The St. Bernard is a gentle giant today, but in the early years these dogs were smaller and much less refined as a breed. Monks living and working in the Alps were the first to discover the extraordinary ability of the St. Bernard in locating lost travelers passing through the mountains. The breed began as a hospice dog, but became a top notch search and rescue dog because of their unique talents. “Barry of the Great St. Bernard” is a 1977 Disney movie based on the real Barry, who is the most famous St. Bernard of all time.
Located between Switzerland and Italy, the Great Saint Bernard Pass is a 49 mile route used by travelers for centuries to cross over the Western Alps. At 8,000 feet above sea level, there’s only a few months out of the year when it’s snow free. An Augustine monk, St. Bernard de Menthon, established a hospice and monastery in the mountains around 1050, to provide shelter and food to travelers using the snowy pass.
It’s believed the first dogs, used as guard dogs as well as pets, were brought to the monastery between 1660 and 1670. The first St. Bernard dogs were smaller than the breed is today, with a shorter coat and longer tail. In the mid 1700s, guides were sent out to find people needing help to make their way to the monastery. Wide-chested dogs went ahead of them to plow out a path, making it easier for travelers to follow.
I have a Beagle/Terrier mix named Alex. Since she is a mixed breed, she shows characteristics from both breeds, but it’s her Beagle side that’s more dominant. She has a stubborn streak a mile wide, would do a triple back flip for a TidNips treat, loves to bark just for the sheer joy of barking, and she’s very affectionate, especially when she wants something.
The Beagle is one of the most loving dogs you can bring into your family. They want to be with you wherever you are and enjoy sitting as close to you as they can get so they can cuddle. However, they are also an active dog that loves to play and run. This breed is sociable, easy to get along with and willing to do what is asked of them, if the price is right. Beagles can be stubborn, but are easily enticed with food. What gets a Beagle’s attention is their CANIDAE food and treats, because eating is one of their favorite activities!
The breed dates back to the 1500’s where the English elite took packs of Beagles on hunts to find rabbit, pheasant, quail and fox. Their distinctive baying directed hunters following behind a pack of dogs. They are still used today in hunting, but not as much as they once were. The Beagle’s nose is second only to the Bloodhound, and some people argue their nose is more sophisticated than the Bloodhound’s. The Beagle can pick up a scent on the ground and find their prey faster than any other dog breed. They are so smart they can tell the difference between scents, and remember them the next time they run across them. That ability is what makes the Beagle perfect at detecting termites and rooting out illegal fruits and vegetables people try to smuggle past customs. They are even being used to sniff out bed bugs.
Because of their smaller size, the Beagle makes an excellent search and rescue dog that can go into areas larger breeds can’t get into. Law enforcement agencies have discovered this little dog has a knack for finding people who have wandered off a trail or gotten lost in remote areas. Because they are smaller, the Beagle is easier to transport to search areas and carry across rough terrain if it’s necessary.
Small dogs aren’t usually the ones who take on herding jobs, and they generally aren’t considered good search and rescue dogs. However, small dogs are proving they have the tenacity and ability to take on big jobs. There’s even one small dog who has the right stuff for searching out and finding ghosts.
Jack is a Cairn terrier and a personal trainer. With his owner and certified personal trainer, Dawn Celapino, owner of Leash Your Fitness in San Diego, CA, Jack is helping other dog owners and their dogs get into a healthy lifestyle through exercise. Dawn’s unique exercise class teaches clients to use their dogs as their exercise partner. She started her business after she discovered Jack was the perfect workout partner and it was a good a way to spend more time with him. Dawn has developed a fun exercise program that helps dog owners stay in shape and allows even the most hyper dogs a good way of using up excess energy. She encourages her clients to bring their dogs, even ones with behavior problems, and has enlisted the help of dog trainers who help owners with their dogs. Agility and obedience training are incorporated into the class.
