What are Search and Rescue Dogs?
Search and rescue dogs are a type of service dog specially trained in locating missing people using their great sense of smell during a disaster such as earthquake, storm and landslide.
A search operation requires careful judgement in order to save lives. This is why search and rescue dogs are required to be trained in an environment close to a real-life disaster in order to search for missing people under destroyed and collapsed buildings, as well as landslides.
All our search and rescue dogs from Japan Rescue Association have gone through these intense training.
To become a reliable search and rescue dog
1. Seen as unreliable in the past
When the Hanshin-Awaji earthquake struck in January 1995, search and rescue dogs were sent to Japan from overseas. Despite their effort, the operation was less successful than expected due to frequent false alerts.
This was because there was a problem in the way these dogs were trained. For example, a group of search and rescue dogs from one particular country were trained to receive treats as a reward when they find a missing person. This training method has the advantage to improve the dog’s ability in a shorter period of time.
However, this has a fatal disadvantage, since the dogs trained under this method expects to receive treats when searching for people. It also caused the dogs to react to areas where food were scattered.
Taking these past examples to heart, we studied the training method adapted in each country, and we were able to establish our own training method, where the dogs will not react to food.
2. Completed training in a disaster-like environment
It is more effective to train a dog in shorter period of time, rather than a longer training session, because it is difficult for a dog to concentrate for a long period of time. By understanding such trait, we train them in an intensive but short period of time every day.
All dogs approved by Japan Rescue Association as a search and rescue dog have been trained in an environment close to a real-life disaster. We believe this is how we have managed to train truly reliable world leading search and rescue dogs.
Moving forward while in a creeping position. This is an equivalent to a human crawling. This training allows the dog to enter narrow spaces created between rubbles.
Various obstacles can be expected during a disaster. By using equipment such as steps, slopes and seesaw, this training allows the dog to become used to shaky grounds and overcome their fear towards such environment.
Signaling from a distance
An advanced obedience training, where the handler signals the dog to move as directed from a distance. This is necessary when searching in a larger area.
A search and rescue training assuming a collapsed building, and we train our dogs in a real disaster-like environment. The dog will use its sense of smell to search for a missing person in an unstable footing.
A search and rescue training assuming a person is buried beneath earth in landslide disaster sites. Landslide causes the earth to be much denser, which can be difficult for dogs to detect smell. This is why it is crucial for the dogs to be trained in such environment.
A rescue training to save those in water, including those drowning. We train our dogs to carry a float to the rescuee and pull the float to a safe area. We also patrol the Tenjin Festival in Osaka every year to prevent water accidents.
Avalanche and snow rescue
A search and rescue training to search for person missing in a snow covered mountain, affected by avalanche, for example. The training requires so the dog will react when it finds person buried in snow or who has fallen.
A training that requires to be hoisted onto a helicopter. This training is necessary during an urgent dispatch by a helicopter or being dispatched to an area which is unreachable by car.
Adopt a retired search and rescue dog
Our search and rescue dogs usually retire when they reach about 8 years old, and enjoy the rest of their lives with a new family, which we call them a “retired dog walker”.
Our mission is to continue to train and raise search and rescue dogs for the next generation.
Therefore, our resources to raise and train these dogs are limited, which is why we need someone who can welcome a retired service dog as a new family.
*We do not decide an adopter (retired dog walker) on first-come, first-served basis. The retirement date is never set, but we will decide based on careful review, and the compatibility between the dog and the adopter.