An Okanagan canine search and rescue unit is looking for new training sites as winter comes.
The Canadian Canine Search Corps (CCSC) is a non-profit organization that trains dogs to look for human remains around difficult terrain, including wilderness areas and bodies of water. Okanagan team lead Vanessa James-Davies said the dogs go through years of training before they can be certified.
“Our dogs are trained to search and provide a specific alert to the handler, indicating to us they have found something. That’s essentially what we do,” she said.
“We can do area searches, water searches, as well as building searches and during natural disasters.”
Training can take about a year and a half to two years, which is why the group is on the lookout for new training sites all the time. James-Davies said the goal is to expose the dogs to as many scenarios and areas as possible. She said it’s important the dogs don’t get too familiar with one site.
Currently, the group has a few training places but are looking for additional ones where the dogs can learn new terrain, especially as winter weather approaches.
“The more different types of situations we can get the dogs in, the better they’re going to handle it when they get out on deployment. They can’t get too comfortable with sites because they know the hides. They’re smart.”
“We need to get them into different areas for different airflows as well. Areas like wilderness areas, anything that has a river, lake or creek access that people can provide us. Structures, buildings, demolition sites, construction sites, anything,” she added.
The team trains twice a week, on a weeknight and one day during the weekend. Handlers set up problems for the dogs with a different focus each time. Some handlers work on the search component, while others train their dogs to be able to work independently and away from their handler.