New Zealand Dog News

Reviewing the dog news in New Zealand with editors comments. Someone needs to keep reviewing how our dogs are doing in society.

October 12, 2009

Dog handler stays the distance

It has been 13 years since Arrowtown resident Brent MacDonald first decided to have a go at becoming a LandSAR avalanche dog handler - and he has not looked back. Mr MacDonald, The Remarkables Ski Area maintenance manager, came from a farming background and when he started at the ski area, he met a colleague with an avalanche dog.

Soon after, he got a black Labrador puppy and began training it, but hip dysplasia set in when the dog was 4 years old.

Then came Ella, a now 9-year-old black Labrador, who first qualified as an operational avalanche dog when she was just over a year old, and has remained operational ever since.

"I put into her what I'd learned from the first dog. The first one was strictly avalanche [searching]. Ella is wilderness tracking and [operational] avalanche."

While wilderness tracking dogs search for tracks and air-scent dogs follow scent on the wind, avalanche dogs are searching for a "cone" of scent buried deep in the snow.

The training involves associating a toy with human scent, so when an avalanche occurs, the dog - thinking it is a game - tries to find the human.

And when it does, it gets its toy.
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