There are lots of resources out there, if you look hard enough, for anyone interested in training their dog as a search dog. Here are some of the ones that I’ve found most helpful.
‘Ready: Training the Search and Rescue Dog’ by Susan Bulanda and Larry Bulanda (2nd edition, published 2010) is a great introduction to search dog work and provides a step-by-step approach to training the dog in various aspects of search and rescue. This is the book on which I have based Ozzy’s training plan.
‘Cadaver Dog Handbook: Forensic Training and Tactics for the Recovery of Human Remains’ by Andrew Rebman, Edward David and Marcella Sorg (published 2000) focuses, as name suggests, on training a dog specifically for human remains detection work. It also includes detailed training plans upon which I will draw when Ozzy and I get to that stage of her training.
‘Scent and the Scenting Dog’ by William Syrotuck (published 1972) is a helpful primer on the science of scent and scent detection. While the writing style is a little dated now, it’s a short book that will be of value to anyone who is interested in the science behind what the scent dog is doing.
‘Searchdog’ movie, a feature documentary that explores the activities of search dogs and their handlers, as well as the bond that develops between them. Following Matt Zarrella as he trains ‘unadoptable’ dogs to become super sniffers, it’s a film that’s informative, engaging and inspiring. Find out how to download it here.
‘Being a Dog: Following the Dog into a World of Smell’ by Alexandra Horowitz (paperback published 2017) is the author’s personal exploration of the world of scent, looking at how dogs use their noses and the different ways in which their sense of smell can be put to use.
If you’re interested in getting involved in land-based search and rescue, contact your local Mountain Rescue or Lowland Rescue team. Many mountain rescue teams include search dogs, which are trained through Mountain Rescue Search Dogs England. Some Lowland Rescue teams also have search dogs, while other regions have specific Lowland Rescue search dog units.
At the heart of all of this, though, is the dog. And the key to training a good search dog is finding a dog with the motivation and drive to succeed. I was incredibly lucky to welcome Ozzy into my life. She was bred by Glenn Lambert at Wickmoor Labradors in North Somerset. If you’re looking for a great working Labrador, I can’t recommend him highly enough.
Training a search dog is also very much a team effort. And so I’m also extremely grateful to everyone who has provided me with advice, guidance and feedback. As well as to the large number of people who have given up their free time to ‘hide’ from Ozzy (often in the rain) and to help us to get better at what we do.