The South Okanagan has its first search dog, or to be more specific, it will once she’s finished her training.
“Her name’s Kaya,” said handler Michael Arychuk, who’s training Kaya for the Oliver Search and Rescue team. “She’s a nine-month old German Shepherd and she just made it into the B.C. Search Dogs’ training program. “
The program has tough entry requirements, with the dogs being selected by B.C. Search Dogs and the RCMP based on their drive, obedience and temperament. Prospective search dogs are also tested on how well they handle other people, and other dogs. If there’s any sign of aggression, they’re rejected.
Even after the program accepts a dog, it’s not a quick or easy route. Kaya was inducted in at seven-and-a-half months, and she’ll be in the program until she’s at least two. In the program, dogs are trained to find evidence, such as a lost hat or piece of clothing, then use those to track back to the lost owner.
“It’s about one-and-a-half years of dedicated training before she’ll be done,” said Arychuk. “Once she’s certified next year, she’ll be the first search dog in the South Okanagan.”
Arychuk has experience with search dogs, having trained and ran with a dog previously in Alberta. That experience has helped with Kaya’s training, as well as possibly colouring why her breed was selected.
“German Shepherds are renowned for having a good nose, and a good work ethic,” Arychuk said, before laughing and continuing. “I may be a little biased though, my last search dog was also a Shepherd.”
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