Fancy a game of hide and seek?

The moment Magdalena Koczera puts the blue harness with the bell on Nyx, the dog knows for sure that training is about to begin. A person is hidden somewhere in the forest. At Magdalena's command "search", she sets off, always following her nose. The Golden Retriever navigates through the thicket in a focussed and systematic manner. Meanwhile, absolute silence reigns in the forest. Soon a piercing bark sounds and the supposed victim is found.

To successfully train search and rescue dogs for deployment, one thing is needed in addition to a well-coordinated human-dog team: someone who can be searched for. This role is taken on by helpers who simulate missing or buried victims as hiding persons.

Admittedly, hanging out in trees, thorny undergrowth or narrow pits until the dog alerts its handler that it has found someone doesn't sound particularly appealing. But it is precisely this training aid that is immensely important for the four-legged lifesavers. Hiding persons get to see first-hand how the dog behaves at the moment of finding the victim. This allows them to give the dog handler valuable feedback.

Due to the importance of helper work in the training of search and rescue dogs, we regularly offer courses on this subject. Our trainers provide the hiding persons with theoretical and practical training in order to develop a feel for the dogs and their behaviour. Among other things, course participants learn when it is the perfect time during training to reward desired behaviour with tasty snacks or the dog's favourite toy.

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Photos: FW-RH