Who doesn’t love dogs. At Original Watermen, we salute all rescue dogs, but one in particular, Moby. Moby is our mascot, and he is a big beautiful platinum Golden Retriever. Moby accompanies lifeguard teams on trips to the beach, surfing adventures, kayaking and even goes whitewater rafting. He is a true Waterman.
Lifeguard Dogs (Rescue Dogs)
Coast Guards and lifeguard agencies alike are using hundreds of specially trained rescue dogs as part of their team. The most popular breeds are Newfoundlands, Golden Retrievers and Labradors. These breeds are being trained to act as lifeguards and are patrolling beaches, lakes and rivers around the world to help save people from drowning. These breeds are chosen because they are innately strong in the water. Rescue dogs are used frequently in Italy, Scandinavian countries and Europe, but there are less than 50 throughout the United States. These dogs are not meant to replace human lifeguards, but to complement them. Rescue dogs are trained work beside their human lifeguard as they both patrol the water.
Agencies are using lifeguard dogs because they increase the speed at which victims are retrieved. These magnificently trained dogs can easily jump from helicopters and speeding boats to reach swimmers in trouble, in instances where humans aren’t able. The lifeguard dogs remain solid, steady, and capable, no matter what their job might throw at them. Their work is becoming invaluable to the Coast Guards and lifeguard agencies everywhere.
Lifeguard dogs are always outfitted with a harness and a Marine Rescue Patrol Can or a Rescue Tube. When the lifeguard dog sees someone in trouble, they rush into the water towing the rescue tube or rescue can with them. Once they reach the victim, the victim grabs hold of the rescue gear, and the dog paddles back to safety, with the distressed swimmer in tow. In quieter waters the lifeguard dogs are being trained to tow a life raft to the distressed swimmer. The victim will sit or lay on the raft and get towed back to shore. These dogs are strong enough to pull three people linked together back to shore. If the dog approaches a face down victim or the swimmer is unconscious, the dog has been trained to grab the person’s upper arm in their mouth and roll the victim onto his back thus keeping his face out of the water. The lifeguard dog will then drag the victim to safety with its teeth, tugging him ashore by his arm, shirt or bathing suit.
Believe it or Not
These lifeguard dogs are also used for search and rescue. Their powerful sense of smell helps locate the bodies of drowned victims. Mud bottoms, or dark cloudy waters leave dive teams with limited underwater visibility, and they need help narrowing down the location of the drowned victim. Lifeguard rescue dogs are bought in to ride with lifeguards and search teams. The dog rides around the drowning site in a small boat sniffing the water’s surface for oil and skin particles that have risen to the surface of the water. The dog indicates by scratching the bottom of the boat, barking or some other signal that he has found the victim. A dive team is then sent in to retrieve the body. The search and rescue teams may search for hours with no luck, but with the help of the lifeguard dog it may only take minutes.
Rescue Dog Traits
To qualify to be a dog lifeguard, the dog must weigh at least 30 kilograms (66 pounds), and have a natural love of swimming. Retrievers are ideal because they enjoy fetching anything from the water, and bringing it back to the shore. Plus, they have calm and easygoing personalities and do not panic easily.
Training for these canine lifeguards begins as a puppy, and continues until they are at least two to three years old. Each dog works in tandem with a human lifeguard who also acts as the animal’s trainer. During training the lifeguard dogs are taught to recognize the signs of a drowning person, how to approach and maneuver a drowning or distressed victim. They also learn to choose the best landing points (when jumping from a helicopter or boat), and how to decipher the safest currents or routes.
Rescue dogs are extraordinary animals, that do amazing feats, saving thousands of lives each year. We are proud to supply the Coast Guard, and lifeguard rescue dogs around the world with the lifeguard equipment needed to carry out these rescues.