Have you ever wondered what the dogs you see on the ski hill do? Meet Kaya and Shaka, two ski patrol dogs at Squaw Valley Ski Resort.
The potential for avalanches are an unfortunate part of skiing on large mountains. Kaya, Shaka, and their owners are part of the Avalanche Rescue Dog Team who help rescue skiers who become trapped or injured by a sudden avalanche.
Dogs are great search and rescue tools as they can do the work of 15 people in a matter of minutes. If you think that's impressive, just see what else these amazing dogs are capable of:
Avalanche dog training starts around eight weeks of age when they first become familiar with the skiers, the resort grounds, and equipment. Each dog also gets a special sweater that they can play tug-of-war with that becomes a big part of their training.
After the pup builds an attachment to the sweater, their handler begins to hide it in different places around a room and rewards the dog with a game of tug-of-war when it is located. Once the dog is comfortable with this, the next step is to bury the sweater in the snow to find; this process is repeated until the dog is able to locate an actual person buried in the snow.
All of their training is built on the dogs' natural prey-and-play drive which is directed towards the job they're doing. This means that, for the dog, the entire search and rescue experience is just one big game they're playing in hopes of getting a great reward at the end.
If you're interested in learning more about the Squaw Dogs and they work they do, you can visit their website to meet the whole team.
Keep up the great work pups- you're true mountain heroes!
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