(DERBY, Kan.) — Their search and rescue efforts in Joplin Missouri are over, but their training is not. Local volunteer teams spent Saturday morning preparing for the next natural disaster. And they say their job couldn't be done without the help of their four legged friends.
"What a dog! Good girl, come here. What a good girl." Your typical commands like sit or roll over are not the reason Dixie is getting such high praise. "When they do something well, they get that in huge quantities," said Gary Swift with the Kansas Search and Rescue Dog Association.
What these dogs do well is looking for people after major disasters. "They can pinpoint down, they can get to places we can't get to and they can do it fast," he said. The dogs have done the real thing in places like Joplin and Oklahoma City. But Saturday's pile of rubble is for practice. "All the dogs naturally search, but the training teaches them what to look for specifically," Swift said.
Right now they're looking for people hiding between the concrete. "She figured it out." When that happens, the dogs are given their paycheck which is a lot of love from their owner. "It's all a big game. High praise gets them motivated to work for their toy," said Heather Swift also with the KSARDA.
The dogs remember that praise and how to get it when out on real scenes. "When you go into the real life situation, you do exactly what you did in training. The dog is comfortable with it," he said. And trainers depend on the dogs because one dog equals about 50 people searching the same area by foot. "They allow you to be a very efficient fast team." And that's exactly what's needed in a real disaster.
The Kansas Search and Rescue Dog Association is all volunteers. They say the search dogs are not breed specific, it really depends on the personality of each animal.