Dogs save lives every single winter in this country and around the world.

I’m in awe of rescue dogs and their handlers. Training to be an avalanche rescue dog-and-handler team is gruelling for both the handler and the dog. What’s more, Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association is entirely volunteer-run.

Here’s a brief introduction to avalanche rescue dogs and what they do. If you’re an avalanche rescue dog handler, thank you. If you’re thinking about joining the ranks of heroes who keep us safe, read on.

 

What is Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association?

The Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) keeps everyone in Whistler who goes out in the snow – almost all of us – safe. It’s the civilian organization entrusted with the responsibility of using dog teams for avalanche search and rescue.

The dogs and handlers train for years to prime their rescue instincts. Survival rates for people buried in avalanches are 90% if rescued in 15 minutes. At 35 minutes, the chances of survival drop to 30%.

The first thing avalanche rescue dogs are trained to do is prevent accidents. Dog-and-handler teams patrol ski area boundaries to keep skiers out of avalanche zones. If you head into a no-ski zone, watch out: you might just get chased down by an avalanche rescue dog.

Most importantly, avalanche rescue dogs are trained to locate human scent in the snow. If your beacon isn’t working, a quick avalanche rescue dog is the best chance you have of getting found. Once the dog locates your scent, it digs in the snow until it finds you. If your scent fades, the dog works outwards from the original site to regain your scent trail.

 

What it takes to become a dog-and-handler team at CARDA

It’s a commitment.

You and your dog train for multiple years before you are entrusted with the responsibility of saving lives. If you’re prepared to commit years of training, the rewards are enormous. The bond between you and your dog will never be stronger.

Interested in finding out more about CARDA? Check out the CARDA website.

 

Are you an avalanche rescue dog handler? Share your story with us in the comments!