Many resorts in Northern California have a team of ski patrol dogs who are highly trained to find and rescue people in the rare case of an inbound avalanche. The dogs use their speed, agility and sense of smell to find and rescue people buried in snow faster than any team of humans. In fact, it is said that one dog and its handler can do the job of 150 trained human searchers in the same amount of time.
In the offseason, avalanche dog trainers move their focus from saving lives with the dogs to training the up-and-coming K9’s for a life on the mountain. Today, the Squaw Valley Avalanche Dogs welcomed their newest member and it’s the cutest thing you’ll see all day.
Camper is an 8-week-old male chocolate lab that was initiated to the team on a trip to the mountain with his trainer Chris. There were some social media posts to celebrate the dog’s monumental day:
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Squaw Dogs would like to introduce “CAMPER” as the newest member of the team! Camper and his handler Chris have a ton of work and training ahead of them in the coming years. Best of luck to them on their journey and welcome to the pack boys! Camper is a male, 8 week old, chocolate lab from @eloh_labs Seriously, who doesn’t love a puppy?!? • #squawdogs #indogwetrust #squaw #dogs #squawvalley #avalanchedogs #puppy #intraining #workingdogs #searchandrescue #dog #k9 #patrol #skipatrol #svsp #labradorretriever #chocolatelab #lab #camper
It’s a warming feeling to know that freakin-cute-as-heck puppy might one day save my life. Thank you Camper for committing to a life of duty on the mountain!
Avalanche dogs are used by many of the Tahoe ski resorts to assist with rescue missions on the mountain. These dogs are not only hand-picked by their trainers, they also must undergo rigorous training exercises to stay in tip-top in case of an emergency. Heavenly ski patroller Colton Terry identifies the top five characteristics of a good avalanche rescue dog:
- Good prey drive, which is their desire and drive to locate a victim.
- Good victim loyalty, which will help them to better identify a victims location. With good victim loyalty, they will not leave the area until the handler comes and investigates what they have found. It helps eliminate false indications.
- High energy is a plus. This gives them the ability to search for extended periods of time.
- Obedience. Professional rescues are very serious and involve a lot of distractions and people. The dog needs to stay focused on the task at hand.
- Good physical condition. Avalanche rescue can be very demanding on a dog and requires good physical fitness and agility.This would cover general health, which would include a good sense of smell.
If you want to learn more about the avalanche dogs, check out Meet the Life-Saving Ski Patrol Dogs of Northern California.