Dog Search Group Formed

Search Dogs Guernsey. The The co-founders are Sam Smillie (L) and Anna Jane Brehaut, third (L).

The dogs and their handlers will work with the GSPCA to track and find lost dogs.

Ten dogs and their owners have been through three separate courses over the past year to enable them to form Search Dogs Guernsey, a free resource that’s been set up to find missing dogs.

The animals have been taught how to tell the difference between scents, so that they can be taken to the search area and try to track a missing pet dog.

The dogs are diverse in breed and include labradors, spaniels, a spaniel cross, a German shepherd, cokapoo and labradoodle, all shown below.

A trainer from the UK has been in Guernsey to train the dogs, and their handlers.

Sam Smillie, a co-founder of the Group says the animals should be able to work out where the missing pet has gone:

“The dogs will provide information in a search by establishing a direction of travel, they can confirm sightings, point out areas of interest and in rare cases, they can make a walk up find.”

Anna Jane Brehaut, the joint co-founder, says this is the first time that a civilian search dog facility has been available in Guernsey.

“Tracking and trailing is a different ball game to detection. There are of course many similarities but the dogs have to be specifically trained. It has been hard to not be able to help previously, we have really wanted to, but to do it before the dogs were properly trained would not have been fair.”

Anna Jane says training uses a different part of a dog’s brain:

“We’re introducing them to the fact that they are looking for a scent which is in their short term memory.” 

And we worked a huge amount on scent discrimination. That makes sure that they zone in on the scent we want them to search for, and not just go off and search for their own thing.”

The GSPCA say on average around 200 dogs are reported missing to them each year, although most are found quickly. Search Dogs says it’s important that the Shelter is contacted first, so that any more complex searches can be properly coordinated.

GSPCA manager Steve Byrne says the Group will be a useful asset:

“We have a few each year that are a little more challenging for various reasons, and to have Search Dogs Guernsey to help in these circumstances will be hugely helpful, during what can be a very stressful and upsetting time for the owners of a missing dog or animal.”

Anna Jane agrees that they’ll be asked to search in more serious cases:

“They’ll have gone into survival mode. They’re not recognising their owners and anybody that’s calling them is just pushing them further away.”

Island FM: Guernsey News