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The Team has a number of search dogs either fully trained or in training at any time. The dogs and their handlers are part of the
and provide an invaluable resource not just to TWSMRT but to any team that requires their assistance. SARDA Dogs undergo a long and very tough training and assessment programme, and can increase dramatically the effectiveness of a search as well as covering large areas efficiently.
All of the search dog handlers are volunteers with the team. In order to train a search dog the handlers and the dogs must also join SARDA. This is a national body which sets very high standards for its dogs and handlers to reach before they are allowed to search alongside mountain rescue teams.
To become fully qualified canine members the dogs must pass an intensive assessment weekend in the Lake District. At this stage the dogs are usually around two years old and have been in training with their handlers for between 12 and 18 months. This training begins with basic obedience followed by games of hide and seek. During this time all of the dogs undergo a "stock test" to ensure they would not be interested in sheep or other farm animals while out searching. The hide and seek games develop into finding a person and then returning to the handler to indicate their success. This builds up from a 30 second game to a one to two hour search in all weathers and at any time of the day or night. The difference between mountain rescue search dogs and other search dogs is that mountain dogs search for a human air scent where other dogs tend to track an individual's scent along the ground.