LandSAR dogs has over 80 members and provides the SAR sector with 16 operational avalanche search dogs and 16 operational wilderness search dogs. The wilderness dogs are trained in tracking (following ground scent where people have walked) and/or area search where the dog uses the airborne scent of a lost person. Avalanche dogs use the same airborne scent to locate people under the snow.
To become operational the dog teams undergo a rigorous assessment process and have to achieve a standard that is set by NZLandSAR and the NZ Police.
There are 6 wilderness dog teams and 3 avalanche dogs teams in the North Island with the rest based in the South Island. You can view the wilderness map and avalanche map under operational teams to find the location of each team and the current operational lists are updated after each assessment camp - all teams are reassessed annually.
Click on the links on the right to view handler profiles.
The beauty of dogs is that they can cover large areas quickly and don't rely on sight or sound, so that unresponsive people can be found as easily as responsive people. Non responsive people (dead, asleep, unconscious, despondent, altheimers, autistic, deaf, under the snow) can be very difficult to find without a dog. Dogs can also search areas that are difficult to search for people, such as areas of dense bush and avalanche debris.
Dogs are a search tool, no more and no less. They can be extremely useful at times, and no use at all at other times. Search Managers need to get to know their dog teams and understand their capability so that they can deploy them when necessary and make the best use of this tool.