Handlers train dozens of dogs to follow their nose, help save lives

Posted at 7:11 PM, Jan 15, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY Dozens of dogs worked to find an avalanche victim stuck in a car and buried underneath the snow, but it was all part of an annual avalanche training by the Wasatch Backcountry Rescue, which was held Thursday near Alta and Snowbird.

“The dog is using his nose and his abilities to locate that scent, to do the tracking and guide our handling in, the handler recognizes the dog signals and indications--that's when he'll begin his probe and shoveling,” said Tracy Christensen, who is the President of Wasatch Backcountry Rescue.

The dogs, all training to be certified avalanche rescue dogs, were able to pick up a scent and recover their target in less than a minute.

“We’ve seen improvements from the first time we met these dogs, to what they’re doing today is incredible,” Christensen said.

This is the first time most of these dogs have been put in a scenario like this. They're doing it now, so they'll be prepared when someone’s life is on the line.

“When we go out on a rescue, someone's life is in jeopardy," Christensen said. "We train for very tragic and life altering events."

This allows their trainers and the dogs to be ready to respond to search and rescues throughout nine ski resorts across the valley.

“Before our training, I would have been completely hesitant if I were to be called out in an avalanche--but now I feel totally confident that together we have the skills to do it,” said Emily Burney, who is a secondary dog handler.

You can find out more about the Wasatch Backcountry Rescue by clicking here.