Event to test rescue dogs’ skills

International Dog Rescue Organization running tests in several area towns

Two European judges will put search dogs from New Hampshire, Virginia, Massachusetts, Illinois and even South America through their paces this weekend when the International Rescue Dog Organization, based in Salzburg, Austria, holds its first official search and rescue dog testing in the United States.

The hosts for the event are the members of Peterborough’s Canine Alert Search Team, a group of dog owners who train rescue dogs and volunteer their services to local fire departments and law enforcement agencies.

“We have between 11 and 25 members,” said Debora Ash of Bennington, a member of CAST. “We train dogs to find missing and lost people, whatever the environment. If an agency calls from Hillsborough or Cheshire County, we can have a dog on the scene within an hour.”

Ash said the International Rescue Dog Organization judges will test dogs in obedience, dexterity and three search disciplines — rubble, area search and tracking — on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The area search tests will take place in Peterborough on the land of Cy and Joyce Gregg. Tracking will be tested at Tenney Farms in Antrim and Monadnock Paper Mill in Bennington. Obedience and agility testing will be on the property of Karen MacIntyre on North Elmwood Road in Hancock. The rubble testing is being done on land owned by Aggregate  Industries US, at its Littleton, Mass., quarry.

Ash said the obedience and dexterity testing in Hancock should be appropriate and interesting for spectators. “People can watch the dogs perform in a small arena and really see the dogs working,” she said. Kurt Schafar from Austria will be judging the obedience and dexterity event starting at 1:30 p.m. on Friday and noon on Sunday, and Walter Hoffman of Germany will judge the same event on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Ash said only dogs competing are allowed on the grounds, so spectators should not bring their own dogs.

Ash said the International Rescue Dog Organization certification qualifies dogs to be used in case of a major disaster. FEMA also provides a certification program, she said.

“There’s a lot of training involved for these tests. It’s a lot of work,” Ash said. “We’re all civilians and volunteers, who don’t get paid. This is our form of community service.”

Ash said she has two search dogs, both German shepherds. She likes to have a younger dog to train alongside an experienced animal.

“It takes about two years to get a dog ready,” she said. “You always want to have one in the pipeline.”

She said many breeds make good search dogs.

“German shepherds, Labs, border collies – anything in the herding or sporting group. They can be whatever the handlers would like to have.”

For more information, contact Ash at 496-4429.

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