Me.

SARDA Ireland:

SARDA Ireland's objective is to assist in the search and rescue of missing persons on the hills or wherever they may be.

SARDA Ireland is a voluntary 999 / 112 emergency search and rescue organization concerned with the training, assessment and deployment of Air Scenting Search and Rescue Dogs to search for missing persons. Our dog teams, which consist of the handler and their dog, search anywhere in Ireland and are effective in the mountains, woodlands, rural and urban areas, waterways and seashore, as well as in locating accident or disaster victims.

Search And Rescue Dog Association (Ireland) was set up in 1987 as a Registered Charity (No. 11172) and is a member of: Irish Mountain Rescue Association

Why use dogs?

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 over a distance of half a kilometre.

The air scenting SAR 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.

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 under ground or snow.

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.

How Are Dog Teams Trained?

. Acceptance for training with SARDA
. Reward based searching
. Air Scenting
. Indicating the find
. Handler training

Acceptance for training with SARDA

Prior to acceptance for training with SARDA a young dog will be tested and accredited for:
safety with stock
All dogs accepted for training must be friendly towards people and are progressively socialized with people of all ages, including babies, toddlers, children and the elderly.

Reward based searching

The dogs are initially taught to look for a reward (play toy or food treat) from a variety of people, gradually learning to run out and then search for these people in simple situations. This progresses until the dog learns to search for long periods looking for a person who will reward them with a game, or sometimes a food treat. Eventually they will no longer receive a reward from the missing person until their handler has joined them at the body. Ultimately they will search with enthusiasm for many hours, anticipating their reward.

Air scenting

Dogs are taught to locate the person by air scent. This is initially accomplished by placing the dog downwind of their source 'body'. The dogs quickly learn to use their scenting capability to find their target. As they progress they learn to work across the wind to cover large areas and sniff out missing people.

Indicating the Find

In real life search situations the dog may be out of sight and earshot of handler, sometimes owing to distance, other times owing to weather conditions. For this reason dogs are trained to return to the handler after finding their source body. On their return they are taught to indicate their find to the handler and then bring the handler back with them to the missing person. Depending on the distance between the handler and the located person, the dog may have to make a number of return trips between body and handler.

Handler Training

. Handlers receive training and, where appropriate, professional qualifications in:
. First aid
. Radio procedures
. Search skills
. Mountain skills level 1