Dogrobes provides an insight into a highly trained dog unit that helps search for those in peril in the mountains, coastline or in towns and cities.
Dogrobes is proud to be a sponsor of the elite dogs that carry out mercy missions on behalf of Search and Rescue Dog Association Scotland (SARDA).
With their handlers, these dedicated teams of dogs help police and mountain rescue teams hunt for missing people. They seek out lost and injured souls across some of Scotland’s most extreme terrains and in all weathers.
Dogrobes donated a set of dog drying coats, one for each dog in service. Each Dogrobe has been embroidered with the SARDA logo, and along with the coveted Green Tag is seen as a sign of achievement once the dog has completed its training.
Glen has been a proud SARDA dog for five years.
These highly trained canines love to don their drying robes after a challenging session scouring mountain, coastline or other search area.
It’s not only the SARDA dogs that love their dog drying coats. Their handlers appreciate that they are easy to fit and that they both dry and warm their canine companions.
SARDA rigorously trains dogs and their handlers, and they work with Mountain Rescue and Police Scotland teams in hunting for missing people, including vulnerable individuals.
The service is available throughout Scotland,24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. What’s all the more remarkable is that SARDA’s handlers and dogs are all volunteers, including Innes Beaton, a member of Assynt Mountain Rescue Team, who has been a member of SARDA Scotland since 2006.
Innes took time some out to provide Dogrobes’ fans with an insight to the demands of the job.
Here, he explains how dogs get picked for this vital emergency response work, the training that’s required and why a Dogrobe is the perfect product to use at the end of a busy shout.
How are dogs chosen to be a SARDA dog?
The dogs must be inquisitive, sociable and agile enough to handle the testing physical demands of the job. They require excellent scenting ability to detect human scent, as a human sheds 20,000 to 30,000 dead skin cells every minute in the air. A dog’s sense of smell is thought to be a thousand times more sensitive than our own and they have over 200 million scent receptors compared to our five million.
Handlers choose their own dog, but essentially what’s needed is a breed that is going to be strong enough to cope with a full day in the mountains and have excellent scenting ability.
Are there specific breeds which are best suited to the job?
Dogs that have been bred to work are usually best suited for this kind of job. The Border Collie is probably the most popular, but German Shepherds, Labradors and Spaniels are equally as good.
How long do the dogs train for?
The partnership between dog and handler is critical to developing search abilities to their fullest potential and training takes on average two years to achieve full search dog status.
What does the training involve?
Training starts with a person running away excitedly with the dog’s toy. The dog follows and, when it finds them, barks for the toy. Throughout, the dog learns to associate finding a human with fun and games and getting their ‘reward’. This is part of the find sequence. Dog and handler are then introduced to searching small areas without knowing where the hidden person is, the handler must learn to read the terrain and weather conditions to best utilise the dog’s acute sense of smell to detect human scent and lead the handler to the person.
The SARDA team at a training weekend in Skye with their dogs.
What are the types of situation you may be called out to help?
We are called out for many different scenarios, for missing people from hill walkers to vulnerable persons including older people with dementia and children.
How are you alerted?
As part of Scottish Mountain Rescue, our assistance is requested through Police Scotland. We are then contacted by telephone by our callout coordinator and given our tasking.
The SARDA team in the Cairngorms in Aviemore in November 2017
How are the dogs able to help?
Dogs help by being able to cover large areas quickly in any weather day or night. Dogs can also access difficult terrain better than their human handlers.
A single dog can do the work of many searchers, finding people who can’t be seen by the human eye, and covering a wider area. The dogs are trained to travel in helicopters and are winched in and out if need be.
Mountain rescue is a labour-intensive activity, and the use of dogs can free up Mountain Rescue team members for other tasks.
When do the handlers use Dogrobes for their dogs and why?
After a wet or snowy day in the mountains it is so easy and convenient just to pop on a dog robe and get the dog in the car for the drive home. Or after a wet walk at home pop on the dog robe and let the dog in. The dog robe also helps the dog warm up more quickly if it has been chilly out as well.
Any reaction from the dogs when they’ve got their Dogrobes on after a hard day?
Ha ha! My collie looks to get his on if he’s wet - and then getting it off is another matter!
Thanks go to Innes for this insider’s view into the important work of SARDA. To rise to these challenges, on any day and in any weather, shows incredible dedication, and Dogrobes is proud to be associated with the team.
We’ve had our own experience of their intrepid endurance. Margaret Reynolds, owner of Dogrobes, was in the thick of the action when she presented Dogrobes to the first set of lucky recipients a few years ago. She was lucky enough to take part in a training exercise in the Cairngorms in November 2017 when she was ‘searched for’ by one of the dogs and his handler. In SARDA terms she ‘bodied’, so the dog could ‘get a find’.
Video of Margaret being rescued by Torin during a training exercise in 2017
Margaret says: “It’s just incredible to experience first-hand these amazing dogs and their handlers working in partnership. There’s such a fine balance of trust and instinct between the dog and his handler. The handler sends the dog out onto a specific area of the hill, putting the dog in the best place and the dog covers the area until he picks up a scent. These 20-30,000 dead skin cells that we shed every minute create a scent cone. The scent is strongest closest to the body and fans out into a cone shape as it moves away from us. The dog then works its way across the scent until it loses it, then works back across the scent. Each time the dog moves to and fro across the cone scent, he gets closer to the human who’s lost.
“It is reassuring to know that through using our Dogrobes’ drying coat, the dogs are kept warm, dry and comfortable after the rigors of training, an emergency call out, or following regular exercise at home.
Cridhe (heart in Gaelic) is one of the most recently qualified dogs, qualifying as a novice at the recent grading in September last year. This means that Cridhe is now on the call out list to work as a search dog but he’s still learning. He’s hoping to be fully graded at the next assessment in March 2021, COVID permitting.
Cridhe and Torin wearing their SARDA Dogrobes above. Torin has been graded for 6½ years and will retire soon.
Cridhe snuggled up in his Dog Robe after a hard day's work!
Cridhe’s owners Kate and Alasdair Earnshaw have been involved with SARDA since 1990 and Cridhe is the fourth search dog they’ve had. Kate helps to body for the dogs and husband Alasdair is an experienced dog handler. Kate says: “Cridhe has a wee beard and as soon as he gets his Dogrobe on he goes and dries his beard on the carpet then snuggles down for a wee snooze. The dogs love their Dogrobes. I think they’re a fabulous product. Just great!”
Your four-legged friend doesn’t have to be involved in mountain rescues to use a Dogrobe.
Our dog towel robes are five-star rated by customers and are manufactured in the UK. You too can have your Dogrobe personally embroidered.
See the benefits of using a Dogrobe, and our full range, here.
SARDA provides its service completely free of charge and is dependent on public donations to continue to provide this service year in year and year out. It takes £5000 for training and specialist equipment for each dog and handler. If you’d like to support this charity, please visit https://www.sarda-scotland.org/support-us/.
Click here to read our last blog on Walking Your Dog For Health.