Avalanche dogs are certainly the cutest part of any ski area. But it takes a lot of time and training to get dogs ready. And much of their most formative and crucial training will be done as young pups.
“We start training the puppies young, in my case 8 weeks old,” Susan Purvis handler and author of Go Find (a book based on her experiences with her avy dog Tasha) tells ASN. “Once Tasha got strong and big enough, I taught her to load up on the dining room chair, to get her ready for the chair lift.
“We did this for several weeks, I brought her to the ski lift and practiced. (Dry land training.) Before I knew it we were both swinging on the cold seat, wind flapping at our faces. We’d sit there for 20 minutes listening to the birds and sounds of the evening. When she had had enough, I would give her the command, ‘off’ and I’d lower her to the ground. Never let your pup jump off high places. We need to protect their joints.”
These early days are also some of the most adorable times in a pups life – although we love all avy dogs no matter what their age is. In celebration of these pups’ new journey, we would like to introduce you to a few of this year’s newest recruits.
Partner/Handler: Lisa Roddick
Age: 4 months
Mountain: Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
Favorite Training Activity: Anything that earns her treats.
Favorite Treat: Bully Sticks (dried, rolled-up buffalo or beef)
Extra curricular tricks: When she’s tired she stretches out on her belly and army crawls across the ground. I have been calling this the “sneak attack.”
Handler Note: “Chilko is the cutest co-worker I’ve ever had. (No offense to Gibson and Brooke).”
Partner/Handler: Erich Swartz
Age: 6 1/2 months
Mountain: Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
Favorite Training Activity: “Runaways! It’s a training game that helps prepare her for avalanche rescue scenarios. The very basic goal of the game is to find the hidden human, whether it’s simply behind a tree, or as the game becomes more difficult, buried in the snow. Tug-of-war is her reward for runaways, and it’s her favorite.”
Favorite Treat: Zuke’s mini treats, a brand out of Durango. Chicken flavor.
Handler Note: “Tikka has just experienced her first BIG snow storm and like most of us, she loves it! Her favorite activity is plowing her nose through the snow and rolling around. She is very much looking forward to learning from her best friends at A-Basin (Rio, Recco, Max and Shasha).”
Partner/Handler: Malcolm Taylor
Age: 4 months
Favorite Training activity: Fetch
Favorite Treat: She’s a lab … She loves all food.
Extracurricular Tricks: We are mostly working on getting our basics dialed right now, tricks come later.
Handler Note: “It’s a long hard process, but Heidi and I are excited for the opportunity.”
Partner/Handler: Jasper Anderson
Age: 9 months
Mountain: Solitude Mountain Resort
Favorite Training Activity: “She loves runaways, which is basically hide-and-seek. I have another handler hold Joni and get her excited and riled up while I runs away. Once I’m out of the line of sight, she gets to come find me. This is a typical exercise to begin search training, and the fact that Joni gets so excited to play shows me she’s going to be a top search dog.”
Favorite treat: Bully Sticks
Extracurricular Tricks: Joni is getting good at swimming and she loves it!
“Being a handler is one of the most rewarding parts of my work on ski patrol. You get the love of an animal, plus an important tool for the community — and a buddy everyone wants to say hi to!” – Jasper Anderson.
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