Bevy, a Corgi, is owned by Scott Wiley from Musselshell, Montana. When she was born, her mom didn’t have enough milk to feed Bevy and her siblings so they had to be bottle fed. Bevy, the runt of the litter, only weighs around 22 pounds, but she has the desire and heart of any good herding dog. Corgis were bred to herd, and Scott depends on Bevy and his three other Corgis to help him round up and manage 300 herd of cattle.
Dave Walker and his team of professional humans and dogs make up an all volunteer, nonprofit Search & Rescue (SAR) group, assisting police agencies at no cost to them. The Search and Rescue Dogs Ontario are members of the Hamilton Police Service, and assist in ground search and rescue operations wherever they are needed. I spoke with Dave recently to learn more about this amazing team that’s sponsored by the CANIDAE Special Achievers Program.
The SAR team is made up of four Dutch Shepherds – Raina, Bliss, Nico and Ace – and four handlers, plus Dave. Several of the dogs were rescued or adopted from homes where they weren’t wanted, and two puppies are in training to replace two retired SAR dogs. Dutch Shepherds (herding dogs from the Netherlands) are used because they have the work ethic of the German Shepherd along with the extremely high drive of the Belgian Malinois. The team is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and has been with the Hamilton Police since 2004.
I asked Dave how long the team had been feeding CANIDAE to the dogs, and if it made a difference in their health. “Several of our dogs have been on CANIDAE for over 5 years with great results,” he said. “For almost a year now all of our dogs (4 working dogs, 2 puppies and 2 retired dogs) have been switched to CANIDAE after we saw the great overall health and energy level of the dogs that were on it. CANIDAE All Life Stages dog food has proven to be a good food for our SAR Canine teams. As their ages range from puppies to current working dogs (5-7 yrs.) and our retired dogs (10 yrs. old), the All Life Stages has worked very well for us.”
I asked if he thought it helped the SAR dogs do their job and he replied, “The tremendous stress that this work sometimes puts on the dogs because of the terrain, extreme temperatures and the physical endurance they need to do the work, makes CANIDAE a great choice for us. It gives all of our dogs, no matter what age, the required nutrition to remain healthy in this challenging work. CANIDAE food keeps their energy levels at top performance.”
Sometimes you have to look deeper inside a pet to see the real spirit lurking below the surface, waiting for the right person to set it free. Some people think shelter animals aren’t worthy of their attention and don’t consider adopting them. However, many great shelter dogs and cats turn out to be a pet that saves the life of their owner. National Disaster Search Dog Foundation is a nonprofit and non-government organization that provides firefighters, who are first responders, with rescued shelter dogs that have been trained for Search and Rescue (SAR) work. Even a scruffy shelter dog has the potential of becoming a hero who might one day save your life or someone you love.
Dogs end up in shelters for a number of reasons: their owner didn’t understand how to handle behavioral problems, picked the wrong dog for their lifestyle or grew tired of the dog, or the dog became lost or was dumped. Hollywood dog trainers have known for decades that animal shelters are a great place to find pets that are smart, loyal and eager to work. The pet just needed a person who saw their potential and was willing to make a commitment to work with the dog to develop his hidden abilities.
Organizations looking for Search and Rescue dogs have also discovered that animal shelters are full of untrained dogs that only need a steady and compassionate hand to teach them the art of locating people who become lost or buried under rubble after a natural disaster. Not every canine is up to the task of being a SAR dog, but many are and you only have to go as far as the local shelter to find them.
Some dogs are just naturals at searching for people who have become lost in the wilderness or buried under rubble or snow. In London during WW II, dogs that had never been trained in search and rescue (SAR) found people buried in debris after bombing raids destroyed their city. Dogs have been by our side for centuries helping us locate those in need. However, along with proper training, there are specific qualities a good SAR dog needs to reliably aid his human handler. Like people, some dogs aren’t suited for rescue work.
Last year, Suzanne Alicie introduced us to Scout, an avalanche rescue dog in the CANIDAE Special Achievers program. Like all search and rescue dogs, Scout has the training and qualities needed to locate his victims. Scout is a purebred Chocolate Labrador retriever, but a good search and rescue dog can be any breed – purebred or mixed breed. The pedigree of a dog isn’t important, but their character is.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.