This is Moose. This one-year-old Labrador Retriever is in training as an avalanche rescue dog in Crested Butte in Colorado.
The 12,168-foot mountain is a famous destination for skiers who visit the Crested Butte Mountain Resort.
“I think when we did his first live burial — with a person buried in the snow — was the moment when I said he’s gonna make it,” said Dustin Brown, a ski patroller and Moose’s handler. “This dog is going to be a great avalanche dog.”
Avalanches within ski area boundaries on open terrain are extremely rare and the snow safety team takes great caution every day to maintain the slopes.
Avalanche rescue dogs are trained for “what if scenarios.”
Dustin said lots of skiers don’t wear Avalanche Beacons and it can be difficult to locate them in deep snow. Rescue dogs are the next best thing they can use to help the victims.
There are currently 6 avalanche rescue dogs – four of the dogs already received their certification while Moose and another pup are still in training.
Just like the other dog avalanche dogs, Moose started training when he was only 8 weeks-old. The Labrador should be fully certified before he turns three.
Training each individual dog depends on what the handler thinks they need to work on.
First, they start with simple hide-and-seek activities – the handler hides and the dog seeks.
For more experienced dogs, they do harder searches. Dustin says they bury a sweater that one of them wore for a day, and ask the dog to find it.
Dustin shares that there are two ways to do the live burial exercise for the avalanche dogs.
First, they can go to an actual avalanche debris site and hide in a hole that an actual person can get into. Then they let the dogs out so they can search, find the person, and dig them up. The dogs are rewarded by getting to play with the person they find.
The second and less time-consuming way is they let snow cats make big piles of snow.
Just like most Labradors, Moose likes having fun and whether they’re going to work or just having a run – the smart Labrador’s tail just keeps on wagging.
See this avalanche rescue dog in training ride lifts, snow mobiles, dig snow, and locate people – having the most fun while he works.
We hope this awesome dog gets his certification as soon as he can!
Happy Tails, Moose!