So I’ve realised that some people don’t know what SARDA is, so I’m going to explain it here in a bit more detail.

SARDA is the Search and Dog Rescue Organisation. They are an organisation which works together and very closely with Mountain Rescue and Police, and are used to search for missing Hill walkers or climbers, or increasingly persons missing from home, elderly and confused persons, also missing children, and victims of crime. All handlers are trained in the protection of crime scenes. Just like Mountain Rescue, we’re a completely voluntary organisation and a registered charity, existing on the goodwill of our members and the public. 

From the NSARDA pages:

Search Dogs are trained to find missing people by following scent which is carried on the air. This is a very efficient method of searching large areas quickly and does not require items of clothing or effects of the missing person. Dog teams can be quickly deployed by helicopter to remote areas where they can quickly begin to start searching, whilst other search resources are being marshalled. At the present day within NSARDA there are in excess of 90 qualified search dogs on 24 hr call, 365 days of the year.

Dogs work equally well in the dark and use their senses of smell and hearing to their fullest under these conditions. It is calculated that a dog is equivalent to about 20 searchers in good conditions and many more in poor conditions. In ideal conditions a dog can pick up a human scent from about 500 metres.

 Search Dogs are employed in a wide range of incidents from lost walkers and climbers to missing children and possible victims of crime. When operating under the control of a Mountain Rescue search co-ordinator the handler and dog will follow instructions and integrate their abilities with that of other searchers. In more and more incidents the handlers and dogs are responding to situations which do not involve other Mountain Rescue elements. In particular when searching with police officers for possible crime victims, in these circumstances the dog handler will rely strongly on his own skills and resources to fullfil the demands of the work.

The dogs themselves are trained to treat the search as a game. They believe that there is a toy out there somewhere and to get to play with it (their reward) they need to find a person and tell the handler where that person is. The handler uses hand signals and voice calls to direct the dog through the area, using his skills to judge the wind conditions and guaging the dog’s reactions. If the dog finds a person’s scent, they will follow that scent in to the person, then return directly to the handler and “indicate” usualy by barking or jumping. The dog will then run back and forth between the person and the handler guiding the handler in. Finally, the handler will “find” a toy from underneath the person and play with the dog for a few minutes. In a real scenario, the handlers are usually accompanied by an assistant who will assist with navigation and once the person is found, will administer immediate first aid while the handler rewards the dog.

I’m a member of SARDA South Wales, although I’m not a dog handler. I train with the handlers by “bodying” for them – that is, I go out and hide and let the dogs come and find me. I also assist handlers from time to time on callouts. Last Saturday we were at Tesco’s collecting money – thanks to everyone who stopped by and said hello to the dogs and put something in the buckets. Some of you may have seen the handlers out on Sunday on what we know as “RAC Corner”, the layby on the A470 just north of the Storey Arms with a burger van. The burger van has a SARDA collection box on the counter too. Feel free to come oer and chat if you see us standing around, we’re always only too happy to explain what we’re doing.

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