Four Legged Vancouever Olympians

With the excitement generated by last night’s opening Winter Olympic Ceremonies we find it interesting to discover the role of  the four-legged Olympians. Dogs have been in training to take on their Olympian tasks since 2005. Police dogs will be an integral part of the team helping to maintain security at the 2010 Winter Games.

Dogs from existing squads are being trained for the job as well as some specifically reared for the 2010 team. In addition to Canada’s security dogs, the United States’ Squaw Valley Ski Patrol and Avalanche Rescue Dogs will travel to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics to assist with security. Squaw Valley is no stranger to Olympic operations having hosted its own Olympic Winter Games in 1960. (www.squaw.com)

The dogs will patrol all the Olympic venues around the clock throughout the 2010 Games, and many have already been familiarized with the locations during venue construction. Because of their keen sense of smell, said to be 1,000 times more sensitive than a human’s, the dogs are being specifically trained to recognize materials associated with explosives.

“If we do receive a threat during the Games, dogs will be a part of the investigating team,” said Cpl. Gursharn Bernier of the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit. They will also be mobilized if there’s a specific threat made against the Olympics.

Dogs will be sporting their own Olympic wear. All security dogs at the Games will be wearing versions of the K9 Storm Vest (www.k9storm.com), protective and functional gear for service dogs made in Canada by retired Winnipeg Police Service canine unit member Jim Slater.

So what makes for the ideal security or rescue dog? According to Squaw Valley trainers, the handlers look for a puppy that unafraid of loud noises, high energy, and playful. As the dogs matures, the handler will start doing simple training exercises where he runs and hides behind a tree. This process is also referred as “runaways”.  Dogs progress to “open coffin” runaways, being covered in snow, and eventually, live burials. We learned that Squaw Valley tests all of its dogs against the CARDA standards, which means any dog on the team is capable of finding a scented piece of clothing buried under 70 centimeters of snow over night in an area 100 meters square.

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