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Rescue dogs: training, main areas of application and nutrition

Rescue dogs

The dog is man's best friend and can even prove to be a real lifesaver in certain situations. After all, rescue dogs are often an indispensable part of rescue teams that search for missing persons in the mountains, in the forest or even under rubble.


What the tasks of a rescue dog consist of, which breeds are particularly suitable for it and how the training as a search dog proceeds, you will learn in the following. We will also explain to you what is important when feeding rescue dogs.

Areas of application for rescue dogs

Rescue dogs can be used in very different areas, where they use their excellent sense of smell to search for missing or distressed people. 


Many of the well-trained search dogs are specialized in a certain area and are often used exclusively for this purpose.

To the typical application-main focuses of rescue-dogs belong the following areas:

  • area search
  • person search
  • water rescue
  • avalanche search
  • rubble search
  • corpse search
  • water detection

Area search

The rescue dog's task in area search is to find a missing person in open terrain, such as a large forest area. 

Search for persons

The person search is also called mantrailing and describes the search for a certain person on the basis of their individual smell.

Water rescue

When rescuing water, the dog acts as a lifeguard, helping people in distress to get to the shore.

Water rescue

Avalanche search

Rescue dogs, specially trained for avalanche searches, help the mountain rescue service to find people buried under the snow.

Debris search

The search for debris poses a particular challenge for rescue dogs, as they often have to detect human odours under meter-thick layers of debris.

Search for corpses

The corpse search is not a classic task of rescue dogs, but due to their good sense of smell it is nevertheless often carried out by dogs.

Water detection

Water locating dogs help in the search for missing (mostly dead) persons in the water and can perceive human smells from a depth of 50 meters.

Which breeds are suitable as rescue dogs?

Dogs belong to the so-called macrosmats. These are those creatures for which the sense of smell plays a particularly important role. Around 10 percent of their brain is used exclusively to process odours that they have absorbed with the 250 million olfactory cells in their nose. 


Humans, on the other hand, only possess one tenth of the olfactory cells of dogs and use only one percent of their brain for their sense of smell. Since every dog has such a pronounced sense of smell, theoretically every breed is also suitable as a rescue dog.


In practice, however, classic utility dogs such as Border Collies, Belgian and German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers or Australian Shepherds are used as rescue dogs.

A good rescue dog is characterized by the following characteristics:

  • The four-legged friend must be strong and may react neither aggressively nor anxiously.
  • Rescue dogs should be of medium size and not too heavy.
  • The ideal age to start training is six to twelve months.
  • The dog must be healthy and in a good general condition.

The entry into the training to the rescue dog

The rescue dog test

Rescue dogs and their owners bear a lot of responsibility. After all, their work can decide between life and death. A comprehensive training, in which humans and animals learn all necessary abilities, is therefore indispensable for the full-fledged employment in a rescue dog squadron.


The first step is a trial training in which the owner and his dog can find out together whether they are suitable for the work as a rescue dog team.


For this purpose you can contact either an association with a corresponding course offer or a rescue dog squadron, with which you can participate in the normal training of the rescue dogs.

The rescue dog test

If you come to the conclusion that the work as a rescue dog team suits you, it is time for the actual training. During this training both you and your four-legged friend will learn what is important in future missions.


The basic training of the prospective rescue dog covers in particular the ranges search work, cross-country mobility, obedience, the work with devices such as ladders or seesaws as well as different exercises for the announcement of a discovery.


Since you will work closely with your rescue dog in the future, the training is not limited to the four-legged friend. As a prospective rescue dog handler you will be trained in first aid, tactics, search techniques, mapping and security.


However, before you can actually work as a rescue dog team, you must prove your suitability in various rescue dog tests. To take part in the tests, you will need to test the dog's temperament.

The subsequent rescue dog tests usually include the following:

  • Rescue dog preliminary test (A)
  • Rescue dog test (B)
  • Rescue Dog Examination (extended) (C)
  • Rescue dog repeat test (B+C)

Within the scope of the training it is possible to take the rescue dog examinations in different focuses. These are usually the classic areas of application debris search, water rescue, mantrailing, area search, avalanche search as well as body search and water detection.

Rescue dogs need a special diet

Rescue dogs are far more than just faithful companions of their owners. They save people and often risk their own lives. That alone is reason enough to make sure that the reliable four-legged friends don't lack anything and that they are also well cared for with regard to their food.


Apart from that, you must also bear in mind that the physical exertion during training and missions leads to the fact that your rescue dog has special nutritional needs. In order to support the health and the well-being of your four-legged friend permanently, it is essential that you consider this fact with the daily feeding of your rescue dog.


In addition to an increased energy requirement, it is also important to ensure a sufficient protein supply and, if necessary, to supplement other nutrients to maintain the health of the rescue dog. 

The Bellfor nutrition concept for your rescue dog

At Bellfor, we know exactly what matters when it comes to feeding physically active animals such as rescue dogs. In our range you will therefore find everything you need for feeding according to your needs. 


Bellfor's nutrition concept supports you with natural products to optimally care for your rescue dog, so that he can permanently perform at his best during training and missions.

We recommend feeding rescue dogs with the following Bellfor products:

  • Bellfor Premium PUR Aktiv is our gluten-free dry food for active dogs with digestible carbohydrates from corn and rice.
  • Bellfor Fitness Powder is our natural dietary supplement to optimally cover the additional protein requirements of your rescue dog.
  • Bellfor Joints & Bones effectively protects the joints of your four-legged friend from the stresses they are exposed to in everyday life as a search dog.
  • Bellfor Immune strengthens the immune system and supports your rescue dog even during stressful operations under adverse conditions.

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