K9 Yodel

Coming Up for Air

Happy Half Birthday, Yodel boy! 

Time is flying! I was hoping to be able to update the blog over the past few months, but search dog puppy mode takes no prisoners! Puppies are demanding little tyrants no matter the breed, and working dog puppies take their dictatorship to the next level. We were already pretty exhausted from our ordeal with Rally when we brought Yo home, and he certainly didn’t cut us any slack. It’s safe to say that updating the blog wasn’t our first priority!!

Now Yodel is starting to resemble a real dog, both physically and emotionally. Everyone is (mostly) sleeping through the night, my hands aren’t (always) bleeding and bruised, and our schedules are (pretty much) back to normal, I think it would be fun to recap the first few months of Yodel’s life. I’ll spend the next few weeks getting you up to speed on where we’ve been, and where we’re going. Before I do that I want to answer some of the questions that we get on a regular basis. If you have other general questions, leave them in the comments!

Is Yodel yours, or does an organization own him?
Yodel is ours! Search and Rescue dog handlers are unpaid volunteers. We donate our time to raise and train the dogs, and we cover all of the costs associated with doing so. Thus, each handler retains ownership of their dog(s).

Is Yodel a pet, or does he live in a kennel?
Search and Rescue dogs are trained to do incredible things, but they are not the same as military working dogs, or even police k9s (though one of the Western Montana Search Dogs is a retired patrol dog!) When not working, our SAR dogs live a pampered, spoiled pet life.

How is a Search and Rescue dog different from an Avalanche Dog?
SAR Dogs and Avalanche Dogs have a lot of crossover! The biggest difference is that Search and Rescue dogs work all year round, certifying in many different disciplines including:

  • Trailing, where the dog starts at the person’s last known point and follows the path that they walked. Trailing dogs certify in wilderness trailing and urban trailing.
  • Airscenting, where the dog uses odor that is carried on the wind to find their subject, whether that person is alive or dead. This is the most common work that the dogs in our area do, because we are often looking for one person who is lost in a vast stretch of countryside.
  • Specialty Human Remains Detection certifications such as open water, where the dogs work off of boats to locate subjects underwater; shore search, where the dogs work along the edges of a creek, river, or lake; and forensic human remains detection, where the dogs find minute traces of human remains like blood spatter.
  • Avalanche is a special certification on its own, where the dogs work an avalanche field to find victims in an avalanche path as quickly as possible.

So while an “Avalanche Dog” might only do Avy work, a SAR dog can do a lot of other things in addition to Avalanche.

Are you required to certify in all of those different disciplines?
Nope! Dog teams pick and choose what they would like to certify in depending on their individual goals. Right now Yodel is learning the foundations of basic human remains detection, trailing, and area search. This summer we’ll start our water work. We are undecided on whether we will pursue avalanche certification or not.

How did you get started in all of this?
I wrote all about it over on the Oboz blog, check it out!

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for a recap on Yo’s puppyhood, and where we’re headed next!