Search dogs were first introduced to UK Mountain Rescue in the 1950s. They had previously been used in the Alps for many years, especially for avalanche rescue. Hamish MacInnes of the Glencoe Team and ‘Guru’ of British Mountain Rescue successfully adapted their use for British rescue conditions. One significant difference was the move from German Shepherds to Border Collies as the predominant search dog breed.

It takes up to 3 years fully to train a dog to work in a rescue team, with an expected working life of 10 years. In the right conditions a fully trained dog is 10 or 12 times more effective than a human rescuer. Search dogs use their incredible sense of smell to pick up ‘air scent’: they can detect human scent from 500 metres in optimum conditions. These dogs are especially useful in forestry where human search is compromised by dense branches and undergrowth. The dog teams are also the first to be mobilised for night searches or in bad visibility. Handlers and their dogs usually work on their own and will often be the first to reach a casualty and it is therefore essential that the handlers have excellent first-aid skills.

Lake District Searchdogs could not operate without their ‘bodies’. Bodies are volunteer members who act as live casualties for the search dogs during training and assessment sessions.

Penrith MRT Searchdogs

Kaz Frith is a qualified searchdog handler with her Border Collie Dottie and is currently training her Border Collie / Labrador Cross Angus. Dottie has had a number of very successful finds and is also trained as an avalanche dog.

Matt Nightingale is traning his Border Collie Moragh

If you would like to become a dogsbody or want to find out more about the work of the searchdogs, go to


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Penrith MRT are now using Digital Mapping and GPS for Mobile Devices provided by ViewRanger