Man’s best friend! Throughout human history dogs have continually proven to be steadfast, loyal companions as well as useful for tasks such as home protection, rescue operations, herding farm animals such as sheep and cows, battle, and of course hunting. Human beings noted this usefulness early on in history and began to selectively breed dogs for specific traits.
Over the millennia this breeding created a truly amazing number of species of dogs. We now have dogs that range in size from the tiny pug to the giant Irish Wolfhound. We have species of dogs with a wide variety of appearances and abilities.
This selective breeding has led to dogs being bred for a variety of tasks. One of the most important of those tasks is rescue. Dogs are inherently loyal and most are quite protective of their masters. Even small breeds can be quite fierce when they feel their territory is being encroached upon.
However, some breeds are more likely to function as search and rescue dogs. It is an innate part of the breed. In this article we will explore five of the best rescue dog breeds.
Golden retrievers are consistently rated among the most intelligent, loyal, and trainable of dog breeds.
They are also very friendly and always one of the most breeds for families to adopt. Like all types of retrievers, they were bred to accompany hunters and retrieve animals once they were shot with an arrow or a bullet. That included retrieving water fowl so they are very capable swimmers who take easily to the water.
They are fast runners and pack a surprising amount of strength in their graceful frames. They have served as search and rescue dogs in a number of settings, including the aftermath of 9/11. Stories abound of golden retrievers who have placed themselves in danger and even died to protect humans. They will certainly always be highly prized as pets and as rescue dogs!
They have the ability to learn simple tasks after five repetitions and obey commands given to them 95% of the time. Unfortunately, German shepherds got something of a bad reputation as vicious guard dogs because of their use by the Nazis during WWII. They were chosen by the Nazis for their intelligence and their German pedigree but the image of vicious guard dog couldn’t be more inaccurate.
Even before WWII they were the breed chosen for the first Swiss guide dog training in the 1920’s. They have become the second most popular breed in the United States. Their intelligence makes them highly attuned to the intentions of people and they are frequently selected by the military, police and other first responders to help with public safety.
In the 1700’s they were a fixture on English fishing vessels. They are bed to have heavy, double-layer coats the repel water, webbed paws, and a muscular tail that propels and steers them while in the water, similar to the rudder of a boat or the fins of a fish. They have a gentle and loyal disposition that, combined with their physical attributes make them excellent rescue dogs. They are highly sought after by the coast guards of countries like England, France and Italy. In fact, they have been known to make dramatic leaps from helicopters into the water in order to perform a rescue.
There are few breeds more iconic as rescue dogs than the fabled St. Bernard.
These gentle giants have been known for rescuing avalanche victims and stranded skiers and hikers since the 1600’s when monks who dwelled in the Swiss Alps recognized their talent for sensing an impending avalanche. The image of a large, furry St. Bernard coming to the rescue with small barrel of brandy to warm the frozen traveler around its neck is a universal symbol for rescue.
They have been trained to use their uncanny sense of smell to locate people buried in snow and dig them up. They have then been known to lay on or beside the victim, using their fur and body heat to warm them. Their sense of smell also has proven handy when it comes to warning people about fires and performing daring rescues from flaming buildings.
Who is the one dog everyone most associates with rescuing people (especially little Timmy)?
Lassie, of course.
The elegant and dignified collie is an icon thanks to Lassie and there is good reason for that. Border collies are widely considered to be the most intelligent breed of dog. Intelligent, graceful and quick to react, collies are frequently used to protect and herd sheep and cattle. They are untiring and their loyalty ensures they will be diligent in their task. They are also so well known for rescuing people that collies have won the title of Dog Hero of the Year more than any other breed. What are you saying Lassie?
Collies make the best rescue dogs!
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