In Magna, Utah, dogs scramble across and around a wasteland of broken concrete that resembles something like a disaster scene. The participants are trainees for a task force deployed to sites of natural disasters as needed. Some of the program’s participants have taken part in rescue efforts after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
“You can see every one of these dogs is really ready to work and want to go,” said John Magner, search team manager for Utah Task Force 1. The dogs and handlers train weekly in differing landscapes. With each exercise, challenges and disruptions increase. “We keep challenging our dogs and our handlers by hiding our victims in different locations,” Magner said.
Trainers hide in a tight spaces and act as victims. “They’re natural instinct is to please us and when we teach them and train them to receive reward for finding someone, that’s all they want to do,” said handler Karen Minchow. “It’s a great reward for us and for them and we have a lot of fun doing it,” Minchow said.