We regularly organise training weeks in the snow.  These training sessions take place in Austria at an altitude of about 2000 meters.  Avalanche training is especially valuable for young dogs because scents remain pure for longer in the snow and almost all dogs find the experience of digging in snow very motivating.  This lays a solid foundation for working on rubble.

In the snow we build various burrows and take it in turns to play victim.  These burrows are spacious and comfortable.  Lots of mats and blankets are put in them so that the time we spend in there is as pleasant as possible.  For safety reasons the victim has a 2-way radio with them and somebody outside is given the job of being on “sonde” watch.  The “sonde” is a long flexible pole measuring about 5 meters, which is inserted into the snow immediately next to the victim.  The victim is thus easily able to move this pole up and down if for any reason  they need to be dug out as quickly as possible.  As soon as the sonde moves, a strict “no play” procedure is enforced, requiring everyone to immediately help dig out the person.

To start with, the entrance to the burrow is left wide open so that the inexperienced dog can walk in and out to collect their toy.  Over time, and depending on the individual level of the dog, the entrance is gradually filled up with more and more snow.  The dogs are so keen to get into the burrow to retrieve their toy that the urge to dig happens naturally.  However the dog goes about this, is absolutely fine.  The whole week is spent working on the dogs’motivation and endurance.

The endurance and stamina of the handlers is also put to the test.  It can be tough walking through deep snow and sometimes it is quite a challenge to get a glimpse of your dog at work because the dog moves so much faster through the snow than we do and reaches the burrow much sooner.  When the dogs are actually searching, a few burrows are used, with distractions and decoys so that the handler is not aware of which burrow the victim is hiding in.

roeland_lwWorking and living in a chalet at high altitude, without TV, radio and newspapers, is the ideal opportunity to concentrate fully on working with your dog, and team spirit is strengthened by getting to know each other in different ways and under different circumstances.  This is very important as it is vital that we can completely rely on each other during call-outs.

If you would like more information on these training weeks, please get in touch with us.